Journey: 52 Hikes and more

Archive for the month “July, 2009”

Hike 2 – An Unintended Hike, July 22, 2009

Last week we found ourselves in Yosemite.  Well, no one casually “finds themselves” in Yosemite National Park.  For most people, it is a deliberate and planned event.  Especially in the middle of summer, when Yosemite resembles a coup in action and tourists from all over the world armed with dangerous kids and cameras run over the park, causing lines and jams so bad that rush hour seems like a vacation instead.

A few years ago a park ranger had handed us a panoramic postcard of Tuolumne Meadows covered with flowers as far as the camera could see.  She’d said, “Come back between the middle and end of July and this is what you’ll see.”  That postcard, now prominently magnetized on our refrigerator, was responsible for this trip.

After hours of driving and a long delay to enter the park, we finally got to the meadows.  Unfortunately, Lady Luck was the usual cruel mistress and Tuolumne Meadows was bare.  Sure there was green grass and a scattering of weeds, but not a huge meadow saturated with wild flowers swaying mildly in the breeze.

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Disappointed, we walked into the Visitor Center to get an explanation from a ranger.  The National Park Service had somehow gone back to the 1960’s and picked up a young hippie from the corner of Haight and Ashbury and outfitted him in a smart uniform that could not disguise his true identity.

He pointed his beard to a picture on the wall, “You mean flowers like that?  We haven’t had that in years.”  Emphasis on years.

We were convinced that the postcard was nothing but modern photography trickery, more dangerous than black magic or voodoo.  Some evil mind had used the superlative power of PhotoShop to enhance this picture just like baseball statistics juiced up on steroids.

Then he added, “But Lukens Lake was like that last week.”  We left the building with a new destination and hopes of seeing a meadow, no matter how small, covered with flowers.  Our unintended hike was on.

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Hike 1 – The Bobcat Encounter, July 18, 2009

Every nerve in my body is cursing my name.  This is insanity.  “This is not the way the hike was supposed to turn out,” I tell myself, trying to gain control of my mind which has been drifting towards the recent story of a hiker’s death from heat exhaustion.

The birds stopped their upbeat jabber a while back.  Now only raptors circle overhead looking for kill while I feel hot and vulnerable like a piece of meat on a barbecue grill.

There are at least two more miles to go and I am out of water.  I have a headache powerful enough to split an atom and am walking with my eyes closed.  Everything burns as if my sunglasses have turned into suns.

The heat is unbearable and I feel feverish.  I want to rip my clothes off.  They are damp and unnecessarily clingy.  Did I mention the back?  The back is on strike.  It is refusing to carry my backpack and is demanding a deep massage instead.  This unprovoked revolt has forced me to carry the backpack in my hand.

“Half a mile,” I lie to myself.  “Half a mile and everything will be alright.”  Indeed.  Meanwhile, the thermometer is approaching it’s stated goal for the day somewhere in the 90’s and the sun has yet to hit high noon.

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