Leaving SF and driving out I-580 to I-205 eastward had the usual “lol California traffic” issues. Construction was bad and it was nearly 10 mph gridlock for about 2 hours. The stop and go drive is killer on your driving leg. Things didn’t clear up until Highway 120 and 108 (which are mostly one lane highways… so they have their own issues).
We drive through rural California for a while and discover why it’s the “golden” state–all of the fields and crops are “golden” from the lack of rain. Still, there was a few local farms that had little fruit stands open. In our hurry to beat the sunset, we didn’t have time to stop.
Driving into Yosemite is an interesting experience. It is mostly single lane highway that climbs up into the mountain with sharp turns and no guardrails. Best of all, Google Maps will send you on the joyride known as the “Old Priest Trail.” It’s technically a “shortcut” from 120 into the mountains, but it’s the kind of shortcut that requires you to turn off your A/C and monitor your engine’s heat. Our SUV’s motor strained to get us up this twisty and turny road. Great fun, but it also seemed a bit dangerous. If you drive over that edge (or wreck with oncoming traffic) it’s a LONG way down.
The rest of the drive is the kind of one-lane no guardrail that makes you pay attention and if you look over the edge, you will get dizzy and disorientated.
We arrived at our camp, “Housekeeping Camp” at about 9pm. It was basically a U shaped wall with a tarp over it and part of field around a table (see the pictures). I set up my awesome MSR “PocketRocket” burner (known as the “bunsen burner”) and make us the meal of our dreams: Ramen noodles. It’s worth mentioning, for the size that burner is amazing for cooking. It’s not a full stove, but it’s great for small scale cooking: ramen, dehydrated food, soup, eggs, hot chocolate, etc. The fuel is seeming to last a long time, as each meal tends to use about 5% of the canister.
After we eat, we have to start loading things up to into the bear locker. What is a bear locker? It’s a giant metal dumpster with a huge bolt/clip system on it. They have so many videos playing in the lodging office that apparently if you don’t put EVERYTHING YOU OWN… EVEN WATER in the bear locker, you will be mauled by bears in your tent. Not wanting to be strange bedfellows with a 700 lb black bear, I put everything in the locker. (This is where the toiletries in one bag was actually very efficient.)
Once it was dark, Jamie learned to stop making fun of my headlamp and accept how awesome they are. For those who have never used one, they are way more versatile than a flashlight (as they sit on your forehead), are surprisingly comfortable, and can be extremely bright. Having your hands free to do tasks such as going to the bathroom, closing the bear locker, and killing insects is a wonderful thing.
Anyway, it was dark out and it was time to go to bed. I bug-sprayed up to keep the pests away and prepared for nighttime in my sleeping bag. I put a lamp outside the tent to hopefully lure bugs and bears away.
That night, I thought I had a dream about a bear coming into our tent, taking my backpack, and dragging it out. I awoke feverish and in a sweat. I figured it was nothing and went back to sleep.
When I woke up, I threw up. Wondering how my backpack got next to the tarp-door, I realized something was amiss. The bugspray was 40% DEET and I didn’t spray it only on my clothes. I managed to give myself DEET poisoning and I had hallucinated the bear and was extremely ill. In my defense, the bottle did not have a warning against applying it dermally, which seems like an important point they probably should mention on the package.
I went to shower, to wash off the DEET. Along the way I vomit a few more times and am worried that my time in Yosemite will be ruined by my hatred of bugs. I return and we go hiking, and I stagger along, slowly feeling better as the day goes on.
As we hike it begins to rain on us, which aside from getting soaked, felt pretty good. We manage to see Bridalveil Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls, which given the drought, aren’t that powerful. However, it was still relaxing to be out on a hiking trail enjoying peace and quiet.
By the time we return to camp for dinner, I was feeling DEET-free and much better. However I faced a new challenge: cooking freezedried food correctly. The meal calls for 2 cups (16 oz) of boiling water. Well, that would be nice, except I don’t bring a measuring cup with me. However, my knowledge of booze saved the day: I had a souviner shot glass with me. A regular shot glass is 2 oz. So that meant this meal took 8 shot glasses of water. Perfection was mine.
We also attempted to make smores on the burner. If you’re not familiar with how fire works, let me give you a run down. Regular fires typically burn orange and red; bunsen burners burn blue. Blue flames are are hotter than red flames. The burner makes a big blue flame. We attempt to toast some marshmallows, but if you stick them in/near the blue flame, they immediately burst into flame. So I just set my marshmallows on fire, let them simmer and made my smore. Yum!
Departure was very bear free, and set out to go East on 120, over the rest of Yosemite and up to Reno.