El Portal, California

Trip Start Apr 12, 1992
Trip End Jun 15, 1992

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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, May 3, 1992

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me, and just be my friend.
El Portal, California
Cool, overcast

I stopped for breakfast at the Nugget Cafe in Coarsegold. Nothing special. The Nugget is a small town shop where all the locals hang out. What makes it worth mentioning is Helen and I stopped here several years ago (Amtrak trip) while driving from Big Sur over on the coast into Yosemite. Nothing had changed. I think some of the same coffee drinkers were still there.

The general topic of conversation was the Los Angeles riots. The most popular solution to the problem would be straight-forward and simple. Looters would be shot on the spot. No questions asked. I like thatidea.

One old gent wore the hat and boots of a cattleman. He quietly read his morning paper, seeming deaf to the comments passing around him. Finally he spoke, changing the subject. He remarked how poorly some horse had run yesterday in the kentucky Derby. Another regular replied, "Well, he sure ain't near as good as secretariat was."

The old guy agreed, "Hell, that dog couldn't half fill Secretariat's jock strap."

The thought of using that as a new measure of worth or ability is funny enough, but the mental image of a horse wearing a jock strap really cracks me up.

In many areas it has gotten so there are so many cars on the road that it is impossible to ride along and enjoy the scenery. As I drove through Oakhurst at the posted speed limit I was reminded again how driving legal speed will nearly always result in a trail of cars following you. Some ride your rear bumper, others pass when it's entirely unsafe. Consequently I find myself watching my rear view mirrors, frequently pulling off the road
in order to clear the traffic following me. I can understand this behavior on throgh highways, even secondary roads. After all, the roads were built to get from here to there. The part I don't understand is why people go to places like the Grand Canyon, or Sequoia Park and continue to drive as if they are racing. If they want to make good time they should stay on the freeways. There's no way they can enjoy the scenic beauty of the countryside while fighting traffic.

The south entrance to Yosemite Park is just beyond Fish Camp, near Mariposa Grove where I witnessed a little drama I could hardly believe. I had stopped at a rest area. Into the clearing roared three hefty, big bellied guys on Gold Wing Hondas, the big touring models. The bikes hac all the doo-dads,fairings and windshields, lights galore, special Mama seats and storage trunks, saddle bags, CB-AM-FM radios and antennas, speakers over the ears in each helmet, color coordinated of course. One bike was even pulling a two wheel trailer.

the customary Big Mamas, ugly and mean looking, were perched behind each of the dudes. The women's bellies were equally as large as the men's. They had bosoms to scale. Imagine my surprise when I watched the biggest, ugliest mama dismount, unzip her jacket, and pull from between her enormous, almost bare breasts a black Pekinese dog on a leash. She walked the little son-of-s-bitch around on the grass so he could do his business. As soon as the mutt was relieved his mistress returned him to the nest and zipped him in. All the riders remounted. The men fired up the engines and they roared off up the mountainside.

Near wanona I came to a turn-off where a direction sign read "SDA CAMP/ 3 MILES. Curious me took the detour. It is a beautiful drive forested with redwoods. A narrow winding trail follows a creek, single lane in places where it passes through an area of cottages. Suddenly the road ended. There was no way to turn around except to go through the gates of the camp, a gathering of cottages around what appeared to be a mess hall. About two dozen people were milling around, most of them middle aged, all black.

I introduced myself and begged forgiveness for intruding. It turned out SDA stood for Seventh Day Adventist. When they learned that i knew of Oakwood College in Huntsville, an Adventist school, they were very interested. Many in the group had either attended Oakwood or had children who were now attending or have previously attended Oakwood.

It was like old home week. For awhile I thought they might adopt me. We finally bid farewell. Very gracious, nice people, which is true of most all the Adventists I have known.

Mariposa (butterfly) Grove is just inside the south entrance to Yosemite. It was one of the first Yosemite areas afforded protection by the Federal Government. Some of the grand-pa Sequoias are 30 feet in diameter and more than 2.000 years old.

Farther into the park the road leads over Turner Ridge, reaching 6000' elevation as it nears Chinquapin. Then, four or five miles north the road veers eastward to reveal a truly magnificent panarama of yosemite Valley from Inspiration Point.

The Merced (thanks, mercy) River on the valley floor flows west between the tremendous granite formation known as El Capitan on the north side and Bridalveil Falls on the South. It has taken nature 500 million years to fashion this spectacular beauty. El Capitan's sheer face soars 3600 feet straight up to almost 7600 feet altitude.

On most any day, weather permitting. teams of climbers can be spotted slowly working their way to the top. Often they are forced to spend the night hanging from pins driven into the sheer rock face. On the opposite side of the valley Bridalveil Falls thunders 620 feet down the canyon wall. A soaking, chilling mist surrounds the base, where the great stream crashes onto boulders that fell from the cliff face. On the valley floor Mirror Lake lives up to its name, throwing back perfect upside-down reflections of Half Dome and Mount Watkins. Mirror Lake is slowly filling with silt and soon geologically speaking) will become a new alpine meadow The valley is dotted with these serene havens for deer and other wildlife. They were all formed in the same manner, that is, from small lakes becoming filled with silt washed down from up-river.

At "Inspiration Point" there is a particularly scenic view of El Capitan and Bridalveil
falls. A group of 12 0r 15 people seemed to constitute a photography class. One man, presumably the instructor, circulated among the students giving photographic advice. Each student was aemed with several expensive camera bodies, an assortment of lenses, tripods, all the other paraphernalia considered crucial for serious, artistic photography. They were well supplied with expensive bags to keep it all in.

I watched one lady set up her tripod and mount an expensive Nikon single lens reflex camera. She carefully tried several lenses, finally chose one,composed the desired imsge n her viewfinder, focused, selected shutter speed and aperture settings, all considered good procedure for serious photography. Then she slapped the shutter release with her thumb, shaking the rig violently, canceling any steadying benefit from use of a tripod.

With all the expensive gear on display I was almost shamed to make a photograph, but I did anyway. I olaced my camera on a home made bean bag (courtesy of the Bear) and attempted to take "artistic" pictures. I pretended not to notice the disdainful looks from some of the students observing my primitive gear.

Wawona tunnel was bored and blasted through solid granite. Tunnel View, at the east end of the bore, opens to reveal a new perspective of the valley. Slightly farther upstream another granite formation, Half Dome soars to more than 8800 feet. This formation and the splendid upper and lower Yosemite Falls dominate the scenery here.

I think the German tourists and the japanese tourists have struck an agreement. The Germans go to Grand Canyon while the Japanese come to Yosemite. At every point of scenic beauty a tour bus loaded with Japanese would pull up about every 10 minutes. They would pop out, clutching their cameras and chattering excitedly as they took pictures of each other posed in front of the scenery. After perhaps five minutes they scuttled back aboard the bus and proceeded to the next scenic opportunity to capture another "Kodak Moment".

After maybe five minutes of peace and ouiet another Bus would arrive to play the same scene again. It is an interesting activity to watch. Without any understanding of the language I could learn a lot. I could identify those who knew how to use their cameras, those who have some understanding of the geological history of the valley, which of the women dominate their mates, which of the couples are newlyweds, etc.

They all seem to be in awe of their surroundings, ready to believe any item of information available.

At the Curry Village campground a small herd of deer showed no alarm or discomfort as they grazed almost within touching distance of people on the parking area.

I discovered there is a public shower at Curry. It felt great...plenty of hot water and soap.

About 5:30 that afternoon a thunder storm moved in from the east right over Half Dome. Under a mean looking black cloud the wind moved erratically. Lightning jabbed Half Dome. Perhaps a dozen people around me tried to click the shutter when the lightning flashed. One guy with a Polaroid became almost incensed. He complained that hard as he tried he could never snap the shutter fast enough. Perhaps he never heard the term, "Fast as lightning."

As the storm moved into the valley it ended my picture making, or any other outside activity, so I left from the nearest exit, Hwy 140 at El Portal.People are not allowed to remain overnight in the park, except at campsites, usually booked months or years in advance. I parked on the roadside near the entrance, where it would be convenient tore-enter the park come daylight. My Old-Timers Pass allows me free entry to all national parks.

After parking I went across the highway to sit on a rock, drink a beer, and watch the Merced River plunge down the canyon. When I returned the van "El Viejo Loco" was filled with mosquitos. I climbed in, closed the window, and began a controlled experiment. I wanted to determine if a finite number of skeeters, when ignored, would feed on me until theywere full and then go away and leave me alone. It worked. After about 30 minutes of stoic acceptance they retired to digest their dinner. I think this is the essence of Ghandi's and Martin Luther King's non-violent resistence. Wear the sons-of-bitches down with patience and forgiveness and they will leave you alone.

I was four weeks out since leaving home and there were more miles than already traveled left. This trip has been interesting, I'm glad I came, but from time to time I'm so filled with mrlsncholy I hurt. Tonight is one of those times. Writing to these pages seems to ease the ache. One little bit more about missing Helen and having spells of melancholy. That is the way i want it. Noway would I want to be separated from her and not have feelings of deep loss. It's tempoary. I'll see her soon in Seattle. The world will be right again.
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