Fear and Loathing in Yosemite Valley; or: The Majesty of a Mud Pit

BRAAAP, BRAAA-GLORP. My bike came to a dead stop, sunk deep into the confusing embrace of mud. There’s nothing like not crashing your dirtbike for long enough to conquer a hill climb, only to find your riding buddies waiting with a camera pointed at you. This is not what I encountered at the top of this particular hill. Eli knew that if he pointed a camera at me, I’d either choke, or just avoid the giant mud puddle, both of which would bore him. So with no warning, already committed to my line, I pin it straight through the deepest water-filled rut in the mud puddle naively expecting only a gross shower. Instead, I had to squlorp my boots out of the deep mud, climb off of my dirtbike statue, and laugh until I cried. Luckily, there were 3 of us, so after taking pictures and gawking at my bike being held upright by the earth’s own hands (see below), Travis and Eli each grabbed a handlebar while I lifted and pushed the rear, extracting my bike with extreme efficiency. I attempted to roost all the mud onto Eli, stalled it instead, and then we continued ripping around the OHV area until we were all exploding bottles of bliss. We arrived back at camp to drink some beers and yell through our salty helmet hair about how that was the Best Rip Ever.

Just railin' it.

Just railin’ it.

Minor trailer loading injury.

We had loaded a small trailer with 3 dirtbikes, and all of the things we would need for a long weekend of super drunk camping in Yosemite National Park. When we were done there was, mysteriously, not enough room left for Travis’ Triumph Tiger, and I volunteered to ride it, knowing that it would be exactly like Harold and Kumar’s cheetah. It was June so we took Tioga pass, along which were stunning waterfalls, the serene sub-alpine Tuolumne Meadows, and amazing twisties that were spoiled by all the slow cars gaping with their dumb open mouths at the awe-inspiring majesty of the valley. We had planned to camp at one of the walk-in campgrounds like White Wolf or Yosemite Creek, but both were still hibernating in their snow caves. Luckily Eli had pre-optimized this trip, and found free camping at the Miami Creek OHV area, just south of the southern entrance to the park.

“Scouting”

Travis grew jealous of my cheetah, I mean, his Tiger, so he took it back, and we unloaded Grace’s XT225 so I could keep riding. Before exiting the park, we wanted to get our money’s worth and see some shit, so our expanding caravan made it to the riverside to eat some lunch while looking up at El Cap. All who know this will make a stink if I don’t tell you that I didn’t recognize it. I actually asked some random tourist what rock that was. It’s the centerpiece of rock climbing history, and I’ve seen hundreds of climbing movies about it, thousands of photos, I even know the names of different pitches, who holds the speed records on the Nose, how big the dyno is in the middle of the Dawn Wall… I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe a more ominous, magical cliff. Eat shit El Cap, you aren’t impressive enough. After this humiliating experience, we continued on our sweaty way, and arrived at the OHV park. We unloaded the dirtbikes in the staging area, and scouted around for camp spots. Eli came back to tell us that he ran a black bear cub off the road. Travis found a sweet jump right by our soon-to-be-claimed campsite, so we did that until we got yelled at and then we made camp.

A portent of death outside the tube rental place.

Both days we rode into the park. The entrance was 6 miles from camp, and the Tunnel View was 30 miles. All the roads are twisty, and perfectly paved with 20mph curves everywhere. Unfortunately, there are other people on the road, and some of them are driving buses. Buses are just bummer-trains slowly hauling ugly tourists up a hill. In any case, we eventually pass them all en route to the famous Tunnel View, where the photo at the top of this page was taken. As mentioned earlier, I have seen way too many movies about Yosemite climbing, and as El Cap, Bridalveil Falls, and Half Dome crushed my eyeballs with their splendor, all I could hear was the phrase, “the majesty of the valley” echoing around in my head over the “La, la, la, la…” from this song. Our plan after this glorious assault on all that we used to think was beautiful, was to rent inner tubes and float down the river. Turns out there are a fuck ton of people in the stupid park all of the time, and they all want to do the things you want to do, and they were there first. We didn’t really have a back-up plan, so we decided to wander around Camp 4 and wipe some Cheeto grease onto the first few holds of Midnight Lightning. Everyone else already had of course, but we did too, end of story.

It’s kind of like putting your head in the hole. You get to pretend you’re some big muscley guy lifting up a bikini girl or whatever depressingly generic scene gets cut out of cardboard so you can laugh the same laughs everyone else laughs. Haha Midnight Lightning is hard. I mean, he did really good though.

It seems like such a deathly boring thing to do, go visit famous viewpoints and take shittier versions of a picture you could have just googled, but it’s easy to forget that adventure is a two-way street. If you let it, it will find you. We rode to Glacier Point the next day, since the Tunnel View had been so rewarding, and lo and behold it was very fun. Not only was the view too grand for my puny brain to comprehend, but everyone there was being totally crazy! Upon our arrival, we wandered all over the place in our moto gear taking in the sights, and becoming far too sweaty. We observed amateur wildlife photographers pointing expensive lenses at squirrels, for what I’m sure were captivating shots (I have hundreds of severely poignant lizard photos, I’m no angel). A guy brazenly and eerily photobombed his way to immortality in our panorama with a weird posing activity (see below). Finally, we found some nice steps on which to set up our yard sale of wet layers while we ate lunch. This important drying activity was cut short however, because a wedding was about to take place, and one of the over-emotional relatives asked our ugly asses to move because, “It’s their special day.” The vows were the most depressingly standard testament of love that I’ve ever heard. They loved hiking together. So much in common. Deepest of connections over their love of nature or whatever I couldn’t keep listening because I was too busy slitting my own throat because THE GURGLING NOISES WERE MORE ROMANTIC THAN THEIR WEDDING VOWS PLEASE JUST LET ME DIE WITHOUT WATCHING YOU WASTE THE ONE LIFE YOU HAVE BEING A CLICHE. Ok, sure I didn’t have to watch, but you slow down for a car fire on the side of the highway too and then just roll around in the sadness of their flaming corpses as you drive away, oh, at the speed limit again, you hypocrite!

Tiger-Crane guy on the left there, til antiquity.

Our ride home was uneventful, until Grace arrived and reported having spotted the mama bear, whose paws were “THIS BIG” according to her hand gestures. We had enough light left to go out for a rip around the Miami Creek trails, which we figured would scare any bears away, plus be a ton of fun. As you already know, the ride was a total home run. The bears in Yosemite are infamous for breaking into cars, and finding your food even if it’s just stuck between your teeth. The fallout from this is observable by the number of bear boxes installed around the park, in campgrounds, and in pull-outs on the side of the road. Leaving the park, there is a bear box in every pull-out until a few miles from the OHV area. Now, I don’t think this is the territory line where bears cease to be a problem, it’s just where the National Park ends and the Sierra National Forest begins. In retrospect, we probably should have rented some kind of container, but it was such an established campground it seemed like there would be bear boxes if it was necessary. This blind faith wasn’t steadfast enough to let me sleep at night. I just stayed awake with vigilance and an airtight plan of poking out the eyeballs of any bears who may be mauling my friends or lover. Bears can smell vigilance.

Worse than the Road to Nowhere!

When it was time to leave, Travis rode his Tiger home, while the rest of us piled in the truck. Actually, Grace rode on the back with him, straight up a mountain into a raging thunderstorm. At the top, there was a convenience store where we stopped for gas and learned (unsurprisingly) that Travis and Grace were soaked to the bone and freezing already. Grace bailed, but Travis was committed to riding the rest of the way, which included a hail storm, snow, more rain, a thick blinding fog on curvy mountain roads, and temperatures that would cause a water bear to go into torpor, all combined with unsatisfactory riding gear. His arms were numb from the elbows down, and his boots were full of water. Look for his online reviews to be scathing.

About a week later, I was idly knocking large chunks of dried mud off of my bike into Travis’ driveway, like a dick, and remembered how sparkly it was when it was wet. I went and told Travis about it and he got out his gold pan. Hoping against hope that I had actually fallen into an impossibly undiscovered gold pit, we panned all of the mud until we had basically nothing left, because I did not fall into a gold pit. Travis said it was probably fool’s gold, but we just poured it into the yard because we didn’t really feel like making sulfuric acid any time soon, and the last traces of our weekend’s adventure settled into the earth.

 

All good photos taken by Travis or Grace. Dead lizard and blood blister by me.

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