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Make your voice heard on the Yosemite plan

Darin Olde, Sierra Sun

Yosemite Valley memories are good memories.

Like the first time I went to Yosemite Valley with my brand new car. It still had temporary plates because, among other things, I hadn’t taken up a permanent state of residence yet.

I remember driving into the valley floor with a climber I picked up at Smith Rock State Park in eastern Oregon. Mike Austin was his name; he was from Newcastle, England. Mike was a traveler and climber who was roaming around the western U.S. He had just finished spending two weeks at Smith Rock, the first week climbing with his friends from Seattle and the second week climbing alone. He and I had climbed together for a few days when his friends left. And when I told him I was going to Yosemite Valley with some other climbers, he decided to come along.

Smith Rock and Yosemite are a long way from one another, so the first night we crashed in a campground in Mendocino County. The friends we were planning to climb with had left the night before.

When we drove into the valley the next day, wandering amidst the hordes of people on our way to Camp 4, we walked passed a car very similar to the car of our new acquaintances. It looked like it had been in a bad accident.

We found them a few minutes later at one of the campsites cooking some food. One of the first things I asked was whether or not they had seen the car out in the parking lot. Of course they had; that was their car wrapped up like singed plastic.

It turned out that 15 minutes after they arrived the first night, a Volkswagon-sized bear decided to have a picnic in the back of their hatchback, courtesy of some greenhorn Yosemite climbers.

They said the entire campground of 200-plus climbers came out, wrapped in jackets and blankets, some holding coffee mugs, at least one with a guitar, and watched like the congregation from the pew on Christmas Eve.

And there I was with my new car, temporary plates and all.

I spent the day trying to tape newspapers to the inside of my windows hoping they would prevent the bears from seeing and tearing apart the sweet smell of new upholstery.

I succeeded to work myself into a hysterical state, futilely and furiously pushing masking tape onto windows when it would not stick.

Austin, seeing this, talked me into something a little a more low-key: another area filled with granite domes, not far down the road. We packed up, passed on our sympathy, and hit the road.

The last time I went to Yosemite was quite different, except for the traffic – that has always been the same.

Unwinding with a few beers the night before at the Topaz Nugget, I had planned to get up early and climb the west buttress of El Capitan with a friend.

We slept only a few hours that night. The next morning, wearily we traveled to the base of the climb and proceeded to ascend on one of the most memorable adventures I have ever had.

Coming down was more memorable, which is unfathomable considering how dehydrated and exhausted we both were.

We down-climbed, rappelled, slid on our behinds and practically fell down several hundred feet during the dark with only one headlamp between us. Memory may have been in the works that night, but reason was not.

To my surprise the first car that came by picked us up, its occupants as haggard and confused as we were, and delivered us to the cool water of the Merced River. The second group of people we saw went out of their way to drive us back to Camp 4. It was yet another amazing stroke of luck.

The worst thing that came out of the night was that I stubbed the Holy Toledo out of my toe on a fire pit while looking around for our campsite. Damn it all if I couldn’t find our tent.

I’m fond of memories of Yosemite. It’s never easy to see the things we love change.

In the Yosemite Restoration Plan cars may be prohibited, but many low-cost campsites will go too. While we can’t let our jewel of parks be degraded like the clarity of Lake Tahoe, nor can we let the process proceed without at least making our voices heard.

I hope I’ll never be prevented from visiting Yosemite, day or night. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

If you would like to comment on the Yosemite Restoration Plan please write the Sierra Club, Friends of Yosemite Valley or the Wilderness Society.

Sierra Sun town reporter Darin Olde is from Colorado.


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