DAY ONE – JOURNAL ENTRY
They called me Two Sticks. I never got their names. We talked for five minutes a couple miles in sometime after I came across a pair of fallen branches on the trail that I began to use as walking sticks. Two Sticks. I doubt the name will hold.
Mono Meadow to Little Yosemite Campground. Wasn’t supposed to go this far. Was going to camp at Panarama Point or Illouette area, but I got there fast and was overcome with…I’m not sure yet how to describe it. Restlessness? A compulsion to continue onward. The same compulsion that brought me out here in the first place. Possibly loneliness.
Tomorrow I’ll climb Half-Dome, come back to camp, rest, and the next day make for that lake.
An emotional day. Emotional couple of days. Hit me that I was leaving. Really leaving. Dad dropped me off. He had a bad fever and I told him to stay home but he dropped me off anyway and wouldn’t hug me so as not to get me sick. Hope I don’t get sick on the trail. I wanted to cry but I didn’t. I wonder when I’ll see him again.
It feels good to be at camp. With people. Sun is setting. Half-Dome looks like redwood. A group of girls is next to my campsite. I want to do yoga or my exercises but I’m embarrassed. I’m the only one keeping my food the proper 40 paces from my tent site. Ranger told me the camp is not as full as it should be or had been. Both with camping and backpacking. I bought my permit six months ago. Everything fills up fast. Odd that people wouldn’t show up. Abnormal for the season.
Girl made camp beside me. Thalia. Tall, brunette, broad shouldered, looked like she could play rugby. She came over and offered me a candy bar but I told her I already had enough Snickers to last till my next resupply. Asked me what I was doing and I told her I was hiking the John Muir Trail, or some variation of it. Asked her what she was doing and she said she’d soon find out. Her pack is twice my size: two bear canisters instead of one, more clothes, more food, more resources (her word), and even a pistol: a snub nose ‘38 with two boxes of ammunition that she didn’t show the ranger.
“For bears?” I asked her.
“For whatever I run into.”
It was an odd thing for her to say. Odd to hear. But she seems an odd individual. Quit her job at Trader Joe’s where she was making 12 bucks an hour. Didn’t talk a lot and yet I felt completely at ease around her. Rare individual. Maybe I’ll see her again on the road.
Goal is to write or record audio each day for as long as I’m out here. I don’t know what to focus on. Whether to look inwards and record what’s going on in my head, or to keep my focus outward on what’s happening around me. My inward thoughts are never that interesting. I came out here to get away from what’s inside, to instead embrace action. That being said, I’m homesick.
Didn’t see mosquitoes all day until I refilled my water at the river and met a swarm. Remember to wear long sleeves and long pants. My feet are all bit.
DAY TWO – JOURNAL ENTRY
Saw Thalia off. She wasn’t doing Half-Dome. She’s going to follow the trail to Tuolumne Meadows where she’ll get a beer and a small resupply and then head south, off trail. Said her eventual destination is some place called the Ionian Basin in King’s Canyon. Seems like she’ll move fast. I doubt I’ll see her again.
Underestimated Half Dome. Thought it’d be four miles round trip. It’s seven, maybe more. If there wasn’t anyone on the cables it might have been a breeze. I could have skipped up the granite. But I started late and left late and by the time I reached the cables it was well past noon and there was a line of people from the base to the summit. Took my boots and socks off at the summit. Socks were soaked through and a blister had formed on my pinky toe. Second day and already a blister. Was worse on the way down. The line stalled. Some kid was throwing up and everyone had to step aside clinging to the cables to let the kid and her mom sneak by. The lower slope of Half-Dome is near vertical. I can’t imagine being sick and vomiting while needing to hold onto a cable to prevent yourself from falling and cracking your head open on the granite below.
I didn’t feel good on the way down. It’s possible I didn’t eat enough. I was certainly dehydrated. Was worried whatever my dad had or whatever that kid had had slipped over to me. Back at camp I drank some water water and put my feet up and cooked some chile that I paired with a Snickers bar and I began to feel better. Don’t feel sick. Just dehydrated.
Might be good to spend a day relaxing, maybe let my feet heal and toughen up. A short day wouldn’t be a terrible compromise.
Loneliness strikes near the end of the day. The sun goes down and I’m already saddened by the time that’s gone.
- I Feel better or more comfortable around families, older couples, and people with kids. Maybe it’s because I’m older. I’m not as young as I used to be. They all feel very down to earth. Calm. With a sort of yearning that the young ones seem to lack (save for Thalia). A calmness. It’s nice.
- The people closer to my own age not as much. I’m not sure why. The motivation seems less about relaxing than about checking off bucket-lists. There’s a pretentiousness, as though this entire adventure will be used for promotional materials to be determined at a later date. Guys muscled with their shirts off, girls in short shorts. Every one of them wearing the “look” of an outdoorsman. The group near me – about 45 feet away right now – showed up in very nice bathing suits and strutted around half naked. Posing. Maybe I’m projecting. There’s a couple to my left who looks very nice. They’re older, around 30 or so, closer to my age. They also LOOK outdoorsy, more weathered than everyone else. Maybe I’m judging books by their covers. Yes. I think that’s it after all. Just calm down. Don’t judge.
- Hope I can muster up the fortitude to go swimming naked.
- I’ve only peed once. That was this morning. Assuming it’s because I was also pooping. I’m guessing this will all take a few days to sort itself out.
- This guy across the way looks hell bent. Been here awhile. Not at the camp. Here in the wild. Long hair, shaggy. Weathered clothes. Dark boots. A hint in his eyes of something…I don’t know. He was looking at me earlier. Glad others are around. Made me think of Thalia.
- So far I have not been craving food. I’m eating everything, though finishing dinner and the trail mix has been a chore. Tonight’s dinner is half finished. Same for the trail mix. Only ate one bar.
- It’s dark, or nearly so. 9:00pm. Half-Dome looks incredible. Imposing. Personified. Not just a thing, but alive. I wonder if the stars will come out tonight. The moon is so small. I should come out later and check. Feeling a bit better. Food and liquids. Plus a second poop and piss! My neighbor is coughing and he just threw up. I feel bad for his daughter.
DAY THREE – JOURNAL ENTRY
Morning: Dreamed I was in a house with Justine. We made a fire in the living room from some rotted wood. The house was empty and abandoned, one of its walls had long since toppled over. There was no power. It was cold and a storm was coming so we huddled close with only the fire and each other to keep us warm. We ate candy and hummed songs and I played a guitar for her even though I’ve never been able to play. We were the last two people on earth. I woke up sad because I know I’ll probably never see her again.
That guy from the last night – haggard, pale eyes, creepy – he was up early. Already packed and ready to go by the time I peeked out of my tent. He doesn’t have a tent. Just a makeshift lean-to. Not much of anything else. He left camp and headed south into the woods off trail. Wore a dark wide brimmed hat with a hood so wide he could sling it over the hat. Why would you wear a hood in a place like this? I’m glad he’s gone.
Evening: What a day! Food is cooking right now. The weather has cooled. This area – Sunrise Camp or Sunrise Creek – is just gorgeous. Something happened when I climbed over the pass. The land just sort of opened up. I like openness. I don’t like being contained. It’s what makes Yosemite odd: the main valley – the popular part – is just so contained. This place feels like something out of the old west. Out of Shane. A big expanse. I’d really like to check out Montana and Wyoming (again). To feel that grand big country.
Someone just appeared. He’s looking for a group of three or four guys doing the John Muir Trail. Across the meadow someone is having a fire. What a different experience this is, today over yesterday. I’m in the thick of it. Long distance backpackers. It’s a good feeling. A part of me wishes I went faster. But this was never about some fitness goal. It’s about being out here. Not alone exactly. Away from it all.
Three hikers came out of the north wearing headlamps. Could only see the small beads of light as they appeared over the ridge on their approach. They went off trail. Said some guy was hitched at a bottleneck skinning an animal. No fire. Wasn’t cooking. Asked us if there was a ranger around. Said we hadn’t seen one all day. They all seemed shaken up.
It’s colder tonight than it was the last two. Tonight I’m without my rain fly. This has jinxed me in the past, but tonight I’m not as worried. Everything I have/need is inside my tent. If rain/wind does come I can put up my fly quickly.
Tonight I want to watch the stars.
© 2015 Christopher Dart