Travels in the American Southwest

Hiking Four Mile Trail and a Bear Scare

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Photos of Yosemite

Entered Yosemite Valley, returning from Mariposa Grove, around five o'clock. The sun had already set in the valley but Half Dome was ablaze with the rays of a red setting sun. For once, MSO and I knew exactly where we were going - North Pines campground this time - Campsite 136 by the Tenya Creek. This was one nice campsite; the marines aside, it was way better than our first. Nicely secluded overlooking the creek, it was everything you'd want in a National Park campground. It even had fresh water available nearby which proved most handy.

I lit the grill while MSO got the healthy part of the meal ready in the RV. The charcoal was graying nicely when I hear MSO call out, "The RV's out of water." How could that be? We were hooked up to the water supply in Virginia City and sure didn't use forty gallons in the past two days. My suggestion that she turn on the pump was answered with, "I did." Uh oh. Confirmed she was right (which came as no surprise!), and then started investigating. It seems that when an RV is hooked to a water supply, it doesn't fill the tank. There's a different place to fill the tank. Poured a couple of five gallon containers filled with water into the RV's freshwater tank. This would allow for "flushability" during the night as well as providing hot water for the dishes after dinner.

Had yet another fine meal, then hit the sack. Tomorrow, we were going to tackle Four Mile trail, which runs between the Valley floor and Glacier Point, 3,214 feet above us.

Tuesday dawned clear and bright, just like all the preceding days of our trip. We quickly had our morning jolts of caffeine, then hurried to the shuttle bus stop. We had to be at the Visitors Center by 8:30 to catch another bus to take us to Glacier Point. Yes, we were hiking Four Mile trail (which is really 4.6 miles) but doing a 9.2 mile round trip is for marines and people in tiptop shape. MSO and I would be doing it the easy way: A forty-five minute ride to the top and a leisurely three hour hike back down to the valley floor.

It was much cooler when the bus dropped us off at Glacier Point. Temperatures drop three to five degrees for every 1,000 feet of elevation. It was some fifteen degrees cooler as we took in the panorama. The Ahwahnee Hotel where we had our fine meal looked like a doll house as we gazed down into the valley. We visited the Glacier Point gift shop, then began our adventure of the day. Four Mile trail was constructed back in the late 20's. Portions of the trail were paved so the hike wouldn't be too strenuous for the gentlemen and ladies of yesteryear. Today, traces of the black pavement can still be seen as the trail weaves back and forth down the mountainside. MSO and I would occasionally meet a party hiking up the trail to Glacier Point, most of them wanting to know "How much further?" We'd let them know and inquire as to how they were doing, did they have water, etc. I felt sympathy for one couple. It was obvious that she wasn't having a good time and I knew that when the hike was over, he wouldn't either.

The views of the granite peaks rising above the valley were magnificent. The sheer face of El Capitan was inspiring. We couldn't see any climbers scaling the cliffs. We were too far away for that. It would be like looking for ants on the ground while you're on the roof of a ten-story building. We saw the path water takes as it tumbles down Yosemite's Upper Falls. I could only imagine the sight of thousands of gallons of water free-falling down in the springtime. We crossed a small mountain stream as we continued our descent. The water was icy cold. We slipped our water containers in the shallow pool, cooling the water in our bottles quickly. We knew you don't drink water out in the wild. Not unless you want to chance ingesting giardia or some other bacteria which would put a major damper on the rest of the trip. While retrieving the water bottles after their cool down, a glint caught my eye. A small flake that I'd swear was gold. Gold! "Look, look," I yelled at MSO holding it in the palm of my hand along with sand I'd scooped up. Sure enough, MSO saw it, too as I placed the flake in the palm of her hand. Was it really a flake of gold? We'll never for sure…I rinsed my hands off in the cold water as MSO allow the small flake to fall to the ground. This is a National Park. "Take only pictures and leave only footprints" is more than phrase, it's our motto. We eventually reached the valley floor, hiking another half mile or so to the nearest shuttle bus stop. Saw some wildlife, a mule deer grazing in a meadow, oblivious to us. Caught the shuttle back to our campsite, freeing my feet from my hiking boots. Pulled a camping chair into the Tenya Creek and soaked my very sore, tired feet.

As the sun started to set, I started the grill again. Had another fine meal, sirloin tips with all the trimmings. Lit the campfire watching it blaze when I noticed a guy in the next campsite. He'd bought some hardwood at the Valley Store and with a book of matches was trying to light a fire. I meandered over to say hi, realizing that he was using no kindling, no paper, just the hardwood logs and the book of matches. He looked over at my roaring campfire, admitting that he had no idea what he was doing. We still had more wood than we could ever use so it was only natural that I offer him our extra. In no time, he had a fine fire going. He confided that his friends were out gathering firewood (a no-no on the valley floor). Suddenly, a woman went running by us followed by a crowd of twenty. They didn't seem to be chasing her, rather they were following her. Then we heard the cry, "Bear!". Some campers made a beeline to their RVs, slamming the doors behind them. I ran to our RV…to grab my camera. I joined the crowd standing on the creek's bank as we all watched to see if the bear would emerge. Instead, our neighbor's campmates emerged, arms loaded with wood. It was they who had seen the bear. In moments, a park ranger appeared. He quizzed the spotters - How big was the bear, what color, exactly where was it seen? Apparently, this bear had been seen at dusk during the preceding days. MSO and I watched the full ranger response. Pickup trucks roared by, only to slam on their brakes. Rangers leaped from the trucks, charging across the creek, hot on the bear's trail. Into the evening we heard shouts and bangs as the rangers hounded the bear. They're intent was not to injure but to scare. They used fireworks, not those piddly inch and a half firecrackers but the kind of fireworks that rattle your bones with their report. During it all, I never saw the bear nor did the rest of the crowd. We did see a ranger giving our neighbors a dressing down for collecting wood on the valley floor. He then made them return every piece but chose not to write them a citation. With the show obviously over, MSO and I sat around our campfire as we prepared to spend our last night at Yosemite. Tomorrow we were off to Devil's Postpile and Death Valley.

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