This weekend a group of us went up to Yosemite for the weekend. I drove up with Scott and was pretty happy we were leaving so early, as I had never arrived in Yosemite until after dark.
Not that arriving at night is a bad thing, it’s actually quite nice. The place is dark and quiet. After setting up our tents, we would walk over to the bridge, and with an unobstructed view, we would sit down and gaze at the billions and billions of stars in the night sky. Among all the amazing things at Yosemite, the amount of stars in the sky just floors me (good thing I’m sitting down when I’m looking at them.
And in the morning, I would wake up to the most spectacular scenery: The trees that are so tall they go on forever and just beyond them sits Half Dome. Pictures do not do it justice. It is beyond awesome to gaze up at it. Half Dome is almost hypnotic in it’s grace and beauty. It’s truly inspiring.
Oops, back to my tale…
So, Scott and I left at 2:00, expecting to arrive around 7:30. Maybe that would be cutting it a bit close, but at least it wouldn’t be dark. We had directions, and since it’s not a holiday weekend, we knew traffic would be light.
The directions to Yosemite from San Jose are pretty clear: Take 280 South, which turns in to 680 North, up to 580 East , which turns into 205, and then east on 120 and you’re there! So simple, anyone can do it, right?
We did it all without a hitch. I chattered away, Scott slept—or pretended to sleep to shut me up—and we made really good time. Along 120 there are two big signs for Yosemite. The first says that Yosemite is 66 miles away. The second, some 21 miles later, notes that Yosemite is 45 miles away. I saw the 45 miles and stepped on the gas…
About an hour later, we didn’t seem to be any closer to Yosemite. I no longer saw any signs for Yosemite… in fact, I saw few signs at all. But Scott and I trudged on, noting “familiar” bits of landscape as we drove, not thinking that we’d never seen this area in daylight and how off we might be. No, Scott and I found something familiar with just about anything. “That rock looks familiar…” “Yeah, that mountain looks familiar… in the dark, it blocks everything, just like now…”
As we started up a hill that was a 26% grade, I began to get suspicious that we were not on the right path. Scott had been saying this for about 20 minutes, but I had been “sure” that we were going the right way.
We passed a group of campers and I thought that maybe we should pull over and ask. Scott practically grabbed the wheel from me and said, “keep driving. One of them has got a shotgun and the albino kid is playing a banjo…”
So we slowly chugged up the hill…
“Give me a sign, God. Something that says we’re on the right path,” I prayed very quietly to myself… and then I saw it. On the side of the road, the first white reflector to have any kind of notation clearly read: HWY 108.”
What the fuck? Where the hell did 108 come from?
We turned around and my car no longer heaved at climbing such a hill, instead, my brakes began to smoke as we made our descent down the hill, past the cast of Deliverance and to a little tiny restaurant in some town called Dardanelle. Dardanelle consists of a 1 pump gas station, a general store, a bar and a restaurant… all in the same small building.
The kind folks let us fill up on gas, (at the right reasonable price of two dollars and 30 fucking cents a gallon!) and informed us that we were about 150 miles away from Yosemite.
I had missed the turnoff, some 96 miles previous.
So we trudged our way back. Again we drove past Wawona, right past Cow Creek, through Strawberry Creek, and sure as fuck past Sugar Pine. Yep, we went past all those “familiar” areas that we had never seen before in our sad, sorry lives.
As we drove back, we passed a small sign for route 49 that would take us to Yosemite. I decided to avoid it, as I was unsure if it would take us some “back way” that would be unfamiliar to me. Versus the last hour and forty minutes that had been a regular trip to memory lane…
Again, I missed the 120 turnoff! So, about 2 miles later, there was a small turnout and I practically did a U-turn in the middle of the highway. “Fuckit” became my mantra. We then passed the “Yosemite, 45 miles sign” and then about 100 feet further, there was a teeny-tiny little sign that noted that 120 turned at the small turnout ahead.
So as to not confuse anyone, the wonderful people at the park service, put a small brown and mostly unnoticeable sign for Yosemite. You would think a park of such note would have a much bigger sign…
The second we turned on the road everything became familiar in that “Oh Christ, how could we have not realized how wrong we were before? This IS the way!” From then on, we knew we were on the correct road. Especially, after we past the intersection where route 49 merged with 120. If I had taken it, I probably would have saved myself another half hour…
We arrived on the valley floor some 45 minutes later… at 10:15pm. So much for driving into Yosemite during the day. However, Scott and I did get to see El Capitan under a full moon, which is quite stunning: the granite glowing with these deep, black crevices. Scott thought it looked teutonic, which I totally agreed with (after he explained what the word meant).
We made one or two wrong turns getting to camp, but we made it at 10:30pm… eight and a half hours after we left. But to be able to wake up on Saturday, open the tent and look up at Half Dome was worth it.
And that full moon I mentioned? It was so bright that we didn’t need flashlights to walk around at night. It was so bright, we kept thinking a light was on in our tent. It was so bright that we couldn’t see any stars!
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