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Road Trip, Day 19

A bird


My biggest anticipated park on our trip, and probably our last, has also turned out to be the most disappointing! Let me explain: Yosemite the physical location is absolutely beautiful; Yosemite the National Park is verging on disaster. Maybe that's too strong a word, since I could imagine much worse, but of all the National Parks we've visited, Yosemite has been the worst. The idiots responsible for some of the more inane things at the Grand Canyon obviously took post graduate courses here at Yosemite.

Let's start with the maps. They are useless. Even more so than at the Grand Canyon. At the entrance the surly ranger hands you a huge map of the park. Most of the park is actually back country trails, only about a quarter of it has roads through it; this map is of the whole park, but disclaims itself of any use for trails, saying if you are intending to hike the trails, you'd better get a real map. So what's the point of 3/4 of this map? The few roads in the park on the map are not marked with route numbers, even though throughout the park, the roads are primarily referred to by route number. So you're driving along, and along comes a sign advising you that 41 is to the left, 140 to the right, and 120 is straight ahead, and the map is of no help whatsoever. It also claims to have a magnified view of certain areas on the back; the back, needless to say, is totally blank.

The road layout is confusing enough to make the Grand Canyon jealous, with one-way loops circling back on each other, diverging at the least expected places, and doubling back necessary to get to certain locations. And no thought or planning, or at least no coordination among the various committees and bureaucrats responsible, is in evidence for the placement of parking lots and shuttle bus stops and major attractions. As for communicating information about major attractions, forget about it. The park staff certainly did. Mirror Lake is dry. Yosemite Falls don't. Maybe locals who come every weekend know that this is the dry season (I'm presuming) and of course the falls and lakes and rivers are dry, but how about a half-hearted attempt to inform the poor out of town tourist traveling across the continent what to expect today at Yosemite. Don't bother with the Yosemite Falls, or even the Bridalveil Falls, and certainly don't invest time walking down the trail to Mirror Lake unless you like sand (or want to see bears...). Certainly it could be seasonally included in the shuttle bus stop announcements. But the shuttle bus steering subcommittee must be an impenetrable bureaucratic mess, where it is impossible to get even the most obvious changes pushed through, or else there is no explanation for why, when the road ends for non-shuttle bus traffic and there is a huge parking lot, there is not also a shuttle bus stop right at this parking lot. The bus stop route was set in stone, and stop number 15 a quarter mile away is the closest and that's plenty good enough. It's almost like they don't want people using the public transportation. And the bus doesn't really go anywhere useful that it's much worth it to not just walk in the first place. Take our specific example, for example:

Not knowing any better, we see the signs for Mirror Lake, and having read of its beauty in our guide book, we decide, hey, let's go there! So we drive down the road following the sign, (because it's not on the map), but suddenly the road is closed to all but shuttle bus traffic, we have to turn off to the parking lot. So we do, we park, we walk out to nearby Happy Isles, scouting the area, decide it's good, go back to the car to pack a picnic and catch the shuttle bus to Mirror Lake. So we go to the entrance of the parking lot and try to flag down the passing bus, whose driver sternly wags his finger at us and blows by. We have to either walk up the road a quarter mile to the previous stop, or walk back down to the Happy Isles stop, where we just came from. OK, so we are on the bus, the Mirror Lake stop, after waiting at the Happy Isles stop for 5 or 10 minutes, is a quarter of a mile down the road from the Happy Isle stop, and just deposits you at the foot of the Mirror Lake trail. I say "trail", but it is in fact a fully paved road, obviously you used to be able to drive here, but they shut it down. Now, I'm all for that, but since the road is already in place, why not have the shuttle bus go up it? I'm sure it's because I just don't understand the intricate, complicated details involved in apportioning road use -- I certainly can't understand why the single-gear rental bikes are prohibited -- not suggested or advised, but prohibited, from going up the slight incline on this same road toward the end. Non-rental bikes aren't so prohibited. Is it because they only have one gear? Well, tell me I probably won't want to do the hill, but prohibit me? Anyway, it's all moot because after all this, the Lake is nothing but sand. Could the driver have mentioned this when she felt compelled to interrupt the recorded stop announcement with her own saying exactly the same thing, only in accented English? Maybe this is why the bus doesn't go up the road, because they know it isn't worth it.

What it comes down to is, Yosemite is a park to be in, not to see; ignore as best you can the bad administrative attempts to reign the place in,and just go out and sit and enjoy the view, feel the breeze and the sun, pretend this is just nature as it's always been, there are no humans trying to control it. Throw out the maps, don't expect to see any sites, just wonder at what you see in front of you. It's a great park with lousy administration.

Maybe it's all an intentional plot to discourage car visitors of whom there are too many. (Or so they claim; after witnessing their incompetence first hand, much as I am intrinsically inclined to subscribe to this view, I have to say I have my doubts: maybe it's just that they are too incompetent to handle the traffic they get.) This is the only park I've seen where they check you leaving as well as entering to make sure you paid your fee. Poor service forced to aggressively pursue fees to keep the bottom line even?

Anyway, once we finally gave up on the Park, and just decided to enjoy the park, we had a pretty good time. We spent the afternoon relaxing at a beach on the river (not on any maps) -- sandy banks, deep clear water, incredible surroundings. This was after our close encounter with the bear, so maybe a cleansing adrenaline rush helped.

Yes, the bear: Fernanda finally had her encounter! After the disastrous Mirror Lake expedition, we just sat on a stump to eat our sandwiches, because we were getting hungry on top of our frustration. At first we attracted a squirrel, who was totally unshy and quite aggressive. Fighting him off, we noticed he had reinforcements, and suddenly four or five squirrels were rushing us from all sides, and would not be shooed. At the height of this assault, the people down the trail suddenly indicated there was a bear across the field. I looked up, and there was a bear, making a bee-line towards us. Gathering up our sandwiches and telling Fernanda to put her food in the backpack immediately, we got up and retreated as I zipped up all our food. Fernanda didn't see the bear at first. Then she saw it, but I didn't, now that I had the camera in hand.

We backed down the trail a bit, and warned some other people walking down. While we were telling one set, who turned out to be Brazilian, another couple walked past, and when we saw them down the trail and called out to them, they either didn't hear us or ignored us, till suddenly they turned a corner and suddenly saw the bear -- you could see the blood drain from them -- and they came back.. There was also a cub I saw come running across from the other direction. All this too fast of course to get a picture. And it's not like you want to hang around lining up a shot.

So, we saw a bear. This was the breakthrough, I think, that finally made us realign our thinking, give up on the Park, and just enjoy nature where we were. Nothing like a bear to set you straight. We had a nice swim, a nice drive, walked down a field in the sunset.

We'll see how it goes tomorrow as we try again. Then it's off to San Fransisco!

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Previous Entries



Our New Bathroom Saga

Europe 2015

The Berkshires

Road Trip South


Our Trip to Ireland

Google Map of our Trip

Road Trip: The End

Road Trip, Day 27

Road Trip, Day 26

Road Trip, Day 25

Road Trip, Day 24

Road Trip, Day 23

Road Trip, Day 22

Road Trip, Day 21

Road Trip, Day 20

Road Trip, Day 18

Road Trip, Day 17

Road Trip, Day 16

Road Trip, Day 15

Road Trip, Day 14

Road Trip, Day 13

Road Trip, Day 12

Road Trip, Day 11

Road Trip, Day 10

Road Trip, Day 9

Road Trip, Day 8

Road Trip, Day 7

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