It had come to this. I was crawling on my hands on knees through the dirt around my half-constructed tent, dragging the hammer and bag of pegs, taking care to keep my damaged foot raised and muttering to myself about the injustice of it all.
All around me were happy families clustered around their Winnebagos, the kids riding bikes, laughing and ding-dinging their bells, the parents reclining in camp chairs with beers and peanuts at hand, there were people returning from the shower tousling their fresh clean hair, invigorated after a day hiking the trails of the spectacular Yosemite Valley.
And there was me like a modern-day Smeagol with bandaged foot, grovelling in the dirt.
The logistics were proving difficult. My food was stored in the bear locker which was a few metres from the camp table, which was in turn a few metres from the tent, which was a few metres from the car. Every movement required careful planning. Get all ingredients for dinner, got tea, got toothbrush...I couldn’t carry things by hand, so had to load it into bags or ditch the crutches and hop around. No fire because it was impossible to gather wood, no beer because I was on antibiotics, my tent smelled like pee because the tree I was camped under was dripping something weird down, and my thermarest had a leak that needed pumping a few times per night. I looked at other people sitting round the fire with their special someone, drinking and laughing, then I looked at me sitting in the dark with my crutches and John Muir book for company and my pee-smelling tent and flat mattress to look forward to.
This trip to the US had taken a sharp twist in tone when I was suddenly unable to hike. No longer would I be striding the trails, the sun on my face and a whistle on my lips as I traversed mountains and cupped my hands to drink cool, clear river water. Now I was one of the mob. I was on the park shuttle bus with the group of elderly tourists with name badges on their chests and they smiled knowingly at me and my crutches as they looked down at their own walking sticks. Welcome to our world they were thinking as they swayed back and forth in time with the movements of the bus. I was there at the lookout with the people in zip-off pants, many-pocketed vests and three hundred dollar boots who hike from their car to the lookout point (via the hotdog stall), on their five minute stop off at this vantage point of immense beauty.
I got myself to the lookout at Glacier Point. It was this kind of view that inspired John Muir to write “But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life...as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures.” It was a place that deserved a show of reverence.
Out of a house-sized campervan piled Brendan, Alex, Mum and Dad. The two boys wore matching polo shirts of blue, black and white horizontal stripes. They had snowy white hair and they ran this way and that, kicking rocks and pulling faces.
‘Alex! Brendan! Come here!’ mum screeched as she emerged from the behemoth. But they had quickly spotted the cafe and came racing back demanding candy.
‘Not now boys, let’s go and get some shots of the wilderness’ dad said.
They followed him over to the lookout where there was a jostling mob of tourists, politely shouldering each other out of the way so they could paint on an appropriately serene smile for the camera in front of the Yosemite Valley sprawled below them.
Dad had the camera jammed in their face and mum was at his shoulder saying ‘Brendan smile properly! ..no don’t do that thing with your eyebrows, this photo’s for Poppy so make it nice. Oh, Brendan!’
There was so much to look at – I surprised myself by realising I was having a great time.
|Crazies in Yosemite in earlier times|
|Modern day madness|