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Monday, Jul. 26, 2004 | link
I am back. Back to basics, back in black. Back in basic black.
Yosemite was, surprise, gorgeous and righteous and instilled me with all the usual feelings of "California UBER ALLES," but wow was it HOThotHOT out there this July, and you could totally feel the burn of the big but well managed (we spied the water-toting helicopters) Meadow Fire that still continues to sizzle.
Yosemite is burning.
The smoke from the fire filled the valley every morning, and I woke up dazed, congested, and sore-throated. But Jill, with her allergies and asthma, had it much, much worse. She woke with burning, blinded eyes and a brick of "can't breath" panic sitting on her chest. The only way she managed to tuff it was by sleeping with a paper mask over her breathing holes, which was pretty apocalyptic.
Another side effect of the fire was the park authorities' "no activity until after ten" recommendation (because air pollution levels were at their highest between 8 and 10, based on the wind patterns in the Valley), which kept us from getting to hiking until the very searingest part of the day. And it turns out climbing fat, shadeless switchbacks in 90-degree weather isn't the best.
Meanwhile I also had big trouble sleeping. The rowdy work-camp-y tent-cabins we stayed in are so incredibly thin-skinned, and packed so very close, that when our neighbors to the right woke up in the dark, pre-dawn hour of 5:30, their observations about "morning wood" and "trail shitting" seemed close enough for me to pinch. It would have been truly enraging if I hadn't been awake already, thanks to the constant concert of notsosexy bedspring creaking and explosive piss-proof mattress crinkling. Also Marilyn giggles in her sleep? But even aside from all the noise, it was just too grossly hot and eerily still to slumber with any fitness.
The odious tent-cabins of Yosemite Valley.
The other thing about the tent-cabins: because they're made of fabric, versus the wood of the bona fide cabins we stayed in the last two years, it is forbidden to store any bear temptibles inside them. And bears are tempted by a wide variety of things. Food, sure, but also toothpaste, lotion, shampoo, chapstick, birth control pills, perfume, magazines with perfume inserts, even water, innocent water. It all has to be kept in a bear-proof locker well outside the tent. Our assigned locker was next to the bathroom, which was fairly close to our tent, but after eight million trips -- the sunblock forgotten in your backpack, the key you didn't take when you went brush your teeth, the antibacterial tincture you wanted to put on your blistered feet just before bed -- the Oulipoeanly tight constraints of bear-proof living got a little old.
But! Even with all the back-and-forthing, and the no sleep, and the smoke blocking the stars and blackening our lungs, the trip was STILL fun and soothing and worthwhile. THAT'S how great Yosemite really is.
Caroleen and Jeff at Inspiration Point, one of the few un-inspiring places in the whole park.
The other good thing about Yosemite? The BUFFETS. For $32, a person can sit down to Sunday brunch at the scenic and historically preserved Ahwahnee hotel and pound all the neatly squared breakfast potatoes, eggs benedict, chocolate-covered strawberries, trout with asparagus, oysters, shrimp, ramekin-sized brulees, sausage, bacon, fresh-squeezed orange juice, quality coffee, life-altering pistachio chocolate torte, made-to-order omelettes, cheesecake, and et cetera that she can fit into her buffet chute. It's some kind of heaven!
Beautiful Ahwahnee, beautiful buffet, beautiful Marilyn.
Once we finally managed to eat and hike our fill, we staggered our way home through the magical, flammable hills of windmill country. And here, I leave you with it, the unavoidable "alien terrain" photo of the ghostly wind turbines spinning against the sunset sky.