It is funny how life works. Like clockwork, every December I find myself setting goals for the next four seasons. Apart from the usual suspects like eating better and procrastinating less, I thought 2019 will be the year I would cover as many national parks as humanly possible. Remote, physically challenging, breathtakingly beautiful – NPS of US has everything that an introvert traveller like me yearns for me. Talking about national parks, Aaron Sorkin once said Yosemite makes America the greatest nation on earth. I do not know what makes the greatest nation in the world but am pretty good at spotting a beautiful place when I see one. It helps that I can go there using public transport. Yes, I do not have a car and also find driving a wee bit stressful.
As the year rolled by, I found myself lusting after another trip. As soon as the shutdown was over, I found myself looking for a place to stay inside the park. Thus far I have never managed to stay inside the park. I wanted to go on Feb 9th but there were no reservations for that day but there was opening on 16th Feb and 17th Feb. 18th Feb being a holiday, that worked fine. This mundane detail had a lot of foreshadowing of how things worked out for my trip. As things stood, I got the terrible flu on 8th Feb and was bedridden for most of 8th Feb. Even if had booked a trip on 8th, I would not have been able to make it.
Speaking of foreshadowing, this was not the only alteration I had to do for my itinerary. there was heavy snowfall on 8th and all reservations in campgrounds for my trip were cancelled. But I had decided to go no matter what. I made an alternate arrangement and found myself staying inside the park for one day and just outside for the other.
On the day of the trip, I woke up at 3:30 and took the bus, train and another bus to Yosemite. Did I say I really wanted to go during the weekend? After having booked the trip, I also found that my trip will be near a full moon and the valley will be bathed in snow. I was pretty excited to hike in moon-lit snow. I reached the park without any incident and basked in the reflection of the rays of the moon or as some dictionaries in another language will say “Himangshu Jyoti”. Yes, that is my name and it literally means “Moon’s light”.
Due to the heavy cover of snow, many of the treks were closed. I did my reconnaissance and found out the open treks. Early next morning I went out to hike Upper Yosemite Falls. A hike I had done one a half year back when the tracks were brown and stony. I found out that the entire hike was not safe but it was safe to go to something called “Colombia Rock”. This was going to very different. The brown soil had given way to a thick blanket of snow. I kept climbing and noticed there were few other hikers. Even as an introvert solo hiker, I like to meet other people on the trail for safety reasons.
After some time I was startled by mini avalanches but I kept going on because I saw fresh footmarks in the snow. Eventually, I met someone returning who told me it was safe till Colombia Rock but that there was a bear prowling beyond it. I was worried about overshooting but kept on going. As I had feared, I overshot the lookout and kept on going. I had not met another trekker for quite some time. That gave me a pause but I had enough time to catch the bus back so I kept on going. All this story would have made for a great climax if I had a selfie with the bear but in an anti-climatic fashion, all I came across was paw marks. It was a bit scary all alone with fresh paw marks. I ran back double speed to human civilization.
The upper Yosemite hike left me with four hours to kill during the day. So, I went to mirror lake. Mirror Lake was so pretty, I became a bit stupid and overstayed my intended stay by the lake. Long story short I gave myself very less slack to catch the bus. Due to heavy snow, most of the road signs were not visible and I got lost at just the worst moment and missed the last bus. So I found myself on the 17th of February in a snow covered national park without any way to get out. With no way out, I now was at the mercy of humankind.
I started asking for a lift to all passing cars. Of the fifteen-odd cars that passed by me over five stopped by. Sometimes, it is easy to get lost in the negativity going around but intrinsically all humans like to help each other. One of the cars was going in my direction. They hardly had any space but they decided to save the unknown soul and I found myself on a car out of Yosemite to El Portal. They drove me to a gas station which was a few miles from the hotel. Unfortunately unknown to them the hotel was another 5 miles away and it was a bit risky to walk on the road due to cars. So, I again found myself in a situation. Like before I got another lift to the hotel. Things were only about to get even better. Next day I was back in the park and while coming back, I found myself on the bus crossing the horsetail falls as it was about to turn bright red. I never knew about the Yosemite Firefall but there I was witnessing it from the comfort of my bus as the slow traffic ensured I got a very long glimpse of the miracle of nature.
From the bottom of my heart, I wish to thank Saina from Portland who thought of saving me out of pure humanity and Suhas from Sunnyvale. I hope I can one day of some help to another human being like you guys were to me.