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Mosquitos, Snakes and a Bear

Well, I’m back… it appears that Google Maps link I posted wasn’t too much use in deciphering where I was going; sorry about that. Myself and C spent a fun week and a bit, driving up to Kings Canyon and Yosemite, backpacking around for a few days, then driving back down via the 395 via Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, Lone Pine and so on.

Kings Canyon: Unfortunately, not so much fun; we had the bad luck of encountering what must be the tail end of the mosquito season, and spent most of our 2 days there running up and down the Woods Creek trail without a break, entirely surrounded by clouds of mozzies. Possibly this headlong dashing explains how we ran into so much other wildlife — including a (harmless) California Mountain King Snake and, less enjoyably — and despite wearing bear bells on our packs to avoid this — a black bear…

We rounded a corner on the trail, and there it was, munching on elderberries. Once we all spotted each other, there were some audible sounds of surprise from both bear and humans, and the bear ran off in the opposite direction; the humans, however, did not. We were about 500 feet from our camp for the night, so we needed to get past where the bear had been, or face a long walk back.

Despite some fear (hey, this was our first bear encounter!), we stuck around, shouted, waved things, and took the various actions you take. It all went smoothly, the bear had probably long since departed, but we took it slow regardless, and had a very jittery night in our tent afterwards. After that, and the unceasing mozzie onslaught, we were in little hurry to carry on around the planned loop, so we cut short our Kings Canyon trip by a day and just returned down the trail to its base.

Yosemite: a much more successful trip. There were many reasons, primarily that the mosquito population was much, much lower, and discovering that the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge — comfortable tent cabins, excellent food, and fantastic company — provided a truly excellent base camp.

But I’d have to say that the incredible beauty of Tuolumne Meadows and the Vogelsang Pass really blew me away. I don’t think I’ve seen any landscape quite like that, since trekking to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. I’m with John Muir — Yosemite and its surrounds are a wonder of the world.

Lee Vining: had to pick up a sarnie at the world-famous Whoa Nellie Deli. Yum! After all the camping, we stayed in a hotel with TV, got some washing done, and watched scenes from a J.G. Ballard novel play out on NBC and CNN. Mind-boggling.

Mammoth Lakes: A quick kvetch. Mammoth is possibly the most pedestrian-hostile town I’ve ever visited. They have a hilarious section of 100 feet of sidewalk, where I encountered a fellow pedestrian using those ski-pole-style hiking walking sticks, and entirely in seriousness. Was the concept of walking so foreign in that town that long-distance walking accessories were required? I don’t know, but it didn’t make up for the other 90% of the streets where peds were shoved off onto the shoulder, in full-on ‘sidewalk users aren’t welcome here’ Orange County style.

On top of that, the single pedestrian crossing in the main street spans five lanes of traffic, with no lighting, warning signs, or indeed any effective way for drivers to know whether peds were crossing or not. Unsurprisingly we nearly got run over when we tried using the damn thing. Best avoided.

I’m amazed — it’s like they designed the town to be ped-hostile. Surely allowing peds to get around your town is a bonus when you’re a ski resort for half of the year? Meh.

Anyway, back again, a little refreshed. Once more into the fray…

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