During the spring of 2008 my partner - Ric Reed - accepted an invitation from two friends to go with them on a day trip to Yosemite. Ric was very impressed. A few days later I received a message that my kid brother - Dan - had been killed in a single vehicle accident. There was to be no funeral so I had no opportunity to grieve. Ric thought that a solution to that problem would be for the two of us to go on a three day visit to Yosemite.
I flew out to Oakland on the usual milk run with a few stops along the way, spent the weekend with Ric and friends, and then - on Monday morning - we arose very early in order to be on the first BART train to Richmond where BART and Amtrak share facilities. Our train left right on time at 8:00 for the three hour ride to Merced. Because there were so few people in the car which we were in, there was no problem in securing a double seat with a table in between so we could spend the time by playing cribbage.
We arrived in Merced right on time and, within a few minutes. a bus pulled into the parking lot (there were about 20 of us on the train who were going to Yosemite). The drive up the valley - and through a canyon - lasted about three hours until we reached the Park Entrance. A mile or so further on the bus went around a bend and there was the iconic guardian of Yosemite - El Capitan!
Not only do mountaineers climb El Capitan and Half Dome but the escarpment by the falls as well.
The talk was delivered by a female Ranger who was very eloquent and for whom the bears in the Park had special meaning. One of the biggest problems there - and in all of the national parks in the mountains in the US and in Canada - are tourists who ignore signs and are caught 'feeding the bears'. The day that we arrived a woman was seen in the parking lot at Yosemite Falls feeding a bear pizza!
The bears appreciate the free handouts but the down side is that they come to depend upon it - and, if it isn't proffered, they can become ugly and dangerous.
The Ranger had a backpack with her and, at the end of her address, she opened it and pulled out the skin of what had been a large bear. It had become so used to handouts from thoughtless tourists that it seemed to forget how to forage for its food. It had become such a pest that it had to be shot. She was virtually in tears when she finished her address.
The purpose of Ric bringing me there was to find solace for the loss of my brother. On his previous hike through the park he had been to Vernal Falls (on the Merced River but a mile or two up the mountain - and reachable by a well-maintained trail). Near those falls we looked back across the valley and could see Yosemite Falls!
I bought a taco sandwich for a snack before going to the coach for the drive back to the railway in Merced - and that proved to be a mistake! I developed cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. I was able to keep everything inside of me during the bus trip out to the railway but I most certainly had to use the facilities on the train. However, I was well enough to fly home in relative comfort on the following day.
The bus was delayed by the number of passengers from the park and the two towns between the park and Merced who boarded so many of us worried that the train would leave without us. We need not to have worried - the train crew and the bus driver were in radio contact with each so the train was slowed and it did not arrive at the station until we were standing on the platform!