The fawn and mother are back grazing as I pack up. The sky is actually clear and so blue! I know that when I get to the infamous falls of the valley I will have plenty of water, but I fill up everything again from the stream.... not ready for water fountains yet. Maybe I should mention, No one else camped in this area. I was alone with the deer, the stream, and me! So many people stop at the other camp sites, that at first I thought that I was missing something and getting "bad" camping spots, but no. I just went to the more secluded sections, and didn't always choose the ones that are highlighted in the trail books. It also meant I didn't see any park rangers, but they may have been busy with other things.... like people freaking out about fire and smoke.
As I start on down the trail I run into a guy who was celebrating his 50th birthday with his first backpacking adventure and he is doing the JMT. He is super excited. His wife is going to meet him around Red's in case he needs to change plans. He is just happy to be there.
Then there was a guy who's trail name was "nobody" and while we were talking a coyote or 2 strolled by. Then a series of guys going up and down the trail, and that is when I had the beginning of my "bro" meltdown. I know that there just weren't that many women on the trail, and the whole time I was the only woman I ran into hiking alone, but geeze! Note to men on hiking trail, bike rides, soccer games, snow sports.... not everyone out there is a guy, and I am not your "Bro, man"! I was still really doing ok with some of this, it got old, but the beauty of the land was a good distraction.
After I passed the turn off for Clouds Rest, the valley opened up to its awe inspiring self! Half-Dome came into view as did all the other landmarks that I can't list off. As I got closer and closer to the valley, the day hikers increased in proportion to backpackers. I was amazed at how many people were starting the JMT this late in the season. "Nobody" said he loved the trail in the winter time, and that Mt. Whitney had a special beauty in late fall. He had done the trail several times, and found him self with some extra time and camping food, so took off. It is moments like this that I have considered moving to this area of California.
Anyway, I made my way down, and down, and down... then the water falls! WOW! And then the Merced river rolls down the valley. I'll let the pics speak for the views for they were non-stop spectacular.
I wondered into Yosemite proper, and the squirrels were the biggest I had ever seen. As I saw hamburger and french fry wrappers blowing by (the first I'd seen litter the whole 2 weeks) I understood. They are being fed the junk food of the day-hikers/car-campers/village fast-food joints. Squirrels with diabetes and heart disease.
I got to the end of the line and took a shuttle to the campground with the backpackers area. I walk by all the R.V.s, crossed the bridge, and on the other side of the stream, I found quiet again. So I set up my tent, took a swim in the stream, and went into "town" for a veggie burger and a beer. After dinner I went to get the shuttle schedule and saw the ghost of John Muire get off a bus with an super old external-frame backpack. You know the kind you see in hiker museums.
I also went into the Yosemite market and got some fresh fruit. As I approached the bridge to the campgrounds, upon my return, I passed John's ghost again. We both got some more water and headed over to the camp together. Later he came by to see about hitching a ride back to his town. Seems he was doing the 60th or 65th anniversary of the first time he hiked to the top of Yosemite Falls! I never did ask him how old he was, but if I did the story time math, it put him in his early 70s. He was disappointed because he was planning on doing 4 days out, but got to the top of the falls and turned around due to exhaustion, and the falls was dry, so no water.
I had a nice final night in the tent. Something that sounded like an owl started speaking, then something started howling, that got the horses in the corral going. And as quickly as it started in went in reverse and then all was quiet again. I slept with the fly off and just stayed up most of the night watching the sky and reflecting. The tree friend that I had met while on Fish Creek hasn't left my mind. I know we are old friends. I know we have danced together. We have sung songs and played music. We have gone on long walks and had many talks and good hardy laughs. I look forward to more times with that old friend!
The morning moved slowly. I went into Curry Village and got some coffee. I imagined it as a village not part of a national park, but a place that all my friends and I took over. We could grow some food, create a true learning environment for children and those who are older. We could take turns going "out" for supplies we couldn't grow ourselves, but had things to trade... It was the seed that planted the idea I have for creating the community we envision. And a reminder that we don't have to wait for the shit to go down to start creating the communities we want to live in. We can start making mistakes and learning from them now!
I made my way to the shuttle, and who do I find, but John. We struck up a conversation that lasted all the way to Merced... even when I tried to go to sleep. We tried to exchange names, but he could not get my name right and just kept calling me Tim. At first I really did enjoy him talking and telling stories. I miss my grandfather so very much, that I absorbed maybe more than I should have. Towards the end of our travels together, he said he had a question for me that had been bothering him since we met. I thought "Sweet! Here is where we can address that fact that I am not Tim". His question was about his befuddlement on how I kept such a clean shave on the trail! For real! I tried to explain that I didn't know too many females that shaved while backpacking. He seemed even more perplexed and then eventually asked if I like to garden and if so, grow tomatoes.... In his mind, and many others, I will always be some young guy they met on the trail, and it makes me.... is there an emotion that blends mad and sad?
Its not that they saw ME as a guy. That part is fine. Its that they don't expect to see women on the trail unless they are hiking with men, and the men were always in the lead. always taking charge and leading when I saw them. And this expectation that women are not solo hikers, that it isn't safe for them, keeps so many women from having solo adventures. I'm not saying everyone should go out alone.... I just happen to be a loner, or impatient/selfish and just want to go when and where I want to go, and if others want to join great!
Since I have been back, I've talked to women who do not go out alone either for hikes or backpacking treks. Many don't even take themselves out for dinner and a movie date. And to all that I say, do it... if you want to. But don't let fear keep you from doing it. Women experience more violence the closer they are to their homes and families. The majority of rape and abuse that women face is by people they know. Men are more likely to experience violence from strangers.
So don't let people tell you that its not safe for women to go out alone. And it is here that I figured out why I do not want to be called "bro". I am not your bro. I am not on this trail to conquer it, or prove anything to myself (or anyone else). I am here to experience and commune with nature. I will not geek out over gear (except the p-style) and having the lightest pack. I am out here to love this place (wherever I am) deeply; to take it into me and fill me with its grandeur.
And it is with these thoughts that I fell into a hotel in Merced and saw myself in the mirror naked for the first time in 2 weeks. The over 100 miles and 14 days, loss of appetite, stripped the weight off of me. I was sunken in where I never thought it was possible. I was honestly in a little shock! I called my friends in Santa Cruz and said they had one mission while I was there... to get the weight back up... burritos and beer (root or grain I didn't care). I was a couple bus rides from them and couldn't wait to see them... until then it was swimming pool, shower, and bath for me.
the last flat i would see for a spell
sneaking up on half-dome
signs of fall
clouds rest, something, and half-dome
one of the water falls, but do you see the water spirit?
can you see her now? climbing?
really giant squirrels
normally the water is fills this space
some millage perspective