Kings Of The Wild Frontier

22 12 2009

Adam & The Ants – Kings of the Wild Frontier

So Thanksgiving was over, but that’s not to say the holiday weekend was over. It was merely the beginning. For some, the mysterious shopping spectacle of “Black Friday” was about to begin. Indeed for the sorry staff of several major retailers Friday began exactly on the dot of midnight on Thanksgiving. Please, no-one tell Next about this. They’ll have those poor sops who normally queue up at 5am for an ill-fitting suit spending Christmas day in bed, dreaming of buying that must-have shiny black shirt. Ideal for when you really want to look unstylish or cheap or both on a night out.

One whole mall in San Jose opened at midnight with the car park full at 12.30am. These were not late-night ravers looking for another glowstick. They were full-blown idiots. Last year a security guard was trampled to death at a Walmart in New York. Disney Stores were trying to re-brand Black Friday (so-called because it generally helps put retailers back in the black rather than the red) as “Magical Friday”. What is it with Disney and their obsession with sodding magic?! I speak as a fan of Warner Brothers. It’s more like life. “Some day kids, you’ll just get hit by an anvil. Deal with it.”

After two-and-a-half Thanksgiving dinners I was going nowhere at midnight. Having watched Paul McCartney’s superb concert to open the new Shea Stadium that was on TV, we slept it off.

But it didn’t stop there and although we knew we had to be up early on Saturday morning to head for Yosemite, out we went again on Friday night. We should’ve held back at the wine place again. We should’ve stopped at the dive bar lit only by neon beer signs. In reality I have no idea where we finished that night. All I knew was that I was about 5 hours sleep away from a weekend in the woods where there would be bears and raccoons and lions and stuff. And it had snowed there. This was going to be agony in so many ways wasn’t it?

Big Tree? Or Small People?

Up we got at stupid o’clock. Who gave me red wine? Oh, I did. Anyway…

I had never camped anywhere in my life. Seriously, what’s the point? No really, what IS the point?! But here was one place where I was told camping was necessary because it was such a magnificent place and, quite frankly, Zak and Lindsey told me to. Mum!! They made me do it!!

As I say it had snowed and that had put a lot of people off a trip into the wilderness that weekend, but not us. Oh no. That made it so much better. I think. I was wearing almost everything I owned as we got to Yosemite. My 563rd US national park of the trip. Each one just as magnificent as the last.

When we got there it had indeed snowed and we started with a little meander among the redwoods. The GIANT redwoods.

The Grizzly Giant - the size of a 747 stood on its end

The Grizzly Giant - the size of a 747 stood on its tail

They’re some big trees, let’s be honest. The stiff cold air hit the lungs and it made you feel glad to be alive. I was sure I was just about alive. That air was going to tip the hangover one way or another. I came back from the brink.

There was a tangible excitement in the car. Zak and Lindsey and several friends come here for five days every February. It’s become a ritual. That’s when it’s really cold and full of snow. This had just been a dusting, although certain parts were so high and tricky to reach that they were closed anyway. Even Hoosier was looking happier than normal, and that’s a happy dog.

As we left a tunnel I was immediately hit by why I should be excited too:

To borrow a phrase from the US dictionary, it’s kind neat ain’t it? Look at it. Now think of it REALLY big. Now double that. Multiply it by 71. Add 6. You’re nearly there. It’s a monstrous park, and I was going to spend the night down there under one of those trees that looks like a pine needle.

Now, for me to get into this and to be ‘at one’ with the nature on offer here I would need to do two things: chop wood for a fire and drink beer by said fire.

Easy ladies, I’m getting the chopper out.

Now while I’m sorting out the fire (or maybe Zak is) have another view of El Capitan…

Now, is that fire ready?

Heat!

Here’s where we were staying. It was the spot furthest from the entrance to the campsite and the closest to the bears, according to the ranger. Okay…

We were joined at the camp by Zak and Lindsey’s friends Nate and Xenia, who’d spent the day trekking up to the top of Yosemite Falls and back. 7.5 miles up and down 2,500 feet of waterfall. They were exhausted, reminding me of my state having done the Plateau Point trek at the Grand Canyon. Chatting was quite low on the agenda.

But after a beer or two they perked up and attention turned to me once more. On this my first trip to Yosemite with this lot I was to go through some sort of ‘initiation ceremony’.

I can’t say much more than that because they’d hunt me down and kill me if I did. From that you can gather the initiation did not involve me being hunted down and killed. Having passed the test I got to see Yosemite from a very different and very special viewpoint. On a full-moonlit night that park is one of the most magical places on Earth and Disney can’t get near it.

After several strong beers I got into my sleeping bag and slept a fitful sleep, praying my toes would drop off or be eaten by a bear. I woke in agony again, but only because there was NO WAY I was leaving that tent for a wee during the night.

The only thing that kept me going was the idea of brunch.

No seriously, it was.

The Ahwahnee Lodge restaurant

The Ahwahnee Lodge is this curious hotel/park lodge that is beautifully decorated in a strange mock-medieval style. The Queen’s stayed there apparently. More importantly it was  venue for hot toddies and a HUGE buffet. Like I needed more food. I needed more food.

Well fed, we decided to depart this wonderful place. But have some more views. You can’t help but love it.

And one more…

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