In Camp 4 you meet tons of new people and the majority of them are extremely friendly. This is how Jamie and I met our friend Ofek. We ran into him at the market and water filling station and then decided to have a real conversation with him when we saw him at his campsite. He had gotten into Camp 4 the same time we had and was soon to embark on one last adventure before he headed back to his home in Israel. What was this adventure? I’m glad you asked. He was planning a five day backpacking trip from Yosemite Valley to Sunrise Lakes to May Lake, to Tuolumne Meadows and then back to the Valley. To our surprise he invited us on this backpacking trip. I immediately knew I wanted to partake however I needed to make sure Jamie was on board. Fifteen minutes later, and the day before the adventure started, we decided to join!
We got a late start the first day because Jamie and I were scrambling to gather our things. It was 11:00 am by the time we began the trail and about a mile in before we thought to ask each other who had the tent. The answer, no one. There had been a miscommunication and we thought that Ofek had it and he thought we had it. After careful deliberation we all decided that a tent was a luxury item. Rain was not in the forecast and I had a tarp we could make a makeshift shelter with if we needed to. The first day was scheduled to be the hardest, uphill the entire way. All of us were finding the right pace to match each other and no matter what we would all wait for one another. As the miles went by and the uphill battle continued I felt my spirit breaking. I was lagging behind my two friends and sadness overcame me. I had entered a negative head space and my answers to their cheerful games weren’t so cheerful. I informed them of my negative state and they sat down on a rock and asked me what I was thinking. My thoughts were not the culprit instead I was having physical and emotional reactions to the need to cry. Jamie asked me again what was going on but no words left my lips. Instead, tears rolled down my eyes as I expressed that I felt like I needed to cry. Jamie moved to sit on my right and Ofek to my left. They used this time to empathize with me. The conclusion was that I needed to find a way to recharge my energy. That is my struggle, over the course of the past year I go until I break down and then keep going. I still am searching for the routine that recharges my being. As the day reached into the late afternoon we came across two individuals that warned us of horrendous switchbacks up ahead. Our legs were worn from the many miles of uphill already and now we were being told that it would be at least another three hours of vicious uphill. They warned us to camp just below the switchbacks near a stream for the night so we decided that that was the right call and went to set up camp.
Day 2 and we all awoke with stiff limbs. Jamie fixed breakfast, Ofek packed up his stuff, and I went down to the river to purify water. The water purification took the most amount of time. Five minutes for the contents to mix and then another twenty or so minutes before you could drink the water. Today we would have to make up the mileage we left unfinished from the day before. May Lake was the destination. To pass the time while hiking we all asked each other questions like what the “big rock holding up the broken tree” stood for in each of our lives. We learned each other’s stories and learned of the hardships in each others lives. The lakes we encountered called to us to swim in them, one being Tenaya Lake. The water was crystal clear, shallow, and warm with a little island we could walk out to. We needed to reach our destination be we also needed to embrace the journey. We rested and kept going. We reached May Lake where there were flushie toilets and water spickets. The lake was breathtaking and the wind blew through our hair and clothes causing a windchill, worth it. Jamie was famished and started creating a concoction of rice, soup, and other food things that we had in our bear canisters. Her eyes were wild as she poured more and more food into the cooking pot. Tonight we would be finishing a brimmer. As we all got comfy in out sleeping bags I began to read aloud the stories from “The Wild Muir.” This book has a collection of John Muir’s greatest adventures, quite fitting for us seeing how we were hiking on parts of the John Muir Trail.
Today’s mileage would be a little over 13 miles to Tuolumne Meadows. This was to be the last night Jamie and I would spend camping and backpacking with Ofek. Jamie needed to meet a friend back in Yosemite Valley and in order to make it back in time we’d need to catch a ride. The miles went by slow and fast all at the same time. The majority of the trail was flat or downhill and our pace was impeccable. We passed more lakes that were just as breath taking as the previous. We made it to Tuolumne Meadows at about 5:30 pm and were excited to eat burgers for dinner. To our dismay, the burger joint had closed at 5 pm. Instead, we settled for chocolate milk, half price avocados, and beer at the local market. Our campsite wasn’t far beyond the market so we arrived and picked out a nice, flat site with a fire pit. We saw other backpackers searching for a site so we offered to share the area around ours. As the evening approached, our campfire attracted new friends and with them came vodka. The camp creative thing to do was to mix the vodka with gatorade powder and water which resulted in a rather decent tasting beverage. Ofek ended the night slurring his words around the campfire and found a deer wondering in the woods. Jamie kept the fire going and bear proofed the campsite. I was battling stomach cramps and obnoxious bubbling in my stomach that resulted from what I suspect to have been the chocolate milk. All in all the night was interesting and fun. I of course ended it with a bed time story from “The Wild Muir.”
The morning was full of bittersweet air. Ofek would part ways with us and Jamie and I would make our way back to Yosemite Valley. We all ate breakfast together at the local grill and prepared for the journey of the day. Jamie and I decided that we would hitch hike to the Valley. We stood on the side of the road with our thumbs out, smiling. We decided to make a sign that said, “Valley,” on it and hoped that it would increase our chances of finding a ride. Cars kept driving by and people were making hand gestures that we interpreted as “What do you think you are doing with your life?” There was a certain amount of shame that we were starting to feel while standing on the side of the road but I was determined to keep high spirits. Each time we saw a car approaching we started singing, “Take us to the Valley,” and doing a little jig. Other cars kept passing while signing the number two to tell us that they would stop but didn’t have enough room for the two of us. As we were standing there we noticed another female hitch hiker ahead of us and she was aggressively stopping cars and had people stopping for her almost instantly. She then disappeared down the street in her ride. We were dumbfounded. What were we doing wrong?? An older gentleman that we had made friends with over breakfast had offered to drive us 18 miles down the road and then we would only have to hike 7 miles to the Valley. Jamie and I decided to give it twenty minutes or so more and then we would accept our friend’s ride. Not even five minutes later, a car pulls off the road and motions for us to jump in! We were in disbelief! We struggled to shove our two huge packs in the back with traffic zooming past. I jumped in the back seat and Jamie jumped in the front. Our driver and savior for the day was from South Africa. He had been spending the past several months touring the national parks and hiking the nearby trails. We learned about his family, life story, and his values. The drive to the Valley was about an hour and a half long so there was plenty of time for everyone to get to know everyone. Before Jamie and I left our new friend we directed him to some possible campsites and must do hikes in Yosemite. Thank you again kind sir for your generosity!