We rose bright and early to clean out our car and bring some order to the whole situation before hitting the road, as our trunk and back seat were beginning to resemble a freshman frat house. Upon approaching our vehicle in the a.m. we noticed some strange dirt-colored dusty markings on the seam between the doors and along the windows. After further investigating we realized (with about 95% confidence) that these were claw marks from a bear. They were shaped exactly so, with distinct paw prints and some obvious and frantic scrambled markings at the door frame which I can only assume were the result of an attempt to reach the honey-nut goldfish sitting in our front seat. We stared at each other with a what-are-we-getting-ourselves-into look of concern. If this could happen in a parking lot at a Quality Inn, we knew we would have to heed the warnings at the national park without the slightest mess-up. Anybody have any mace?? (my mother’s suggestion).
After overcoming our unsettling start to the day, we took advantage of the best free breakfast on our trip so far (at the cheapest motel, as this usually works). It was about 4.5 hours of driving to get to Yosemite through more winding mountain passes, as if we haven’t done enough of this yet (sorry rental car). The car indicated to us (by flashing lights on the dashboard) that it required an oil change at 44,555 miles and we drove it to about 44,650 before the day had ended, so it was probably good that it wouldn’t do much more than sit in a parking lot for the next two nights. After grabbing lunch at a roadside burger stand, we got to Yosemite in the late evening and checked into our canvas “tent-cabin” which was basically a cross between a camping tent and an official cabin, with a cot-bed inside, a single light bulb hanging overhead and enough room to stand and walk around. Oh, and a bear-box outside the tent, which had to be used to house every piece of food/water/sweet-smelling toiletry/anything that’s ever held food EVER. After our Lake Tahoe scare, we were sure to follow the rules meticulously. The several hundred tent-cabins sat in Curry Village which was a cute little area of the park that had a grill, bar, camp-style dining hall and several stores for supplies (and mini bottles of wine…important). We grabbed a pizza and some drafts and ate outside as the air got cool and the sun set.
The next day, we set off in the park shuttle and went on several shorter hikes, including Mirror Lake and Vernal Falls, which was a short but incredibly steep hike toward a waterfall and aggressive rapids (increasing our “hike record” to 4.8 miles for the day!). Our bodies had grown used to the high altitude and dry air by now and so trekking through dusty paths and crossing streams in our shoes was becoming pretty normal.
That night, we chose to eat in the cafeteria, which felt a lot like adult summer camp with trays and community seating (except they have bottles of wine at the checkout counter). However, my vegetable curry, quinoa pilaf and mashed potatoes were slightly fancier than typical childhood options. Curry Village was a change from hiding away in our motel rooms at night, and being around a big group of people was a cool way to finish out our last night of road-freedom. We played a few card games in the tent to pass the time before turning in early, taking one last moment to savor the fresh, gentle feel of the night air, knowing (but in total denial) that the next day we were headed for home 😦