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travel blog - Cold Balls and Waterfalls

Home | USA | Yosemite

Ben: Yosemite, USA - 2001-05-05

Cold Balls and Waterfalls

Cold Balls and Waterfalls
By Ben Divall

This is a warning to all of you that have felt compelled to swim bare arsed in some piece of private paradise that you convinced yourself you discovered. It is also a warning to anyone that does not plan things in advance.

My trip to Yosemite did not go at all to plan, looking back its because I didn’t have one. My first problem was checking in to the hostel, as I had convinced myself I could simply turn up and find a bed for the night. The trouble was that every single other guest had made reservations, meaning I had to sit around for about three hours scratching my dirty bits while they all checked in. Eventually I was allowed to stay, so after finding a bunk, I treated myself to one of the hostels delicious meals, brought a bottle of red wine and proceeded to dribble out my tales of adventure to anyone I thought needed to listen.

The next day some of the other guests informed me they were heading into the park and although I was reluctant to deny them the further pleasure of my company, I decided to get some supplies, so I jumped on the bus to Mariposa.

Once on the bus I soon discovered the only return bus to the hostel would leave within half an hour of my arrival in Mariposa. However, the bus driver informed me that the buses could often run up to a hour late, so I figured there was no real need to worry, besides the ride only took ten minutes so I decided I could walk it in an hour if I had to.

Two hours later I realised that I had missed the bus, so for reassurance I asked the nearby tourist information staff how long it would take to walk back to the hostel, I assumed that if it was further than I had thought, they would take pity on me and drive me there. They didn’t give me a lift but they did inform me that it was at least a seven hour walk. I spent the next twenty minutes wandering round the car park trying to catch the eye of the owners of the winebagoes and lorries. The trouble was instead of coming across as desperate and frightened I seemed to come across as a psycho with a shopping bag. I thought about crying in an attempt to command some sympathy but one of the truckers yelled ‘what the hell you looking at boy’, in my direction, so I decided to do a runner.

After some deliberation I decided that my only option now was to hitch hike. It was not something that I had done before but no one that I had met during my trip had experienced any problems when they had done it. I was actually surprised at how easy it was. However, I failed to think at the time that those who had encountered problems probably wouldn’t be telling anyone about them.

The first ride I caught took just ten minutes of hitching. Conversation was a little restricted as the guy had spent most of his life in the woods, cutting down trees and refused to hear about mine. However, he didn’t have his chainsaw with him and dropped me off about half way without threatening me so I felt quite happy by the time I caught the second ride.

The second vehicle I climbed into was a banged up old pick up truck. As the truck pulled up I could make out two featureless silhouettes in the front. One of which stuck its thumb out of the window without saying a word and pointed to the back of the truck. I was having far to much fun at this point to question the scenario and the idea of bombing down a country highway in the back of a pick up truck was far to appealing, so I climbed in without a word.

For about the first ten minutes of the journey I was having the time of my life, sitting in the back of that truck with the wind blowing in my hair, fantastic landscape whizzing by and little flies exploding on my teeth and forehead. But in an instant it all went horribly wrong, and feelings of delight turned to terror as the truck swung violently to the right down a dirt track off the main highway and away from the hostel. My heart sank as fear and sickness began to rise in my stomach. I looked down as dust from the dirt track flew beneath me, too fast to jump without breaking my legs. My mind flooded with that ‘squeal piggy squeal’ scene from Deliverance . I sat motionless as we sped further into the blackening forest. After an eternity the truck began to slow as the road opened into a clearing. Scanning desperately for signs of rescue I saw nothing but a beat up old trailer, the dirt around it littered with refuge, and a small child’s tricycle, which awoke the panic inside me. “These people ate children!!”. I reached for the petrol can that lay beside me, ready to pummel the head of whoever stepped out of the pick up. The truck ground to a halt and the driver’s door swung open, my grip tightening on the petrol can when… an old boy of about eighty in his dungarees stepped out of the truck, ‘sorry you had to ride in the back’ I think is what he said. I said it was fine and we helped his wife, who had emerged from the passenger side, with the shopping. Two minutes later he drove me back to the hostel.

On my second day in Yosemite I caught a bus into the park with a young Manchurian fella and a Dutch lady, whom I had entranced the night before by spitting my story of the previous days excitement at, after downing three pints and a couple of double whiskeys to calm my shredded nerves. After leaving the bus I found the pure country air soon sorted my head out and feeling cocky after almost being butchered I convinced the others to attempt the Yosemite Falls Trail. The guidebook said six hours but we convinced ourselves we could do it in three, with half an hour to spare to make sure we caught the last bus. Our ascent began at a pretty brisk pace and we only stopped to go ohh and ahh at the spectacular views of the Valley Floor and surrounding mountains. It was not long before the top was in sight and we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. However, just as our legs began to sag, with the top of the mountain in reaching distance, we turned a corner and found that some tit in Gods creation department had decided to chuck in a second tier to the waterfall, which was higher and steeper than the one we had just climbed. Needless to say I thought of sticking my fingers up at the waterfall and walking back down the mountain. However, I am extremely glad to say that I didn’t, because although there were times I thought the muscles in my legs were going to burst through my skin, the view from the top of the world’s third highest waterfall was spectacular. The river feeding the falls had created a vast gorge that engulfed me as I walked down it toward the lip of the falls and once at the lip the sight below of a thousand shades of green and blue emanating from the valley floor was fantastic. At eye level for three hundred and sixty degrees were fantastic views of vast rock formations, including The ½ Dome and El Capitan and on the ground I could just make out the thousands of insect people milling around the Valley Floor. This might make you vomit but it was nature at its grandest.

Once I had finished taking pictures of the spectacle I thought I’d impress some of the ladies my throwing myself off some of the rocks into the deep rock pools near to the mouth of the waterfall. They didn’t seem to impressed with my actions but I was having too much fun to care and the glacier water certainly was the tonic for my aching bones. I was having so much fun in fact that I lost track of time. Eventually one of my compadres realised and with an hour to spare before the last bus we proceeded to fly down the mountain, occasionally taking the odd old duffer, who happened to be in the way, along for the ride. We made the bus but only just and slept all the way back to the hostel.

On the final day I awoke too late to head into the park with my new friends, so I caught the later bus and decided to take the Vernal and Nevada Falls Trail as they were the only two waterfalls working and the climb looked easy enough. The walk proceeded with very little incident until I reached the Vantage Point for Vernal Falls. The trouble was that the falls were a long way off and I wanted a closer look. The path looked like it was veering away from the waterfall, so I decided to risk almost certain death, brave the torrent of water and clamber up the trickling stream to the foot of the falls. It took me a while but the climb was well worth the effort. As my head emerged from the last boulder I encountered the most breathtaking scene that I have ever seen. I was so excited I almost wet meself. Below me was a pool of clear blue, into which fell a constant and powerful crescendo of water, which caused an earie mist and a perfect circular rainbow. It wasn’t long before I realised I was entirely alone and soon convinced myself that I had found my own piece of private paradise. I felt like I was at one with nature, so I got naked.

After shedding the skin of capitalist society I scrambled up the rocks like some demented old mental patient and threw myself into the pool, white arse and belly flapping from the force of my descent. As I was falling a huge flash exploded above my head and for a minute I thought I had arrived in the Garden of Eden. As soon as my head broke the surface I realised I wasn’t. The air exploded with bright flashes of light but it was no divine being that created them. It was Japanese tourists. In an instant my proud natural state had was reduced to a beer belly, saggy man breasts, two Sun Dried Raisins and a Twiglet (Glacier water is very cold).

I quickly crept out of the water and put my clothes back on. However, the rest of my hike and time in Yosemite was now marred by this embarrassment and I was afraid to stop and investigate any other beauty spots, for fear of being surrounded by camera wielding tourists. After all the effort in Los Angeles I had finally become a celebrity. The trouble was it was not the sort of notoriety I wanted.


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