The hybrid shuttle’s engine whirred down to a hum as it reached Stop #16 outside Yosemite’s Nature Center at Happy Isles. I could see several people already standing over the seated passengers, gripping the overhead rail, and there were more than a dozen people waiting with me at the stop.
Room was made when several of the passengers dismounted, and I saw an open seat. Observing the societal more of personal space, the line of guests in front of me had bypassed it. Not caring for this particular more, I took the seat.
I was seated next to two light-skinned Middle Eastern women in hijabs. They both wore black, long-sleeved shirts, with stylish, speckless running shoes sticking out from equally drab & concealing skirts. Three of their male compatriots, donning jeans and t-shirts, steadied themselves above the women and spat rapid Arabic. One of them occasionally softly started singing what sounded like a muezzin’s prayer-call. I stopped myself after this thought and realized how little this made sense and how little it meant I knew about their culture.
A tan college-age girl with a microdermal spiked to the side of her right eye and a military-green IDF tank top splashed with Hebrew characters stood ten feet behind me, gratingly joshing her friends with a smoker’s Jersey accent. I wondered what the two groups thought of each other.
We down-whirred to stop #18, The Stables, and a dozen more people packed themselves in. A thick, brown-skinned Indian girl with a stunning, soft face crowded in across from me. Befriending rape culture-theorizing feminists had made me too conscious about appearing threatening to meet attractive woman’s eyes anymore. I tried it anyway. She glanced towards me and I quickly glanced away. I glanced back a minute later, and she glanced away. This happened a couple more times, but by then common fears of rejection had replaced any political considerations in my refusal to start a conversation.
By stop #21, the bus felt like a Tokyo subway car during rush hour. Thank God it was air conditioned. A good dozen people pressed towards the bus as it slowed. The driver spoke up on the speakers, using the standard public transit-announcer drawl.
“Wow…wellll, I’m sorry to do this to these guuuuys, but we’re pretty packed herrrrrrrrre….”
The bus started accelerating, and a dozen faces fell like it was the last bus out of East Berlin.
“Therrrre’s another bus riiiight behind us…soooooooooooooo….”
A long-haired backpacker at the stop trotted a couple stops behind the bus and fell to his knees with his arms spread wide in exaggerated distress.
I saw a family of hikers coming down towards me as I rounded the switchback. I smiled and greeted them as they were about to pass.
“Be careful up there. There’s a BEAR.”
“A BEAR?!? Like, a big one?”
“Oo…well, that’s worse, isn’t it?” Mothers and their cubs, don’cha know.
This didn’t halt my rabid curiosity, and I rapidly tip-toed up the trail, craning my head back and forth like a four year-old on pixie sticks.
I heard a whistle from below me, and the mother was gesturing towards the V of woods between the trail’s angles. I tip-toed a little closer and saw it: a juvenile, about four feet from tail to snout, ambling downhill, its movements endearingly ungraceful and puppy-like. It stopped at a mossed tree-stump and jerked its nose up and down, sniffing, then continued down through the forest at a klutzy trot.
It had to know we were there, but it had the blasé of a New Yorker in Times Square—freakin’ tourists. It was crossing over the trail below me before I could snap a picture.
A group of middle-aged Dutch hikers were the next down the path. I stopped them, my voice excited.
“Be careful down there. There’s a BEAR.”
I strolled down a paved path in Yosemite Village, washing my mouth in iced fountain soda and inhaling a Winston to cool off, which also completely negated the healthy effects of the hike. Only employees actually LIVED in the village, but a grocery store, a library, a museum, a fast-food joint, a gallery, an “Indian Village,” a gift shop, a deli and a sit-down restaurant were set up to satisfy the comforts of those that were staying in the RV parks for the weekend.
I passed a sign in front of the Yosemite Theater. It read:
LIVE THEATER TONIGHT:
Return to Balance: A Climber’s Journey
The lettering was backdropped with a climber struggling up Half Dome, which was visible behind the theater.
The bathroom was as large and echoing as a deserted airplane hangar. Sounds of piss dribbling onto urinal cakes and shit sliding out of anuses and plopping into bowls of warm water drifted overhead. The place radiated waves of heat saturated with the stink of feces and fetid urine. The floor was grey concrete, and the miasma of misaimed refuse pooled and rotted in its cracks and depressions.
I had to use a stall. No other option—the bus back to the hostel, an hour-and-a-half ride in itself, wasn’t arriving for 45 minutes. The yellowed toilet seat was warm even through the thin toilet paper I had placed on it, and the discharges of the thousands before me swelled up through my thighs and into my nostrils. The stall’s sides were scarred with artless graffiti and the cheap metal box protecting the damp toilet paper had been kicked in.
I strained, wanting to be out of the hotbox as soon as possible. Only a fart escaped and I was depressurized. Relief—I scrambled off the dirty bowl, yanked my pants up, and scurried out.
The cathedral of cliffs and mountains sang out to the horizon at the top of Upper Yosemite Trail. A few others crouched transfixed, their eyes hazy, the feral sweat being blown cool off their trembling bodies. Half Dome rose to the right, Yosemite Peak to the left. Touching the skyline in the distance were mountains unnamed to me, still laid with snow in the late-June heat.
If you carefully craned your body over the edge and didn’t give in to vertigo, 3.000 feet plunged below you. The human settlement of Yosemite village was visible, looking as though you were seeing it from an airplane, but its earthly denizens were too small to see.
A girl offered to snap picture of me; I took a video.
Then it was time to descend back into the valley.
“That bus driver sure could talk,” remarked John once the bus had safety pulled away from the Yosemite Village stop.
“He sure could,” responded his lady-friend.
“Barely could work a word in edgewise.”
“Barely. Talked the whole trip through.”
“Well, we’re here now.”
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
One thought on “Scenes from Yosemite—Pt. II”
You staying at the hostel in mariposa? Go befriend the employees, they’ll put you up for a few nights!