Posts Tagged ‘Over Crowding’

The entrance to Yosemite Valley.  El Capitain is the closest formation to the left with Half Dome in the very background.

The entrance to Yosemite Valley. El Capitain is the closest formation to the left with Half Dome in the very background.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” These words were penned by Scottish immigrant John Muir in 1901 from the work Our National Parks.  Muir found his way into Yosemite in 1868 and the raw untouched beauty of the place stole his heart.  Thanks to his efforts, president,  Abraham Lincoln, who first declared the area a national park, President Theodore  Roosevelt and many others this magnificent natural splendor is still around for everyone to enjoy.
YosemiteThese days the geological anomalies may look the same as when Muir first laid eyes on it, but the park itself has certainly changed a lot.  I found Yosemite just like most other entities in California to be overcrowded to the extent that in many cases it ruined the effect of being in such an enchanting hamlet should have on one.  All of the most popular sites had full parking lots, traffic jams to get to and in some cases regular shuttle bus service.  At some points I found myself hiking in the middle of the forest with over 100 other people.  When I was checking out the giant Sequoias I felt like I as walking down an NYC street in the middle of lunch hour.

It took me nearly twenty minutes to get this picture waiting my turn with all the other big tree enthusiasts.

It took me nearly twenty minutes to get this picture waiting my turn with all the other big tree enthusiasts.

That being said Yosemite is the heaviest visited National Park in all of America and it is the summer time at the height of their tourist season.  The scenery is absolutely breath taking and for me it was unlike any other place I have ever visited in my life. Crowds aside the park is over 1000 square acres and there are plenty of nooks and crannies that are just as marvelous and way less visited.  If one is feeling a tad bit on the adventurous side it is more then easy to go off the beaten path, blaze your own trail and be alone in the wilderness.  I took so many pictures and saw so many amazing things I am going to break my Yosemite experience into two posts.  This one will focus on Yosemite Valley and its surrounding area.

Glacier Point

Half Down as viewed from Glacier Point.

Half Dome as viewed from Glacier Point.

My parents and I arrived in the park in the early afternoon, checked into our condo, which although not the best situation lived up to the promise of having ready to use kitchen.  Since I was to be my parents personal chef for this leg of the trip I needed to make sure we had the basics.  I stowed all the food so it was bear safe and off we went for our first Yosemite excursion.  Glacier point seemed the best option considering the amount of available daylight afforded to us.  From this bird’s eye overlook one could get an easy “pull up and park” panoramic vantage of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Half Dome, and Vernal and Nevada Falls.  No hiking or climbing necessary.  I love modern convince.  I bet Muir wished there was a road to the place back in his day.

Vernal and Nevada Falls

Vernal and Nevada Falls

This was our first look at the valley from above and some of the main draws of the park.  When we pulled up at the first overlook my dad pulled out the park map to see what we were looking at (we were staring right at Half Dome) when I noticed that what was a front also happened to be the photo on the cover of the map.  I must say I was rather impressed.  The lighting was perfect to get some really cool photos.  At this view point the crowd was some what light.
Yosomite Glacier PointFrom there we worked our way to the actual tip of the Glacier Point.  Here parking was a bit hard to find and people were in no short order.  I heard more languages spoken then at a meeting of the United Nations.  I am glad that America has become the bargain basement of travel for the rest of the world.  Despite the fact that there had to be over a hundred and fifty people I still managed to have my breath taken away by the 180 degrees view.  I also decided that if I ever want to commit suicide that is the spot Its going to go down.   There was even the perfect diving rock off the cliff.  Next stop the Yosemite Valley Floor.  Just think of the unscheduled entertainment all those Euro’s could go home and tell their friends and family that they got to witness a real live American suicide.  All the little children would have sworn they saw Super Man.

My future suicide bridge...its a bird, its a plane, its...SPLAT

My future suicide bridge…its a bird, its a plane, its…SPLAT

The Giant Sequoias

I have to admit I have a serious obsession with trees, especially old trees.  As a kid I was captivated by the California Redwoods.  Later while living in New Zealand the giant kauri trees were one of the craziest things I have ever beheld.  When I heard Yosemite had their own collection of larger then life trees that have lived for hundreds of years I just had to check them out.  Apparently hundreds of other visitors felt the same way.  As a matter of fact that section of the park was so full that we had to take a bus into the Sequoia area.

These Sequoias trunks are bigger then my dick and that is a feat in itself.

These Sequoias trunks are bigger then my dick and that is a feat in itself.

Taking the bus was fun.  I love pubic transportation.  If they would have thrown in a few smelly bums and some guy passed out in a puddle of his own vomit I would have felt like I was riding a local Santa Barbara bus to Isla Vista.  There were about another two bus loads behind me.  When I stepped out the line leaving the spot looked like the line to get on Space Mountain at Disney Land.  Then we began the 2 mile hike up to Old Grizzly the oldest of the the gang.

Old Grizzly

. Old Grizzly

There were all these signs about bear safety and what not.  since there were hundreds of new friends of mine meandering all over the trail I figured even if we got attacked by a pack of bears there was plenty of food for everyone.   Really I shouldn’t be sour grapes.  These trees were put on this earth for everyone to enjoy.  Maybe the problem is there are just too many people to enjoy them.  The tragedy of the commons has moved along way from the village.  Still at the end of the day I am glad to have gotten to see these grand trees and from what I have read there are plenty more in remote areas that can be accessed through a vigorous hike.

My mother and I at a foot tunnel cut in one of the living Sequoias.  I don't know who this dude is in the foreground.

My mother and I at a foot tunnel cut in one of the living Sequoias. I don’t know who this dude is in the foreground.

The Valley Floor

After the Sequoias my parents and I cruised down to the bottom of the Yosemite Valley to see the open meadows and get a feel for the vast size of the Sierras from the ground level.  You know sort of like when your in front of a sky scraper and look up.  The Valley Floor as it is called is also where the largest concentration of tourist accommodations in the park are located.  This equals even more crowds.  At this point I had it up to the top of Half Dome with people, but there were still some things to check out so I sucked it up and promised to keep my cool.

This tunnel is one of two that allow entry into Yosemite Valley, bored right through the granite of the mountain.

This tunnel is one of two that allow entry into Yosemite Valley, bored right through the granite of the mountain.

I had no idea that a place with such limited internet and cell phone reception could ever be so popular.  I guess I should be happy that so many people could embrace going back to their roots when man lived a bit simpler.  My parents on their usual obsession with Visitor center videos made sure we sat through the one there.  It was not much for content, but  amazing cinematography.  From there I was itching to make the hike up the base of Vernal Falls which happens to be the trail head for the John Muir trail.  The Muir trail runs 211 miles an impressive trek.
Yosemite Dome Valley Overlook

This climb was a pretty steep grade, but a well cut trail even paved a good portion of the way.  Just like everything else so far it was also very crowded.  Luckily by this point I had acclimated to the insanity and just pretended it was another day at Lower Trestles.  All three of us made it to a foot bridge about a mile into the trail.  Then my Dad and I went a bit further so I could get a better picture of the falls.  This portion of the trail was a semi treacherous stair case cut into the side of the cliff.  It was a rather vigorous climb and it felt good to be working at such a feat.  The pictures were worth the reward.  I only wish I had more time to climb even higher.

Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

The view on the way back down the stairs.

The view on the way back down the stairs.

I know this installment sounded a bit on the negative side.  I really did cherish every minute I spent in this part of the park despite the crowds.  Yosemite National Park is a must see for everyone of this great nation before his expiration.  The fact that I waited six years of residency in California to make it to Yosemite makes me sad.   Now that I know what I have been missing I will be sure to get back there as much as I can.  Stay tuned for part two of my Yosemite chronicles soon when I explore the the Tuolumne Meadows area and find a much needed escape from people.

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Surfers Waving

It has come to my attention that with the increasing numbers of beginner surfers who have recently graduated to the intermediate level, many have learned how to stand up and ride waves, but the majority have missed out on the unwritten laws of the hard core surfing devote.  There was time years ago back when I learned how to surf when these laws were bestowed upon ever novice surfer early on by “law of the club and the fang”.   What this means is that when a beginner, usually under the age of 15 (adult learners just did not happen back then) caused an infraction of one of said laws he/she was ridiculed, kicked out of the water, beaten, thrown in a garbage can, dunked in the water or subject to numerous other forms of punishment.

Only after being punished was one informed about the rule he had broken.  This was the way of things since surfing had come to the modern world.  In earlier days surfing was a bit more rough then it is now.  The boards were not as beginner friendly.  Wetsuit technology was primitive at best, as was surf forecasting.  Do you believe there was a time when we did not have the internet, cell phones or web cams?!!!?  If a surfer wanted to know how the surf was he had to actually get in his car and check it himself. (to my female surfers I am not being sexist, I am just using the figurative he for this narrative.  I actually have no problem with the sex of another surfer, or what they ride for that matter as long as they follow the rules and are respectful) Before the internet the only surf forecasting was the weather channel and NOAA radio alerts.  From these two entities one would have to make his own inferences on what the waves might be like.

Things have changed.  Now if you disciplined another surfer in the above manner for getting out of line you could be thrown in prison.  I believe I penned it before that we are now in the Era of Kook running things as oppose to the elite.  There are more of them and they spend more money.  Lets face it kooks hold down decent jobs and surf when they have time.  Us hardcore guys surf all the time, have no money and can barely hold down a job unless we found one that easily catered to our addiction.  What I would like to do here on SurfingRuinedMyLife.net is every so often pick one or two of these unwritten rules of surfing and explain it so that maybe just one novice or graduate may get a glimpse into why many of us guru’s always seem so salty these days.

The Rule of Two

My car only has two seats in it when I go surfing, Mine and one for a passenger.  The back seat is always down and is for storing my boards.  Most days it only has one seat for me.  For myself usually I am surfing well known, heavily surfed lineups that are already pretty busy by the time I get there.  At these locales I like to go alone.  I am not worried about the buddy system because there will be plenty of buddies to share with at the break.  Just come surf Rincon on a Saturday when its decent to understand what I mean.

You know when you are in a public space and on the wall there is a sign that says “Maximum Occupancy” and then there is a certain number.  Those signs are put up to inform users that if that number is exceeded it can be really dangerous.  At surf spots there are no such signs.  Contrary to popular belief these spots have a maximum occupancy, which is defined by the number of people that can logically catch and ride waves for the conditions and size of the break.  For example a wave like Rincon is a very large point break with anywhere from three to twelve distinct take off zones and many other minor ones on any given swell.   If its eight foot with six to eight waves in a set every fifteen minutes with smaller ones in between the spot could easily hold 150 surfers safely.

If it is only six foot on a dropping swell with only one or two waves in a set and those sets are 20-30 minutes apart 150 guys is going to be a shit fight out there.  Lets take a spot like Hammonds, its a reef break with a small take off zone.  Even at its most consistent it can only comfortably handle around thirty guys.  When one checks a spot besides just considering the surf one must also consider the crowd.  I always ask myself when checking a spot “is there room for me”.  The best way of answering this question is to see how many waves have went unridden in the interim you are watching it.  I know if I see one wave go by that no one is on then there is room for me.  On the other hand if I see six guys fighting for every wave coming in then I know I should go someplace else.

If I had brought a friend with me, then I would need to see two waves go unridden.  If I brought three friends then three waves and so on and so forth.  For this reason I usually go surf alone.  Not everyone is a social recluse thus I will allow bringing a buddy along.  When I do roll with more then one other person I try and go to spots that I know are going to be less crowded.  Never bring a crew to a some what secret spot, or localized spot.  By yourself you may be able to sneak in and get some fun waves.  With a crew its not going to happen.

I can always tell the days Rincon is going to be too crowded when all I see are SUV’s and Vans in the parking lot each one chuck full of eager surfers.   If I see the majority is cars then I know its mostly ones and twos getting out there.  I am an advocate for car pooling as much as the next guy, but if we all took our own cars down to surf then the lot would always be full thus deterring other surfers purely cause there is no place to park.  Next time you decide to go for a surf and have an itch to call all your buddies and load up your Nissan Pathfinder, maybe think again and just call your one bud who owns a Honda Civic and roll with him.

Tune in Next Time for Lesson two: Surfing and Cell Phones

Surfers watching sunset

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