Yosemite: Where the wild bears roam

Jessica Rogness/Staff
The iconic Yosemite landscape.

It’s that time of year when midterms are looming, friendships are being tested and stress is present everywhere. I can’t turn anywhere in Berkeley without spotting at least one stressed-out freshman (or senior; we get overwhelmed, too) who doesn’t know how to cope with the pressure of an impending exam or research paper.

At this time of year, I yearn for the escape I was able to get to during the summer. It’s hard to imagine that just a little more than a month ago, I was in the Yosemite wilderness. Cut off from basic essentials of my everyday life — a bed, a stove and, of course, cellphone service — I relished the escape and yet at the same time wanted to get back to civilization.

One of several deer who checked us out.

One of several deer that checked us out.

This was my first trip to Yosemite at all. I definitely recommend it to anyone. It was pretty sad that people from other countries visited this national institution before I, a native of California, was able to.

But that didn’t matter anymore, because at 21 years old and with experience camping, I wasn’t just going to Yosemite National Park. I was going for the big goal: to backpack for a week in the wilderness.

Locking up the food from bears (and squirrels) in cans and a campground locker.

Locking up the food from bears (and squirrels) in cans and a campground locker.

That doesn’t mean we were roughing it from the very beginning, though. On our first night, we camped in Hogden Meadows, which is essentially a regular campground, in anticipation of our next six days in the wilderness. This cut me off from the rest of the world outside of the park — I didn’t have 3G, after all, but it was still too close to my suburban home. RVs were parked around us, children cried in the middle of the night and the squirrels, although a different color, looked just as fat and greedy as those that accost me in Berkeley and Sacramento.

Glacier Point. (Get where the point is?)

Glacier Point. (See where the point is?)

Another unusually populated place in the middle of a huge natural reserve, Glacier Point, was where we spent the morning of the next day. The views from here cannot  be recreated anywhere else: It is all the majesty of Yosemite in one panoramic view. But there will still be plenty of people.

What I take away most from Yosemite is our trek in the wilderness. After the touristy Glacier Point, we headed out on the trail. After one night of little sleep and less than two days of acclimation, I was barely ready to start hiking. But we did anyway.

Eventually, I felt more situated in the higher altitude and grew accustomed to the pain from carrying my pack, although that took about three and a half days. After that, our trip really picked up.

Illilouette Creek

Illilouette Creek

Our loop took us by Illilouette Creek, up through Merced Pass, to Givens Lake, by Buck Camp, up an intense climb to Buena Vista Lake and then back down through Mono Meadow. Six days, about 35 miles and some of the most gorgeous views you can ever see.

"Oh, hi, stranger. I'mma bear."

“Oh, hi, stranger. I’mma bear.”

And did I mention we spotted a few bears? Wild bears? Not the ones that wander into the Yosemite Valley campgrounds and rely on human food to survive. These were still young, still healthy and still wary of humans. They see us as a threat — and maybe we are.

Urban life is necessary to support the number of people we have on this planet. I love Berkeley for its liveliness and for everything going on here. But it can also be necessary — not to mention fun — to get away from all of that.

The view from Buena Vista Pass.

The view from Buena Vista Pass.

It’s not that carrying around a quarter of your body weight is fun in itself. But it’s the kind of escape I imagine some of us need every now and then. The kind where you swim in mountain lakes, wonder if you just killed a whole ant colony with the Velveeta you dropped and celebrate your brother’s birthday by digging into your reserve Oreos.

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