Shortly after WW2 and having recently been discharged from the Navy, I joined my Mother, Father, Sister and several friends for a Yosemite Vacation. If memory serves me correctly we were camping in Camp 16 between Camp Curry and Happy Isles. My father drove us up in the 1935 Dodge on a Friday night, spent the weekend with us and drove back to work on Sunday Eve, for 2 weeks.
On the first Monday I bumped into a friend of mine who was also camping with his family. We palled around, exploring the valley and flirting with lots of girls. In those days Camp Curry had a dance every Saturday night and the Fire Fall still existed. For those of you who don’t remember, the Fire Fall occurred every night shortly after dark. Park rangers would build a gigantic fire on top of Glacier Point, several thousand feet above the valley floor and after the fire burned down to a huge pile of glowing embers, they would gradually push them over the edge of the cliff resulting in a spectacular Fire Fall. A hush would fall over the whole valley, it was beautiful.
From the floor of the valley there was a very steep 4 mile switchback trail to Glacier Point. My friend and I, both recently discharged from service, were in top shape and we delighted in racing up and down that trail trying to break our own time records.
After doing that a number of times we grew bored and decided to go straight up ignoring the switchbacks, a huge mistake. At first it wasn’t too bad. Steep but negotiable. However it grew more and more steep and we started encountering huge boulders and loose shale. The shale was unstable and the boulders were haphazardly piled up. Several times we had to worm our way through small gaps between huge boulders and several times we slipped and slid on the loose shale.
At one point my buddy dislodged a small boulder and it started a fairly large boulder avalanche. It scared the hell out of us because it could have killed hikers on the switchback below us. Neither one of us admitted to the other how scared we were or how dumb our decision had been. The climbing became steeper and more terrifying but we were more afraid of retreating than advancing.
We finally reached the top, tired, scratched, bleeding, shaking and shaken, to be met by a group of very stern looking Yosemite Rangers who informed us that the last person that had tried what we did had been killed in a rock slide.
We were whisked by truck back down to the valley and taken to Park headquarters where we awaited our fate. Finally an older Ranger sat us down described in very colorful terms what had happened to the unfortunate guy that had been killed. We had already decided we’d never try that again but he cemented the decision. After that he suggested that we volunteer for a trail clearing crew to help repay the overtime the extra Rangers had incurred waiting for us. We accepted.
A variation of this story is in JOSHUA'S REVENGE. http://tinyurl.com/joshuasrevenge
If you like this anecdote there’re more on my website blog. http://www.rlwren.com/
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Richard L. Wren
IN HIS NEW CAREER AS AN AUTHOR, RICHARD DESCRIBES HIMSELF AS TALL, DARK, HANDSOME AND A LIAR. A FOURTH GENERATION CALIFORNIAN, A SAILOR, FATHER OF FOUR BEAUTIFUL AND SUPPORTIVE DAUGHTERS, AND HUSBAND TO ONE OF THE BEST WIVES OF ALL TIME. [MORE]