Some days are strange. They start off strange. Have a strange middle and then a strange night.
This is the story of one of those days.
It started off somewhat normally we arrived at Sequoia National Park late at night after a three hour drive out of LA. We had planned to spend the weekend camping in the park.
We being Stephanie, Will, Clara, Jamie, Sonal, Myself and two dogs.
Stephanie, Jamie and I arrived at Sequoia first and set up our campsite. We found it hard to find a registered campsite so in the end just pitched the tent in a picnic area (in our defense it was getting very late and to go to the next campsite would have taken a long time!). We got a fire going and cooked up leftovers from the pot luck the night before.
We then locked everything in a bearproof bin (for this was deep within bear country remember this!) and went to sleep in the tent.
I slept hard, tired from the cramped drive and I think just glad to be out of the city for a little while.
Waking up the next morning I found myself alone in the tent. This puzzled me because I was in the middle of the tent so they both would have had to climb over me to get to the door. My puzzlement briefly turned to panic with thoughts of a Zombie apocalypse, this pop culture theory was quickly negated though when I saw some other (happy) campers.
I climbed out the tent to see breakfast stuff still left on the table but no clues as to where they had gone.
With no note to go on (always leave a note kids!) I decided to have breakfast (bagels and gummi dinosaurs (one of the great things about being an adult is the ability to eat whatever the fuck you want and no-one can say shit about it!)) and head to the info site.
They were drinking coffee in the info site (which had a full fledged cafe talk about glamping much!) and had met up with Will, Sonal and Clara who had arrived at around three in the morning and slept in their car.
We headed back to our campsite/picnic area and helped the others set up their tent. It was a beast of a thing. Looking like it could be reasonably substituted as a sail on some gigantic sailing ship. It was filthy though so we waded into the river and tried to clean it as best we could before pitching it.
Tent pitched we set off to see “General Sherman” the biggest tree in the world. I’m not sure if my sense of wonder has been dumbed down by film and television but it was not as big as I thought it would be. I was sort of expecting some sort of Avataresque gigantic tree. Instead it was just sort of chunky. The tree version of, perhaps, a walrus. We decided that there was more hiking to be had in other areas of the park so set off in a car to find a more beautiful spot.
We ended up driving for a long enough time that eventually there was a collective “Fuck it we’ll just hike here” getting out of the car it became painfully apparent that we had stumbled upon a christian camp. As lame as this was it did make for some interesting photo opportunities!
By this stage Stephanie and I decided it was high time to break out the “5 hour energies” we had been saving. She had regular I for some bizarre reason decided that I wanted to try the Decaf version. Like decaf coffee. Decaf energy drink is pathetic. Truly awful stuff that did not really keep me awake at all.
We tried to get deep and talk about God for a little bit but that soon gave way to trying to figure out where we could hire a kayak from (FYI we couldn’t)
The drive back to the campsite was uneventfully long and, thanks in part to the decaf energy drink, I slept for most of it. Setting up the campfire we prepared an amazing feast. Normally when I camp I bring just a little extra food in case I get extra hungry. When you have a car though you can pack so much random stuff. As a result we had all of the leftovers from Stephanie’s potluck.
It got dark and we got full. Lazing by the campfire we came up with the idea that a night hike to a waterfall would be fun. Will, Stephanie and I set off into the inky darkness. The pace was fast and our headlamps cut through the night. About 20 minutes in we saw what looked to be a stream of piss in the middle of the trail. It was still damp. Bears are common in this area of California, with that in mind we determined it must have been bear piss.
Stephanie (being the most level headed of our night hike trio) reminded us of the importance of not crying wolf.
About 3 seconds later I stopped dead in my tracks.
“What?” Stephanie asked
“Bear, fucking bear” I replied as my headlamp hit the dark shadowy figure, reflecting the small close set eyes.
Stephanie and Will turned around and I walked backwards keeping my eyes on it to be sure it did not give chase.
Once it was out of sight we picked up the pace and headed back to camp.
This time it was Stephanie who saw the bear. Off to the right just in the treeline. Fuck. We headed off the trail to the left and hid behind a big tree while we assessed the situation. There was a river to the left of us. A bear to the right and probably still a bear some ways behind us.
“We could cross the river”
“No, we have no idea how deep it is besides the bear can chase us across.”
“Ok, lets link arms and sing”
“Good plan what songs do we all know”
“How about the “ABC song” Stephanie suggested meaning of course the rhyme that is used to teach toddlers the Abc’s. I thought that when she said “The ABC song” she was referring to the 1970 Jackson 5 classic. Thus arms linked we started to sing Jackson 5 and as our hopelessly tuneless melodies floated off into the forest the bear decided that we were probably all mental and let us be.
There are a few lessons to learn here Dearest Reader.
Number One. Leave a fucking note when you leave in the morning.
Number Two. Jackson 5 can effectively defuse pretty much any tense situation.
I slept well that night.