Journal: Lisa Simpson Saved our Lives

We left San Fran after rush hour in hopes of getting to Yosemite in a timely manner. Seeing as how Friday is the day before 4th of July weekend it wasn’t happening. Fortunately, everyone was just going east and not necessarily to Yosemite. The crowds weren’t bad in the park and the traffic in the park was fine too.

Heidi in Yosemite National Park

After setting up camp we drove into Yosemite Valley where all the famous natural landmarks are. Yosemite Falls, Half Dome Mountain, Glacier Peak. After wandering around the valley taking photos we decided to hike to the top of the Falls. The markers said it was 3.6 miles – “We can do that in 2½ hours”, we thought, not taking into consideration the fact that it was a vertical climb of nearly 3000 feet and that we had to come back after getting up there.

Lesson #17 from the Haun Road Trip: Make sure you have more than enough time for hikes in the wilderness.

We started our ascent at 6:15pm and the hike up about killed us (though you will soon see that the hike down came closer to killing us). We were pushing ourselves to make it up before sunset and so that we would have enough time to get down. The first mile of was a very steep ascent through the woods on a trail of rocks that zigzagged back and forth (it had 60 switchbacks). After about 2 miles we cleared the forest area and were hiking on rocks in a canyon.

Finally about 2 hours later we reached Yosemite Point at the summit of the Falls. The view was spectacular, the sun was setting, everything was perfect…. except that dark thunderclouds were coming in from the East and our light was rapidly fading. After some photos and with 45 minutes of light left, we began back down the steep 3½ mile trail.

Yosemite National Park

We had enough light in the canyon area, but by the time we hit the last 2miles of wooded trail the clouds had moved in and we could hardly see. Stumbling down the slippery sand covered rocks in the dark, I prayed that God would clear the clouds so the moon would shine through and offer us some light. I must confess my prayer was answered – the clouds cleared – however, the large, bright full moon doesn’t rise until 11pm so it didn’t help much.

Lesson #18 from the Haun Road Trip: Always bring a flashlight on hikes – even if you are certain you will be back before dark.

Not having a flashlight we were moving at a snail’s pace. Then it dawned on me to use my camcorder as a source of light. I bumped up the brightness on the LCD screen and we walked with its glow illuminating about two feet in front of us. Enough to spot rocks and prevent from tripping and falling to our deaths.

We got to the last mile of the trail – the most heavily wooded area that zigzags back and forth on of jagged rocks. The sounds of the forest were picking up as it was now well past 9pm. I must say it was quite nerve racking – I felt like I was in the Blair Witch Project – walking in the woods with a tiny camcorder screen to light my path.

Then it happened. We heard something in the brush following us. It was different than the rustling the wind, birds, and other small forest animals had been making. It was much bigger. At one of the switchbacks we heard it no less than 10 feet from us – I frantically shone the puny glow from the camera in the brush beside us and saw the mountain lion move through an opening in the brush. “Get behind me, Heidi.” I said. And then we heard a second cougar in the same place that we had seen the first.

I picked up a large rock (whoopee some defense) and Heidi can testify as to how badly I was shaking. You’ve got to put yourself in our situation here. Pitch black, tiny glow, jagged rocks, two mountain lions. And I’m not ashamed to admit that had I not relieved myself earlier up the trail, I probably would have wet my pants at this point.

The second mountain lion moved around us in the bushes and the first continued down. We were now getting trapped between them. I saw its figure in the dark on a rock above us and I shone the light towards it – all I saw were its glowing eyes.

Lesson #19 from the Haun Road Trip: When in a dire situation, think about the Simpsons.

Lisa Simpson

Why I thought of the Simpsons I don’t know. But I remembered an episode from last year where Lisa was Sacagawea and Lenny and Carl were Lewis and Clark. Not listening to her guidance, they left her and decided to explore on their own and ran into a mountain lion. Just as it was about to pounce on them, Lisa shows up and tells them to hold their coats up to make themselves look bigger. They do that and the lion lets out a childish yelp and runs away.

We didn’t get the childish yelp, but the lions didn’t pounce on us. I told Heidi to pick up rocks – “BIG ROCKS!” and to hold her jacket up. As a testament to the amount of adrenaline running through our veins, let it be known that Heidi held her jacket up with a massive rock in each hand for nearly 20 more minutes after the threat was gone. “You can put them down now Heidi The lions are gone.”

Drenched in sweat after finally reaching the car at almost 10pm we waited a while before driving to try and calm our nerves. I flipped through the Yosemite hiking brochure and found the following lines in an article on the mountain lions in the park.

“Sightings are rare, so if you spot one, consider yourself privileged.”

Ever so privileged,

William and Heidi

Yosemite National Park, CA

Yosemite National Park embraces a spectacular tract of mountain-and-valley scenery in the Sierra Nevada, which was set aside as a national park in 1890. The park harbors a grand collection of waterfalls, meadows, and forests that include groves of giant sequoias, the world’s largest living things.

Despite the approaching 4th of July weekend, the park wasn’t overly crowded. We made a very strenuous 7 mile hike up and down the 3000ft Yosemite Point to the top of Yosemite Falls. After the hike it got dark and we had a very scary run in with a mountain lion in the woods.

The next day we were going to go to the top of Glacier Point but I had an accident while photographing a bear in the woods. I fell and lodged a stick in the palm of my hand. Most of that day was spent at an Urgent Care clinic. Luckily, I missed the nerve that controls grip and finger motion by millimeters so my hand should recover just fine.

San Francisco, CA

San Fran was full of ups and downs. The first day was spent repairing the car, doing laundry, developing film, and recovering from our last 9 days of travel.

Day 2 was wasted when a bum smashed my car window.  The car spent that day in the shop getting the window fixed.  Since we had to walk without the car, we were late getting to the ferry to Alcatraz and it was sold out.

Day 3 was great though.  We drove down Highway One along the rocky cliffs on the Pacific to Big Sur.  There we found a gorgeous beach (featured in the film Baraka) and saw lots of seals snd starfish.

Calaveras Big Tree State Park, CA

Calaveras became a State Park in 1931 to preserve the North Grove of giant sequoias. This grove includes the “Discovery Tree”, the first Sierra redwood noted by Augustus T. Dowd in 1852. This area has been a major tourist attraction ever since, and is considered the longest continuously operated tourist facility in California.

Journal: State of the Vehicle Address

Utah Landscape

We’ve had some trouble in San Fran – mostly involving the car. It was limping through the deserts of Nevada with a cracked windshield, leaking engine coolant and oil, a broken water pump, and a “Service Engine Soon” light that wouldn’t go off. We spent our first day in San Fran doing laundry and having the car serviced. The second day was meant to be a tourist day for us, but that morning I found the car had been broken into. The driver side vent window was smashed. Oddly enough, nothing was stolen. Maybe it was an accident. I kindof wish they had stolen something so that I could at least have some logical reason as to why it happened.

Downtown San Francisco

Soo…. Wednesday was spent with the car in another shop getting the front windshield crack fixed and the smashed window too. After dropping off the car we walked several miles to get to Fisherman’s Warf to take the ferry to Alcatraz but we were too late and the tickets were all sold out. Another day wasted.

But on Thursday we drove down Highway 1 to Big Sur, a really cool beach and cliffs area. We had a great time photographing the harbor seals and wildlife and we risked our lives climbing jagged rock cliffs. Quite the thrill.

Big Sur at Sunset

Other good news is that we got our first 16 rolls of film developed – 12 color and 4 black&white. We are proud to say that they are the best photos we have ever taken. Part One of Hauns Go West is quite the photo album. The digitals on the website were meant to be more of a narrative of our trip. These are our artsier shots and we are already planning to submit some as an exhibit for the next Project Creo show in St. Petersburg.

And now – off to Yosemite, Sequoia, and Las Vegas – yeah, Vegas baby!!

As you may have noticed, the website is down. Once it is back up I will try and put our San Fran, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, and Calveras Big Tree photos up. At least by Sunday night we’ll have hi-speed internet access at our hotel in Vegas – yeah, Vegas baby!!!

William and Heidi