Author Archives: jhorna
We left Berkeley at 4:30am on Saturday morning. The drive out to Yosemite was quiet and beautiful – almost no cars on the road that early in the morning, so we made good time. We arrived at the Big Oak Flat Information Center because we thought we had to in order to get a campsite. We got there at 7:30am and since they don’t open until 8, we just sat around in line with a bunch of other folks waiting to get wilderness permits. But, it turns out that if you’re aiming for a “first-come first-served” permit, you just head straight to the campground and look for someone packing up. Cut out the middle-man, so to speak. It would have been nice if they’d had this information on the website, saving us those 30 minutes of uselessly hanging around.
Then we drove up to Tamarack Flat which was our first choice for a campground. The rangers warned us that the last mile of road out to the campground was “pretty rough” but it was actually fine. It had clearly been paved a few years ago, and while there are a few potholes, for the most part it’s actually totally fine – even for my low-slung Prius. We drove into the campground, and I guess our lucky stars were already shining because the very first fellow we talked to was packing up and leaving from the best campsite in the whole park. We quickly paid the $10 fee and went about setting up our tents as he was still packing up. Unfortunately by this time (9am or so) it was raining pretty good so as soon as we got our tents set up we retired to the car for some card games. Then we took a nap for 2.5 hours, hoping for the rain to clear.
Our friends arrived around 12noon, right as the sun started to come out and we loaded up our packs with picnic food and headed down the trail to the swimming hole. I’m not going to tell the Internet-at-large where the hole is, because swimming holes are precious resources that should be protected/hoarded, but if you come visit me we can go there.
After swimming for about 3.5 hours we hiked back up the 2.5 miles to the campground. It’s not terribly strenuous. Just a bit of a climb up a hill, then way down to where the creek runs. The altitude adds a bit of a challenge – I think it was around 6000 feet. I took a quarter of a table of diamox because I tend to have problems with altitude, but everyone else seemed to be fine. The scenery is gorgeous and there’s plenty of shade so we enjoyed it. We didn’t see a single other person on the entire hike, which continues to amaze me. Our entire experience of Yosemite was of empty hiking trails, beautiful and quiet campsites, and secluded swimming holes.
There’s no water at Tamarack Flat, so the next morning we packed up and headed up towards Yosemite Creek. We stopped along the way at White Wolf, where they told us a bear had been hit by a car that very morning. The 14th bear this year! That’s very sad – if you go to Yosemite please drive slowly and watch out for wildlife. After filling up with water and using their sinks (with soap! Luxury!) we headed down the road a bit to the Yosemite Creek and Ten Lake Trails staging point for our second hike. These lots were both full with plenty of backpackers and day-hikers in various states of arrival and departure. But once we headed off down the trail, we quickly left everyone behind (except the highway, which unfortunately runs just parallel to the trail for about a quarter of a mile). Again, we didn’t see a single other person for the entire hike in!
We made it to another swimming hole, which was completely wonderful and perfect. Swimming holes are my new favourite thing and I’ve got a list of about 20 more that I’d like to visit. California seems to have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to idyllic outdoors activities, and I’m looking forward to exploring more.
Dipshit Camping. What is it? Well, Dipshit is made up of the two Greek words “Di” meaning “Person”, and “pshit” meaning “who ends up camping on an unmaintained highway between two switchbacks of the Interstate, less than 200 yards away from their car.” If you’re a mere novice to this form, allow me to take your hand and lead you. No need for your compass – we don’t know how to read it. No need for maps – we don’t know how to read those either. And forget directions from Forest Service Ranger Shirley – they will only baffle. Don’t worry about where we’re going – we won’t get there anyway. We’re Dipshits!
The first rule of thumb for Dipshit Camping is this: Leave early the morning of the day you want to start your trip, but not so early that you would have enough time to find somewhere safe to park before dark in the event that you get lost (which you will). Since you packed the night before (in true Dipshit fashion) you’ll be slightly exhausted, and unable to make even trivial decisions. What does your sleep-addled Dipshit brain do when the corner store is out of the sandwich you planned on having for breakfast? Should you buy the “Hot ‘n Fresh” Sausage wrap, or the mysterious hodge-podge of plastic-encased cheeses, salamis and crackers? Better agonize over it for another 15 minutes!
Another important thing to remember about Dipshit Camping is that you cannot trust anyone named Shirley. If Forest Service Ranger Shirley tells you that you need chains on your tires, you will be driving on pristine and dry roads. If Forest Service Ranger Shirley tells you to turn left after the Eco SnowPark, you will find the road to be blocked with a five foot wall of snow. If you decide to park overnight in the Eco SnowPark despite the ominous and prominent tow-away signs, Forest Service Ranger Shirley will dance naked on the roof of your car while singing “Nanananananannaaaaa.”
But let’s get down to business and talk about the brass tacks of Dipshit Camping. The best part about Dipshit Camping is that it is almost completely stress-free! Despite months of preparation and research, despite the hundreds of dollars you spent on equipment and camping books, absolutely nothing will go according to plan! So you might as well not worry about it.
Leave all your preparation behind (along with something to purify water – oops!) and now you have arrived at what you think is the trailhead. Don’t worry about the absence of all signage, or other hikers – it just means that if you die, you’ll die completely alone where no one can laugh over your Dipshit carcass.
Now you’re out in the cold wilderness with your fellow Dipshit. The stars are glistening overhead, the snow is crunching under your tent, and the soft roar of the highway is lulling you to sleep. Not only do you get to admire the starlight in the dark night, but you get to view the town from a mere 1 mile distance. Ahh – civilization. How far away it seems – a whole 15-minute car-ride. Who needs toilet paper?
Now that you’ve settled down in your tent, on your pad with your sleeping bag, you begin to gently drift into the tense, hyper-aware state of extreme nervousness that all campers live for. This is the time – generally referred to as “night” – when a camper in the middle of the wilderness begins to notice sounds.
At first, these sounds might sound terrifying. Your city-born ears hear an animal rushing up to your tent in the dead of night to riffle through your packs, chew up your extra sweaters with enormous gnashing jaws, and rip your camping cookware to shreds with its razor-sharp claws. It’s a strange quirk of the outdoors, but that enormous creature menacing you at 4 a.m. somehow always leaves squirrel tracks in the snow. Perhaps it was a squirrel. Perhaps it was some other animal walking on squirrel-foot stilts. Who can say. It’s important to not overstretch yourself reaching for a logical interpretation. That’s not the Dipshit way!
The shining moment in any true Dipshit camping experience, of course, is when you wake up the next morning, and realize that you parked your car (illegally) 5 yards from the actual trailhead.
Congratulations! You are a real Dipshit.
You can also create the only place in the world where everything conforms to your ideals – where all things are your deciding.
You can create the place where you do for yourself the things you usually do for other people. Cook yourself a nice meal, listen to stories about your day, watch a movie.
You can create the place where everything you do is right – everything you do is important, and proves you are a person of great esteem.
You can create the place where your emotions are renewed just by walking in the door. The ambience can be entirely under your control.
You can create the place where you get to think about and explore every idea you have ever had.
You can create the place where, no matter what happens in the outside world, you know you are safe when you come home.
You can create the place where you influence every aspect of the place. And you also acknowledge its influence on you.
Some of these will not strike you as important.
They are not for you.
Which one resonates?
Some of these will overwhelm you.
Which one inspires and energizes you?
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
is finding out
what you already know.
Doing is demonstrating that
you know it.
Teaching is reminding others
that they know just as well as you.
You are all learners,
- Richard Bach, “Illusions.”
no such thing as a problem
without a gift for you
in its hands.
You seek problems
because you need
- Richard Bach, “Illusions”
“We use the word hurt when talking about things like this because when these things go wrong it can feel as if you were hit in the sternum by a huge animal that’s run for miles just to strike you.”
- Dave Eggars
I. A Conversation at the Grownup Table, as Imagined at the Kids’ Table
MOM: Pass the wine, please. I want to become crazy.
GRANDMOTHER: Did you see the politics? It made me angry.
DAD: Me, too. When it was over, I had sex.
UNCLE: I’m having sex right now.
DAD: We all are.
MOM: Let’s talk about which kid I like the best.
DAD: (laughing) You know, but you won’t tell.
MOM: If they ask me again, I might tell.
FRIEND FROM WORK: Hey, guess what! My voice is pretty loud!
DAD: (laughing) There are actual monsters in the world, but when my kids ask I pretend like there aren’t.
MOM: I’m angry! I’m angry all of a sudden!
DAD: I’m angry, too! We’re angry at each other!
MOM: Now everything is fine.
DAD: We just saw the PG-13 movie. It was so good.
MOM: There was a big sex.
FRIEND FROM WORK: I am the loudest! I am the loudest!
MOM: I had a lot of wine, and now I’m crazy!
GRANDFATHER: Hey, do you guys know what God looks like?
GRANDFATHER: Don’t tell the kids.
a sore spot i keep touching
and all i’m getting
is a deeper bruise
With You Here Between
Lovers work, so that when body and soul
are no longer together,
their loving will be free.
Wash in wisdom-water, so you will have no regrets
about the time here.
Love is the vital core of the soul,
and of all you see, only love is infinite.
Your non-existence before you were born
is the sky in the east.
Your death is the western horizon,
with you here between.
The way leads neither east nor west,
Test your love-wings and make them strong.
Forget the ideas of religious ladders.
Love is the roof. Your senses are waterspouts.
Drink rain directly off the roof.
Waterspouts are easily damaged
and often must be replaced.
Say this poem in your chest.
Don’t worry how it sounds
going through your mouth.
A human body is a bow.
Breathing and speech are arrows.
When the quiver and arrows are used up or lost,
there is nothing more for the bow to do.