Backpacking Yosemite A beginner's story
Aug. 17, 2001
Dr. Raymon Leake enjoys summer backpacking trips and often hikes with others. His enthusiasm for backpacking led to invitations to numerous people to join him this summer in hiking various trails in Yosemite National Park in east-central California.
Along on her first backpacking trip was his wife, Gloria, who calls herself a "Holiday Inn" camper with no previous inclination to rough it on mountain trails. Her experiences on this hike engendered a step by step transformation in her attitude toward backpacking.
When the large hiking group arrived at Yosemite, they learned that the quota of permits had been met for the first hike they had planned, so their alternative was to make the most difficult hike, the steep, 3-mile trail to Yosemite Falls. They got a late start.
The hikers strung out on the trail, with beginners soon falling behind. With dark approaching, Gloria and Regina lagged from fatigue, and friend Wallace Heggie stayed with them. Regina became very ill and eventually had to stop. Gloria offered to walk back down with her but Regina was determined to take the top.
Gloria, now terribly weary, recalls, "I was not a happy camper."By now, her thoughts and verbalizations berated the trip, with a full measure of disdain for her husband's backpacking idea. In fact a reliable member of the party reports having overheard Gloria say, "I'm going to shoot that Raymon Leake!" One must understand of course that if this declaration was in fact made, the dispirited lady was victimized by the distress of the moment, and her utterance was probably just a figurative expression of her true intentions regarding her pastor husband.
Regina's illness, later determined to be dehydration possibly aggravated by altitude sickness, was serious. Heggie decided to leave the pair and hike up to the camp for help. Leaving matches and gathering wood for a fire, which would provide "comfort and light", he hiked upward.
But she built the fire, kept an eye out for bears and comforted her sister-in-law for two hours in the dark. As they waited alone, Gloria's aversion for backpacking began to erode when she noticed that she was not afraid. A sense of self sufficiency ensued. "My fear was not something that was important," was how she put it. "My sister-in-law was sick. My job was to keep the fire going and take care of Regina." Gloria looked upward and marveled at a sky bulging with stars not all visible from lower altitudes.
Help finally arrived in the persons of Father Elvin Sunds, Regina's son Jonathan, Latham Farley and Dave Hicks. The group slowly climbed up to camp with frequent rest stops, turning off their lights and admiring the natural beauty of the lighted sky. Gloria's weary muscles were beginning to take a back seat to the natural beauty and caring friends surrounding her.
They reached camp at midnight and Gloria's husband and daughter had prepared a soft sleeping spot for her in the tent. "Something kept scratching my leg in the sleeping bag," she remembered. "Finally I reached down and pulled out a mummified lizard." Her initial scorn for Raymon's insensitivity in leaving a lizard in the bag when he last rolled it up quickly turned to humor and fittingly capped off one of her life's most difficult and memorable days.
Has her attitude toward backpacking changed? "I think I'll go back," she admits. "Yes, I'll go back."