Jesse Murch

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Yosemite National Park - "The heat doesn't work"

Leaving the warm Venice air proved to be difficult knowing we would soon be welcomed to cooler winds and white powered on our boots, still we picked up the camper van, loaded our packs and gear into its selected places, picked our music for the five hour drive, and started up to Pacific coast highway toward our first national park of the trip. The drive started off slowly winding through the hollywood hills and the un-nerving Los Angeles traffic before having us climb over mountains wide and high. It was about two hours in of these hill climbs before we descended and had us traversing flat desert roads north through Bakersfield.After passing through Fresno we started heading east inward two the gates of Yosemite National Park, we heard reports of snow storms days prior but until reaching the gates we had no idea how they had and will affect our journey. The swirling roads that lead into the park were fine at first, then suddenly the sides of the roads became peppered white, then the roads themselves, eventually as we passed through the small mountain town of Fish Camp the roads had iced and the snow was coming down viciously.  We passed sign after sign stating no vehicles past this point without chains and four wheel drive. It would be smart to turn back, then again no story ever begins with β€œand then we turned back ” so we proceeded on. Luckily for me Tom has had experience driving vans on snow covered roads, still the drive wasn't without its fears as Yosemite seems to not be one for guard rails or any other measures that would save a wayward vehicle from falling thousands of feet to its doom. We made it roughly a half hour past Fish Camp and decided to find a lot to park and camp for the night, the snow falling had made sight non existent and we were beginning to push more snow then driving over. Upon parking and setting up camp we thought it best to have a small quick snack of trail mix and water, then prepare for bed. The back of the van was spacious after folding out the cushions and the three hundred and sixty degrees of curtains covered all windows nicely for privacy and darkness. We did however have one downfall in our first night in the wilderness, the heater, we quickly figured out did not plug in and work. Of course we had the heat from the van but it would need to stay running in  order for that to work, and being that we had not seen any gas stations since turning off the main highway we knew this wouldn't be an option. We threw on double layers of sweatpants and sweatshirts along with blankets and tucked in for a long cold night. We awoke early, minutes before the sun rose over the skyline to the sound of a plow truck, well that and the immense cold that had crept in while we slept. Taking the many clues that sleeping in wouldn't be an option we tossed our boots on jumped up front and headed out.The next stop? Half Dome, and yes that should sound familiar as aside from being featured as a backdrop on all apple computers and photographed by some of the worlds leading photographers. The roads although increasingly better then the night before were still slick with ice and snow unable to be scraped clean by the plows. We winded further and further, higher then we had ever traveled before in this journey. As we turned a corner before us like a glowing red fire on a sun-kissed horizon was the entrance to a tunnel, it was long and resembled more of a lit cave then anything, as we drove through anticipation to where this would lead out grew, words couldn't do justice what laid before our eyes upon reaching the end. We pulled off immediately into the lot on the left side of the road, there before us in all of its glory centered between its sister peaks, Half Dome. For this marked the first time in my life i was left utterly speechless, for all at once my eyes soaked in the rising sun, the deep teal aura of the sky, the snow topped peaks surrounded with brilliant green pines it seamed to suck any words from my grasp immediately.  It took everything in us to peal ourselves away from this view but we knew more where to come and that the road was calling. Originally we had planned to head up and over the mountains and onto the eastern side of Yosemite but due to the overwhelming snow all roads but the one we were on had been closed, luckily the road was a massive loop so no back tracking needed.Upon getting into the van and heading out we started the decent into the valley of Yosemite. The mountain tops receded but we were rewarded with an increase in gorgeous pines and sun soaked fields. We soon found ourselves driving beside the Merced River down Northside Dr, we immediately found a clearing and pulled over. As soon as we pulled off i knew the image i wanted to take, i grabbed my camera and a wide angle lens and positioned myself onto the river bed facing upstream the river provided a mirror like surface that portrayed gorgeous symmetry and took in all the blue tones that saturated the landscape.  By this point our less then small breakfast of trail mix and water was proving to not be sufficient, our stomachs growled and turned begging for nutrition. We set off to find food, this proved to be more difficult then anticipated, we traveled for miles on back winding roads with no sign of food. We stumbled onto a couple hopeful spots but due to the weather all were closed. What seemed forever but turned out to be only an hour or so of driving found us off of the snow covered mountain roads and proceeding off the mountain ranges, at the end of this road a quaint mountain town with a small diner/convenience store nestled in the center. The hosts were gracious and kind, asking about our journey and provided quick food and beverages to quench our hunger. We said our goodbyes and feeling well nourished we climbed into the van for the eight hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park in southern California.