The Dragon – Part Four


Including this ascent, many things about Yosemite were challenging

Including this ascent, many things about Yosemite were challenging

I was doing my best to remove every alcoholic molecule from the tainted breath entering their accursed little machine. The officer showed the reading to his contemporary, who immediately moved toward one of the patrol vehicles.
“Do you mind if I ask what the reading was?” I asked.
“Point one,” he answered. I slumped onto the van’s rear step and hung my head while the law busied itself around me. Eventually I was forced with my hands and legs spread against the van for a pat down and, then, with my head resting against its rear windows, my jacket, second jacket and belt were removed. After which my hands were cuffed and I was lowered into the back of the patrol car for relocation to the station. I wasn’t exactly afraid, as I knew when the dust settled a reasonably (to them) exorbitant (in my victimised opinion) fine and frustrating loss of licence would probably result. I didn’t even feel resentment as, in many ways, this was turning into a very unique Yosemite traveller experience. I was simply pissed off that this really wasn’t what I had planned for the night. Of course I’ve already mentioned I’d barely planned any of the trip anyway. I really grew to loathe the arresting man of the law back at the station. Not because he was an arsehole, which he wasn’t; because he was so Goddamned by the book. One of his colleagues tried to give me a glass of water I’d requested before the follow-up breath test, which he put a quick stop to. It read .09, and I knew I was screwed. They fingerprinted me the old fashioned way because their computer wasn’t working. Pity the breathalyser wasn’t also feeling poorly. Then they sent me into the shower room with a bag for all my clothes, some prison issue blue slippers and an orange jump suit with Yosemite Jail written on the back. After watching the bars roll shut in front of me, I turned to survey my cell then laid down for a warm night’s sleep with a toilet uncomfortably closer to my nostrils than I was used to. At least in some ways it was better than a hostel dorm room, though I suspected it would prove far more expensive.

Camano Island State Park

Camano Island State Park

I was somewhere between giddy and insane but definitely about two hours from Mount Baker after leaving Bellingham, just south of the US-Canada border. Before leaving Camano Island I overheard a group of young men at Macca’s talking about snowboarding and, after a barrage of questions, while a little unhinged, road weary, unshaven and smelling of smoke, booze and sweat, had obtained my next destination. I’d never seen snowfields before, and was looking forward to (learning) snowboarding as the Dragon rolled away black tarmac laid between leaf carpets, dead mossy trees and an increasingly frozen whiteness. Impressive as it was, it was also deserted – ski-season had not begun. When I got to the First Bar (Last Bar on the way up) at the mountain’s foot, the barman confirmed a decent snowfall would not occur for a week or two. I got lost for only the second time during the trip, back in Bellingham, while looking for Larrabee State Park – the second last coastal state park of the US Pacific north-west, and my last American campground. I arrived late, lit a fire, drank a few beers and went to bed. In the morning it was Friday and with a planned weekend in Vancouver not an hour away I burned the last of my firewood, read the USA Today “Obama Triumphs” edition and contemplated the trip so far. An imminent assault on the Canadian border was also on my mind. It certainly felt like a less than peaceful endeavour, as I’d been told in Yosemite a crossing could be difficult as a result of events so far but not completely relayed. Despite earnest questioning, in which the border guard seemed reassured – yet for some reason confused as to why I was driving a British Columbian vehicle into Canada – I would only be there for a few days, I was granted passage. It was time for a weekend in beautiful Vancouver, a brief sampling of its wilderness, then a sad goodbye to the Dragon the following Wednesday. Hump day in a very unusual sense of the word.

Mount Baker

Mount Baker

The thoughts and dreams swirling through my consciousness that night remain dreamlike, beyond recall and, simply based on their residual atmosphere, would not be relayed if I could remember them. In reality it was a fitful sleep, full of constant reminders that I was, inescapably, lying within a jail cell. Every time I woke I could hardly believe my misfortune. But it was warm, as mentioned previously, and I wasn’t sharing it with a fellow criminal. Come morning I was given a not too bad breakfast of microwaved bacon and eggs, dressed, read a bit of a May 2011 Time Magazine, then while the officers were distracted managed to take a couple of photos of my jumpsuit and cell. After all: I was a traveller, and knew I’d pay dearly for this particular attraction, so figured I’d make the most of it. I’d only planned on staying in Yosemite long enough to hike a couple of trails and avoid being eaten by bears building their weight for winter hibernation, but my court date was set the following Tuesday; about four days away. After paying 80 bucks to get the Dragon out of impound, and taking note that the van had been searched, I fled. Not solely because of my recent time in the clink, but because accommodation within the valley was booked out over the weekend. Wowona is a tiny village still within the park, about 40 minutes further south. I was to stay there the Friday night and then return to Yosemite to gamble for local lodging on a waiting list. It is there some of the largest trees I’d ever seen are and have been for hundreds of years located, often in small groups, towering toward the sky above and among younger breeds. It is also there I heard some fantastic American humour. “Pretty cool, really neat,” I heard this man behind me say, before this gem: “That’s some serious wood.” After setting up camp I visited the local hotel where I found the bar wouldn’t open for an hour. I bought a beer at the adjacent and most beautiful golf club I’d ever seen and, not wanting to risk making another mistake so soon after what I had in the village, returned to the campsite. Once there I played music much too loud for Carl from Fresno, the site’s only other inhabitant, but went to sleep before the grey-haired grumpy bastard anyway.

Jet streams if anything made the constantly crisp blue skies even more beautiful

Jet streams if anything made the constantly crisp blue skies even more beautiful

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