Friday, June 12, 2009

On to Mammoth

I decided in Lone Pine that I would go to Tuolumne Meadows. The bus would not leave until 5pm and it would make a stop in Bishop and then in Mammoth. The bus from Mammoth to Tuolumne Meadows wouldn't leave until the following morning. So I spent the day in Lone Pine trying to kill some time hanging out with hikers and sitting around at the hostel.

Eventually I went to the bus stop to wait there. A homeless guy from Santa Barbara talked my ear off for an hour. Finally 5pm rolled around and I got on the bus. The homeless man got on the bus, too, but fortunately he found someone new to talk to.

As we drove up the desert, the clouds over the mountains and desert were beautiful, dark and a little frightening. It looked very cold. The desert valley seemed green and lush. I saw a huge herd of elk grazing with a huge herd of cattle in a field.

In Bishop I switched buses and we picked up two hikers. They had been on the trail only as many weeks as I had. They had done Section A and then skipped up to Kennedy Meadows and had hiked another week out of there. We rode to Mammoth together.

When we got to Mammoth they went to the campground across the street but decided that it was too expensive and that they would rather stay in a hotel. The campground fee was $20.

I grabbed a burrito from the gas station, heated it up and walked over to the campground. On the way I saw an interesting looking man, tall and skinny carrying a huge hiking staff and looking like some kind of wizard. I said hello as I passed him.

I ate my burrito sitting on the porch of the outhouse. I looked around wondering if there was a way to stealth camp around the area. The campground host spied me. Eventually he came out to say hi to me. I asked him if he knew whether the bus to Yosemite left on Sunday or just on Saturday, because if it left on Sunday I could maybe spend a day in Mammoth killing time. At least in Mammoth maybe I could find something to do. The host was very nice. He got the others in his trailer to try to find the information for me. They made phone calls and searched online. The bus did also leave on Sunday.

I chatted with two of the hosts for a while. They thought I would be crazy to go hike north from Tuolumne Meadows in this weather. It seemed a little crazy to me, too, but I couldn't think of anything better to do at the moment.

The wizard man came walking by and said hello to the hosts. They all seemed very friendly with each other. The man was traveling on foot and so I asked both the man and the hosts if it would be okay if I shared the camp site with him. It seemed silly that people on foot have to pay full price and take up a whole site when they have no car. I wasn't even planning to stay very long as it was almost already dark. Everyone was okay with me doing that, so I followed the wizard man, whose name was Steve, to his site. (The hosts assured me that Steve was a decent guy as they had gotten to know him over the past few days.)

While I set up my tent, Steve told me how he used to be an investment consultant or something like that but then he got cancer and racked up millions in hospital bills. He ended up losing everything he had. He decided to set off walking. He carries around a big yellow sign that says Ride Needed, Walking to Cure Cancer. I asked him if the cancer he was walking to cure was his own, and he said yes. He had not felt this healthy in years. It seemed to be working. In fact, he said that he felt the cancer had been a blessing. It had made him change what was important to him in life. He felt he was truly enjoying his life now. He loved being out in nature, sleeping on the living earth, living in the moment, taking time to appreciate life. His life was so different now from how it had been when he wore a suit. He was open to the generosity of the Universe, he said. Everything he needed always came to him whenever he needed it. He was amazed how many kind people were out there to help him.

You never know with people like that if they are for real. But he was clear, articulate and truly radiated happiness. I went to sleep thinking about how the adventures of the trail sometimes aren't exactly on the trail.

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