Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bachelor Party At Shuteye

So last weekend I learned, painfully, that I am no longer as young as I used to be. I took a red-eye back from California on Sunday night, a 5 hour flight, and then went straight to work. I was returning from Neal's (he of the infallibility) bachelor party in the Sierra National Forest, just south of Yosemite, so the pain was definitely worthwhile, but still .... I know that there have been times in my life when I did not need a lot of sleep, but apparently I am no longer in them, as I was a disaster on Monday. So now, after sleeping for 13 hours last night, I can reflect back on the weekend with a little more lucidity.

While I arrived in California Thursday night, the weekend really started on Friday around 3 when we rolled (quite slowly given the rough dirt roads) into Gaggs Camp, a primitive (meaning no potable water) campsite in the Sierra National Forest at about 5700', just south of Yosemite and above Bass Lake. The campsite was beautiful, situated in a grove of redwood trees with a small stream running alongside several of the campsites (two of which we occupied). The vegetation is so different on the West Coast, instead of the floor to ceiling foliage I am now used to in the east, the ground is dusty and dirt covered emptiness broken up by shrubs, and the rich but not quite lush canopy starts several stories above ones head. I had definitely missed this ...

After some frisbee golf we settled down around the fire pit at about 630 pm, cracked open some beers and contemplated dinner. We had chicken sausages, burgers, tri-tip, Hebrew National hot dogs and an almost infinite amount of fruit and snacks. However, we had no grill, spatulas or any other type of cooking implements. After about an hour we had cooked several sausages on sticks and performed some experiments frying our burgers on Neal's 10 year old cook kit. This worked to a degree, resulting in my sloppy joe type burger thing, 2 successful burgers and a severely blackened cook kit.

Chris, then Brandon and Ryan showed up. Chris had the portable grill, which was key for further cooking, although Neal's cook kit was already black beyond redemption. Ryan had been a bit lost, inexplicably blaming Miller for poor directions despite the fact that I was the one to convey Brandons directions (which ended up being entirely accurate). Ryan had been able to find the campsite when, stopped on the side of the road, he saw someone (Brandon) driving in with a large, inflatable sex doll in the front seat. The doll was christened Paris and quickly became a central feature of the weekend, accompanying Neal all over the place.

After a few more hours and a number of drinks, and our enjoyment at watching Johns burgeoning pyromania, we crashed out and got up around 0730 the next day. After a prolonged breakfast, we piled into Chris and Brandons trucks and headed up to Shuteye Ridge. The road was pretty rough up to the climbers camp .. particularly for me since for some reason I ended up in the bed of Brandons truck ... but up until this point there were only two or three places at which we had to drive over large granite plates and rocks in the road. At least they looked massive until we got past the climbers camp, at which point we started up the roughest road I have ever driven on. Huge piles of granite lined the road and massive rock formations highlighted the route as we drove over tire sized stones, across large dips and pits and around huge boulders. After maybe a quarter mile Brandon had to pull off, so we piled into Chris's truck and onto the bumper and drove the last 1.5 miles. We stopped along the way at a particularly beautiful rock pile to fool around on the rock and take in the view ... and for Chris to slash his forehead with some falling rock. It was just a flesh wound, and once bandaged we got on our way, hiking down to the site of the climb that Neal, Brandon, Chris and Paris were going to do that afternoon.

It was a gorgeous setting, a massive rock pile stuffed into the side of a hill, set above a beautiful landscape overlooking much of the Sierra south of Yosemite. It was so clear that we could see all the way to Mammoth mountain. Chris, Neal and Brandon prepared Paris for the climb and headed off, and the rest of us dispersed, with Ryan, Alan and John climbing up to the fire tower by way of the ridge, while Miller and I stayed at the rock for a while and then headed back to the truck.

I had originally wanted to take pictures of the climbers, but I could not actually find the climb after they left, so I spent a remarkably pleasant afternoon taking pictures of the gorgeous view. Once the hikers returned to the truck, I hiked back down the hill a ways with Alan and John before we saw Neal fly by us on a mountain bike, wearing Paris.

Soon after Chris picked us up in the truck and we headed down to camp, dropping Brandon, John and Alan off at his truck .. which happened to be next to one of the most incredible rock formations (a giant hunk of exfoliating granite) I have ever seen.

After returning we mounted a 7 hour assault on the food, polishing off the pastrami, tri-tip, sausages, cheese and a vast amount of snack food, as well as a huge number of guinesses and a bottle of black bush. Although much was made of the hustlers, the anal beads and the stories we passed around, the theme of the night was definitely the fire. Chris, Brandon, Ryan and John, but mostly Chris, spent some time chopping wood ... but at some point we decided that the six or seven huge logs we had chopped up were not enough. So we started a volcano.

There was a large, dry stump with a hole in it being used as a seat at the campfire, we gingerly placed this on the fire pit, little knowing that it would provide literally hours of entertainment. As the stump began to burn, flames began to spew out the hole, providing a kind of amazing spectacle. Over the next few hours, food, beer cans, forks and all sorts of other things were placed in, across and around the fountain of flame. During this time we finished the handle of Crown Royal, the bottle of black bush and much of the remaining beer. Neal used the spurting fire to cook several sausages and melt a fork and made a brief return to the realm of fire-jumping. Ryan lost his tofurky dogs, pickles were incinerated and launched and we discovered that potato chips make pretty remarkable kindling. This continued until around midnight, when we all found our way to bed.

The next morning we woke up around 8, ate a motley breakfast of muffins, sausage, cheese, pickles and whatnot and then played an excellent round of frisbee golf ... yours truly was the winner with an overall of -7. After golf we packed up and Alan, Ryan and I left, leaving the rest of the guys to have a special celebration to say goodbye to Paris. Overall a humorous, fun weekend full of fantastic activities in a beautiful setting ... an ideal bachelor party.

PS - Here is a picture of the route that Neal, Brandon and Chris climbed during the day while the rest of us hiked. Note how far down the start of the climb is, this is why I could not find the climbers ...

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