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[pct-l] Hitching and Yosemite bears

Hello All -

A fellow PCT hiker asked (offline):

>...how did you get from Tuolumne Meadows to Lee Vining and back?...I have
>not >been able to discover a source of public transport...

I am posting much of my answer to that hiker to the open list in the hope
that discussion might be started on one part or another.  Bears and
hitching were of more than passing concern to me during my PCT
thru-hike...I would love to get ideas on both from list dinzens <g>.

---------<my slightly edited reply follows>-----------

I am sure that you know about the bus that runs up and down the valley on
US 395.  We used it going both ways when we were rushed at the end of our
hike (down to Lone Star from Mammoth Lake and from Lone Star to Reno).  The
rest of the time we hitched or scrounged rides.

Once we got one of the cooks at the Independence Hotel to run us up to
Reno.  Another time the boyfriend of the daughter of the owner of our motel
gave us a ride (we paid for the gas and bought plenty of cheeseburgers on
the way <g>).  You can always find a ride if you dig around
enough...especially if you have some $ to sweeten the pot <g>.

If it was me, I would probably take the bus to Lee Vining (be sure to check
out the schedule...I think that there is just one bus each way each day).
Once at Lee Vining I would do a quick check with the locals to see if
anyone offers a shuttle up to the Meadows.  If I couldn't quickly find a
ride and there was some good daylight left, I would get out on the road to
Tioga Pass and stick out my thumb.  I always like to call the local
constabulary for "advice" on shuttles and local hitching rules (what I am
really doing is giving them a chance to get comfortable with me hitching in
the town they are charged to protect...I have sometimes gotten rides from
them, too <VBG>).

Make up a sign that can be easily read from an approaching car ("PCT Hiker"
or some such) and choose a spot where they have plenty of time to check you
out and they can easily and safely pull off the road.  Make sure that your
pack can be seen and that you are dressed like a hiker (shorts!).  Smile a
lot, make eye contact, and DON'T flip off the jerk that just snubbed
you...the next car is watching!  If our experience is any guide, you won't
be getting a ride from many Americans...but, thank heaven for those foreign
tourists!  We got rides from Irish, English, Germans, New Zelanders,
Canadians, and Hispanic migrant workers...got passed by a LOT of old folks
in their RV's.

I wouldn't worry too much about getting a ride from Lee Vining to the
Meadows IF the pass is open (make SURE that it has been opened for the
summer before you try!).  Worst case, you might have to hitch for parts of
a couple of days.  If I was still on the road in the late afternoon, I
would get a motel and start again EARLY the next morning (catch the workers
on their way up to the park!).  If I was short on $, I would call the fuzz
again and ask for their advice.  I have been referred to cheap clean digs
(church basement, firehall, etc.) more than once and have even been offered
an empty (unlocked <g>) jail cell.  Staying overnight gives you plenty of
time to start networking with the locals if you want to try to find a
shuttle ride the next morning.

If you wind up having to spend the night near the Meadows...watch out for
the bears!  The Yosemite bear population has been WELL trained to come to
campers for food.  I would hike as far north as possible before camping and
would avoid established campgrounds like the plague.  I certainly would
either bear bag or at least set my pack well away from my sleeping area.

My son and I stealth camped 99% of the time (a few times we used
established campgrounds when the yogi opportunities looked particularly
good <g>).  We never bear bagged and always slept with b'fast between us
for convenience the next morning.  The only place that we ever had a
problem was in Cold Valley about a half day's walk above the Meadows.  We
were coming down from the north and didn't realize that we were getting
into the semi-domesticated Yosemite bear patrol area.  In the middle of the
night one dragged my pack off to check it out (did a pretty clean job of
getting into it...I didn't have to sew up more than a foot or two of torn
cordura with dental floss).

No food in it (next day was resupply and b'fast was between us on our
ground cloth), but he did eat some of our spices (dehydrated salsa, garlic
powder, etc.) and nosed thru the empty food bags I was saving.  He came
back over to where we were camping to try again (those green glowing eyes
looked to be at LEAST three feet apart!), but we scared (?) him away by
banging our pot/lid, flashing our mini-mags, and shouting at the top of our
lungs.  The next morning we belatedly noticed that the trail was well worn
with tracks from the bears on patrol.  BTW, we also noticed that there were
plenty of nighttime bears at the Castle Craigs SP campground, but they had
bear boxes (almost big enough for us to get into <g>).

- Charlie II

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