Thursday, October 3, 2013

Even in Yosemite, Scarlett Johannson is Just a Breeze Away





I’m rarely spontaneous anymore, which happens when you have kids. You can’t just jump on a plane and go to Katmandu or drive to the Palm Springs Fashion Outlet on a whim.

But my sister spontaneously showed up in LA from the East coast and she has three times as many kids as I do, so how could I just take her to Venice Muscle Beach? 

She had never been to Yosemite, and I hadn’t been in a while, so we threw together some clothes, got in my car and sped away.

Liz is my favorite sister. She’s funny, smart and wise. We are also both at a point of reexamination in our lives. What exactly are we doing?

Liz: I did it!  I can’t believe this is happening. Last year the San Jauns. Now this. Finally!

Liz carries three phones and they beep constantly with various texts from a variety of children. It’s amazing how organized she is, even when away.


I hadn’t really thought about my kids.

But, I was facing down a big fear. Leaving LA.  While I travel a lot, it’s not without great trepidation. Once I’m on my way, the anxiety leaves.  I was looking forward to facing down a giant Grizzly like in We Bought a Zoo. I truly believe I could do that. I’m the female Matt Damon.



After a few bad gas mishaps, (who even knew there was cheap gas made out of corn oil??) sandstorms and contaminated food, we found our way to the park. And just in the nick of time since it’s now closed now due to the government shutdown.  I met a lot of people up there, Russians, Slovakians, hundreds of employees.

Most of them have been working at the park for many years. It’s simply hard to imagine where they will go. They lived on the grounds, including the Yosemite Witch.  If you have not met her you have not fully lived. She’s awesome.



Meanwhile, I haven’t stayed in a cabin in the forest since I was in my early 20’s and that was only to impress some guy.  “Look at me! See, I’m THAT girl.”

Liz and I basically had two small beds encased in logs.

The point of the trip was to hike and scale Half Dome.  Looking at it seems ominous but not altogether impossible. 





I hiked Pikes Peak, but I was 15. And also I had more than shorts and flip-flops.


Of course I’ve hiked every trail in LA, and continue to do so. But the difference is from the first step of the Yosemite trailhead; it’s a steep, rocky incline, often pathless, often nothing but boulders to crawl over, or steps thrown together by falling rock. But what you see is stupid gorgeous.



Vernal Falls rainbow photo op ^ ^ ^ 

Without realizing we had taken the most difficult trail marked SEVERE, we also thought we were going four miles, not 12! Also this sign was turned backwards. We read, restrooms ahead. Eh. And of course it started to sprinkle.



All of this was fine except both of us were wearing lame shoes. I gave Liz my hiking boots, that were too small for her, and I wore rain boots; as in galoshes. The only thing the rain boots offered was grip on the bottom. Basically I’m going up a straight incline with duck feet.

Here we meet a lovely family of young Brits. The stud Jason Stratham father was carrying his 2-year old son on his shoulders and bouncing all over the place taking pictures. His model wife was carrying her 9-month old in a front carry contraption.  To make me feel worse about complaining on any level, they had their 70- year old parents with them, all gung-ho, cheerio and annoyingly chipper.

I basically hung onto this family because they knew Yosemite like they had built the place. This was the 2nd time up that day! WTF.

We were indecisive about which way to go. Back down, up or across.



How do you even make sense of that nonsense? ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ 

Jason Stratham: Just follow us. We’re going to the summit. The way down is much easier. Most of the trail is paved, or flat.

Me:  Like with tar?

Old Man: It’s a breeze.

That sounded perfect because I certainly didn’t want to go back down four miles of cliff stairs, so we followed them. I mean they were carrying small children. How hard could it be?

Well, it turns out Jason was a pompous liar. I sensed he climbed Mt. Everest a few times, possibly all of them had.  They were jumping and scooting over the boulders like squirrels, laughing, chatting. I started to hate them.

Often they would go off trail to get a better view. Old Man was tripping the light fantastic, “Look at this! Nevada Falls!  God’s country. Come on up!”


No thanks. Someone trailing behind me said: "We won the war douche!" WHAT!

I was afraid to see who it was and stayed focused on the foot tracks to stay on course. We eventually lost the Strathams because they were practically running to my wounded animal creeping. 

There was a sheer drop off to my right. Why the hell would I run?
Somehow I thought Brits were a bit daintier. I might expect this behavior from say, a German. Lots of Germans on the trail. They were not show-offy. But they were sturdy.

The 2nd fall was water flowing over slate.



Nevada Falls closer ^ ^ ^ ^

Me: Wow. That is exactly where some designer got his inspiration for those cool bathroom sinks.
Liz: What?

We made it to the top. Unlike Justin Beiber I did not have to be carried.  Seriously Justin? You're 17.


I mean, check my bad self out ^ ^ ^


It almost doesn’t matter where you go in the world, you will find a celebrity. Be it the Great Wall of China or Half Dome.




This kid is not only being carried by 250 pound men, but texting pictures of how he made it to the top and I suspect there was a helicopter waiting for his arrival.

Enough about him. Our summit was flat, with a shiny blue lake off to the side; the air was misty, we were dwarfed by Sequoias. Peaceful, and very few people.  Beautiful.  I could see why a few pros brought up tent gear. Billions of stars would poke through the night sky. Magical.


I saw some women lounging under a tree and knew from their designer outfits, matted makeup and coiffed hair they were from LA.

And wouldn’t you know, it’s a movie star. To her credit, she made the climb on her own, but brought along her award winning hair stylist and make up artist.

This was not a film shoot; she just went about her life this way. Camera ready.  We’ll call her Scarlett Johansson. 

We joined and all sat around, ate our energy bars, drank tons of water and talked about Hollywood. I knew the actress from a work thing, but her hairstylist just found this coincidence mad crazy. 


They were going for the windblown look. ^ ^ ^

Stylist: What a small world. Here we are, at the top of Yosemite! What are the odds? Sick!

Not really. I mean it’s four hours away. What I found insane was how actors really do travel with their beauty team even on long, wet hikes. No one actually took her picture except for her stylist.  I’m sure it will show up in a tabloid somewhere like it was an accident.

I did not come here though to see more Hollywood. So Liz and I said goodbye and ran off. I’d rather be with the pompous Brits.

We used the time stumbling back down to discuss all the possible 2nd acts we had been thinking of.  Liz thinks I should be a therapist and start turning my insights into money. Cute.

I told her what I thought she ought to do, but that’s private. She’s keenly intelligent, artistic and organized.  It amazes me how she manages her big family, keeps everyone on track and all of her kids are spectacular. I have a hard time with the car pool lane.

We could hear various worldly callings in the slight breeze on the summit, clarity I had not experienced in a long time. I even had a vision.



But that was the actual sky.

There is nothing more refreshing than a huge National Park to separate and remove you from your life, entirely. Not once did I think about home. 

At the foothill, by now we had both taken our boots off. I threw mine away. We caught up with the Stratham’s.  All refreshed, ruddy-cheeked, glowing. They did not look like they had just hiked and scaled for the past 14 hours.

Old Lady: “Enjoy your stroll?

Was she joking? Stroll? I could barely walk. I didn’t answer her. I suppose that was rude but I just wanted to get the hell off the mountain.

Then the actress and her stylists come clomping down on mules.

Actress:  Hi there! So much better taking a nag down. God, my feet were killing me. What happened to your boots?
Me: I threw them at a hungry bear.
Actress: Holy shit!  You still have five more miles. Glad you’re okay. Hey, do you want a picture with me?
Me: Nah. Thanks though. Enjoy.
Actress: Wasn't this fun!



My thighs and ass got a fantastic workout. Liz and I collapsed in bed.

The next morning I found this on my car. I had an unopened box of Dots candy on the seat.



I was about to plan another trip, this time with the kids, as they would just love Yosemite, when I saw this news.    I can't help but wonder what will happen to all those international travelers, the workers and the Yosemite Witch.

For us, back to Santa Anita Canyon. This is one of my favorites in LA.




Rhonda Talbot on Yosemite,  hiking insanity, movie stars, family, and Grizzlies.