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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Camping Under El Capitan In Yosemite National Park

This tale from long ago is short and sweet. A friend invited me to join her work group on a camping trip to Yosemite National Park. She and I had previously worked together as cottage houseparents for the retarded, which is twentieth century nomenclature now politically corrected to "people who are intellectually disabled". Be that as it may, the institution she now worked for needed another staff person to go on the camping trip to insure that everyone camped safely. So I packed up my sleeping bag and went along.

Yosemite National Park issued our group of half a dozen staffers and thirty campers the prime spot of the open woods directly underneath El Capitan*. The setting was idyllic. It was full summer so we did not bother with tents, we simply laid our sleeping bags out on the soft, fragrant ground under the pines. Everyone was joyous, the staffers were relaxed, the campers were very experienced in camping, and the days were smooth and mellow. We had sausage, eggs, and pancakes for breakfast, hearty lunch and dinner, and S'mores for evening snacks. Senior staffers took a few campers on short hikes, but most of us stayed in camp and did not go hiking or swimming due to the limitations of our campers, but no one cared. Simply sitting around in camp was perfect.

On the last day we all tucked into our sleeping bags early, ready to rest for the long drive home in the morning. In the middle of the night everyone awoke to the snuffling and lumbering of a bear walking through the middle of our camp. It sounded huge and curious. It must have seen the humps of sleeping bag clad humans lying about, and smelled the aroma of our food (now safely stowed in the vans.) Someone with deep-voiced authority yelled, "Go back to sleep and it will go away." We did and it did.

We woke in the morning to whispers in our ears and gentle pats on our shoulders. Someone had set up rows of chairs down by the lake. Our entire group filed down and sat quietly in the early chill. Moments after we had settled into our chairs, deer timidly emerged from the forest, glided through the fog on the meadow, and lowered their heads to drink in the lake below the great dome of El Capitan. Breathtaking.

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El Capitan "is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, located on the north side of Yosemite Valley, near its western end. The granite monolith is about 3,000 feet from base to summit along its tallest face, and is a popular location for rock climbers."


Caption: I camped here under El Capitan in Yosemite National Park half a century ago.

public domain image 2019

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