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OPRAH AND GAYLE’S BIG YOSEMITE CAMPING ADVENTURE Part Two Coming Up – This has been changed to air on Wednesday, November 3rd 2010.

Oprah, you and Gayle would love staying in the big Blue Sky Hotel with me!

I watched some of Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King’s original road trip series. It wasn’t long before I decided Gayle would be more fun to go cross country with than going with Oprah. It is impossible not to admire Oprah for all the wonderful changes that bloom in her wake, but adventurous and an outdoors girl she is not. In fact, her lack of savvy regarding nature, the environment and the very real sad state of our precious planet’s resources continues to amaze me but that’s an entirely different subject.

I probably won’t have the patience to watch all of Gayle and Oprah’s Yosemite camping adventure. But if they ever came along camping with me they would have a real adventure, and a lot more fun!

I really like the idea of introducing African Americans (and anyone else) to camping in our national parks, but Oprah’s producers would have to find a new spin for one of my camping adventures. I was raised with the notion that the best outdoor spaces are not crawling with other people and Oprah’s pop tent trailer can not travel the roads I like best!

I also know that you can have a ton more fun if camping is not the center of the adventure. Come on Oprah, let’s wrap camping around being part of a real outdoor experience, instead of camping BEING the experience. How about a week running a white water river? My favorite photography sessions often include camping. Or just getting off grid for a week and really soaking in nature . . . I know a sunny forest opening with a great natural campsite complete with an in-stream bathing pool and series of glorious waterfalls and downhill mountain bike trails. I also happen to have great camp cook skills and could promise you a daily hot outdoor shower. Nor would you be crammed into a little campsite rubbing elbows with your neighbors. What do you say?

Don’t get me wrong here. Our national parks are amazing treasures and every American young and old should make a list and get out visiting as many parks as possible. I have never found one that I would consider skipping if I had it to do over!

DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS! Seriously!!!!

Some of my own Yosemite experiences just came to mind. You have already learned I prefer skipping crowds, so visiting Yosemite in late October really appealed to me. But here is what I didn’t know then. The upper campground had been closed for about a week. The crowds had taken all their food and returned to cityscapes, and the animals at Yosemite were going insane! I mean EVERY animal was experiencing withdrawals to all the food we trashy humans love to leave for them. The panicked animals understood winter would soon set in and they couldn’t remember how to forage and feed themselves! I was about to experience Yosemite in a much different way than the crowds of summer did.

My friend and I arrived at our lower area campsite at dusk and quickly commenced to set up camp. I opened the back of the Subaru wagon and pulled out the tent case. Four large raccoons materialized and immediately rushed inside the wagon as I attempted to drop the case and close the hatch. Too late!

We had to run around and open both of the front car doors, then run to the back and I used a stick branch to push them out the front! Yelling we rushed the front doors and managed to get them closed before the animals got back inside. Fortunately no open food was inside the car or that would have become a much more difficult task. Now Oprah, that’s when you truly need a drink in camp!

Dinner became munchies that night and we decided we’d make a hearty breakfast at day break instead. It was dark but I still wanted to go over to the restrooms. A beautiful young German woman jumped out of a car as I walked by. She grabbed my arm and fell into step with me. She was furious with her boyfriend and stammered, “Do you know there are bears here?” Well, sure there are bears in Yosemite, but I hadn’t been in the park (at the end of the season) long enough for the real meaning of her intensity to sink in, although the wild raccoon raid should have given me a vivid picture.

My friend was sleeping soundly when I returned to the tent. I laid in my comfy down bag but there was too much distant noise in the campground to sleep. People were screaming and beating pans together to keep the hungry and confused bears from stopping by their campsites! The noise moved closer and got pretty intense when suddenly the backside of our tent became a refuge for a bear that was trying to retreat from the mayhem. The bulge in the tent was indeed heart stopping and it was several minutes before I could move. An eternity later I managed to unzip the tent flap and resisted my urge to run. My fingers found two rocks. I flipped on the lantern and pounded the rocks calmly together asking that bear as nice as I could to move along now. The tent finally resumed a more familiar shape and the bear retreated to the nearby bathroom building. Someone had blocked open the door and Ms. Bear took refuge in the building for several hours. My friend never knew what went on around him, and I barely slept at all.

Dawn and breakfast brought out every bird in the park! Enough with the dive-bombing! Our campsite had an amazing view of Half-Dome blazing with alpenglow and I couldn’t steady the camera long enough to take a picture from there. Finally we took simple meals away from the campground (since that was where all the animals were congregating). Wild animals simply should not ever be conditioned this way! Camping in an unadulterated natural environment is much easier.

Warning . . . do not attempt to ever feed a wild animal in front of me – no matter how cute they are! I promise to give you a very loud earful!

ps Bear Lovers, don’t miss this baby cub and momma bear photo. It continues to make people smile and be my best seller!

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