My first weekend at Yosemite National Park is one I will never forget! 2 days, 2 incredible stories!
Day 1: Missing the Moonbow
The next 2 videos feature my side of the story and Jay's side. You can watch these and bypass reading the lengthy blog post, AND/OR read the full blog post which contains more details, pics and videos. Your call.
Either way, you should scroll down and see the pics, as they are pertinent to the story.
Jay Muniz and I headed out from Oakland later than we wanted to on Saturday, ~12:30pm. It takes ~4 hours to get to Yosemite and we only had Saturday and Sunday to explore the parks---so I was a bit bummed about the late start.
But, at least our snack bag game was solid!
It’s peak season in Yosemite, because the snowfall is meltin’ and the waterfalls are flowin’!
The closest hotel we could find was over an hour away in Mariposa. As we got about ~1 hour outside of the parks, there were electronic signs saying: “YOSEMITE VALLEY PARKING LOTS FULL. EXPECT 3 HOUR DELAYS.”
The signs did not deter! We wouldn’t be arriving until ~5ish, so maybe some people will have left by then? In the meantime, the scenery was sweet and our snack bags are doin’ their jobs.
We got to the national park gate and there wasn’t a line of cars which felt like a positive sign. And, the nice park employee (who vaaaaguely resembled my sis) informed us that the 3 hour delay was over.
We still encountered some traffic, but the scenery just outside Yosemite Valley is really sweet!
Once we finally parked and walked around, the time was ~6 and the sun was going down. We were in awe.
Jay is super afraid of wild animals, (as well he should be) and we talked a lot about bear survival skills on the ride there. So, it was hilarious seeing him geek out over this deer who strolled right past us!
We continued to explore the valley and I was snapping pics of Yosemite Falls, with a small pond and some nice reflections.
Two men approached. “That’s a great photography spot, are you guys staying for the moonbow later?”
Has anyone ever heard of a moonbow? Not me.
“A moonbow” he explained, “is a rare phenomenon when a ~full moon is in the exact angle and illuminates a rainbow in the mist of a waterfall. And, this just so happens to be one of the best and only nights of the year for it.”
Apparently, the moonbow was starting at 11:30 pm and all these photographers camp out hours beforehand to get a good spot to snap the bow.
We had 3 hours to kill, but Jay and I decided to dig in and go for it. What are the chances we came on this particular day!? Can you say 'serendipity?'
The weather was going to be in the 30s, and we had warm clothes, but we needed to replenish our snack bags. I dropped Jay off at the Yosemite Village Store to get supplies and we agreed to meet where we saw the deer crossing.
I set up my tripod right next to the pro photographers, who had multiple cameras and were well prepared for the night. Got my shot lined up!
After a while, I was thinking it would be smart to put my snacks back in the car, so as not to attract any new bear friends. I ran to my car and I realized....
Whoa...it is PITCH BLACK.
And, where is Jay!?
I started to get worried. The Village Store was only a 10 minute walk and Jay had been gone for 45 minutes to an hour. I get no cell service in Yosemite Valley, so we can't communicate. His phone battery was almost dead and he doesn't have a flashlight…
So, I hopped in my car quick and drove to the Village Store. No sign of Jay. And, now that it was so dark, the route from the Store to our meeting point was indeed confusing!
Panic started to set in. I tried to stay calm, as I packed up my camera gear and got ready to search. I told the photographers “If a tall Puerto Rican guy named Jay comes around looking for his friend, keep him here!”
For the next 2 hours, I drove back and forth from the Village Store, to the meeting point, around the Valley, searching, trying to stay calm...asking people "if they saw any tall Puerto Ricans", telling them to detain him if they do.
I wasn’t worried that he was going to die in the woods, although it was going to be ~30 degrees that night. I was a little worried that somehow the sick and twisted universe was going to introduce him to a family of bears!
My mind was playing tricks on me.
I went through a range of emotions. I was momentarily mad that I would be missing the moonbow! Then, I realized how selfish that line of thinking was, when my friend was lost out in the cold, dark wilderness with no light!
He had warm clothes and snacks. But, how we were going to find each other, with no cell service, and given that our hotel was over an hour away and it was pitch black!?!?!
I tried going to the Yosemite Lodge to get wifi, thinking, maybe he texted me (Unlike me, he got a weak signal in the Valley). But, the Lodge couldn’t give me wifi unless I was a hotel guest. BLURG!
I spoke to Park Rangers, Bus Workers, etc. Most of them seemed fairly annoyed, condescendingly telling me to just go back to the meeting spot and wait. Yeaaaaaaa, I don't think you know my friend Jay and his familiarity with the outdoors. Homeboy needs a search party, pronto!
At this point, it had been almost 3 hours. My last resort, was driving back to Mariposa, and seeing if he was at the hotel. Maybe he hitchhiked there? But, that seemed like such a risky prop, as it was an hour away. I didn’t want to abandon him in the Valley if he was wandering.
I drove around the Valley one last time. Almoooost turned onto the road back to the hotel. But, I stopped at our meeting point, and it was just about 11:30. I asked the photographers: “Has the moonbow started yet? Have you seen Puerto Rican Jay?"
Out of the dark, I hear a voice: “Matt? Matt Sherwood?”
I look over, and Jay is sitting down right there, all bundled up.
We looked at each other and I cannot describe the feeling. I wanted to punch him!!! Out of brotherly love and frustration, of course. But, we just mumbled obscenities to each other and gave each other a big ole bear hug. #punintended
We hopped in my car and Jay said, "Hey I got those snacks!" as he pulled out a steak sandwich, and a bunch of other eats, which I couldn’t even stomach because the fear and adrenaline were coursing through my veins and overpowering any normal bodily functions.
After trading several, “You have no idea what I've been through's", we decided to pull out the tripod and go try and catch some moonbow action. It was exactly the right time for the moonbow to start!
After all that madness, we did NOT miss the moonbow! Got some cool snaps and headed back to our hotel, where we couldn’t sleep until the adrenaline sent us crashing back down to Earth.
Want to see what a moonbow looks like?
Welcome to Yosemite National Park! Day 1, done. At least on Day 2, there’s no way we could top this madness, right?