The Camp 4 Experience

Climbers Mark and Anders gear up for the Nose on El Capitan

I rolled into Yosemite Valley late in the afternoon on a Monday in May. Three weeks before the Memorial Day Weekend rush the national park seemed almost vacant. Bluebird skies and warm temperatures made for great camping weather. And even though a friend offered me a bed for the night I headed over to Camp 4.

Not far from the park exit Camp 4 is a uniquely Yosemite experience. Made popular through the 60s and 70s this patch of earth is home to the many rock climbers who come to the Valley from around the world to ascend its high granite walls. For just $5 per person each night you can pitch a tent within a short trek to the base of El Capitan. There you can surround yourself with an eclectic mix of people like you who love adventure. And while 5-star luxury accommodations are available at the Ahwahnee Hotel Camp 4 caters to the bargain basement crowd just looking for a place to crash. So if you’re a dirtbag on a budget, here are a few simple suggestions to help maximize your time in the nylon ghetto.

1) Beware the bears: The morning after I arrived the car parked next to the Joy Ride was mauled by at least two bears. Paw prints on the doors looked like those of a mama bear and her cub. Sometime during the night they pried open all the doors and pulled out much of the car’s weather stripping. As long as you keep all the food and any items with an odor you should be safe. Each campsite offers a secure cast iron box for safe food storage. Use it! Unfortunately this mangled vehicle had a plastic container full fruit on back seat. The rest as they say was history. =>; Bear Food Storage


2) Show up early: Camp 4 usually sells out of sites every day during the summer. Frankly I lucked out. The ranger kiosk opens at 8:30 in the morning. But those hoping to camp arrive as early as 6AM! Last summer I was number 45 in the line at 7 in the morning and by the time I paid my dues for the night there were only 5 spots left.

3) Make Friends with strangers: There’s a good chance you’ll share a site with another party of campers. Living in close quarters is much easier when you’re open to sharing. Just saying hi or the gift of a smile goes a long way toward building rapport. Before you know it you’ll be sharing stories around the campfire over beers and a bag of chips.

4) Bring a bike: More of a guideline than a rule having a bicycle in Yosemite is a great way to get around. I drove out with a bike knowing I’d use it every day. Everything is close enough to walk but Curry Village according to the signs is 2.6 miles from Camp 4. And if you’re temped to drive parking, especially at peak season can be a nightmare. The park offers bike rentals for $28 a day. A bit pricy, but it’s an option.

5) Free WiFi: I confess that I enjoy staying connected even when camping. Cell reception in Camp 4 is actually pretty good. But Internet connections on my iPhone are spotty at best. Fortunately Yosemite Lodge at the Falls directly across the highway has free wireless access. That’s not true at other hotspots around the park that usually charge some kind of fee. At this very moment I’m set up at the food court with full connectivity, an outlet to plug-in to and a cup of hot tea.

I’ve made Camp 4 my Yosemite home base for years. Here is where I became friends with world-class climbers like Timmy O’Neill, Cedar Wright and Ron Kauk. It’s not uncommon to meet up with other greats like Alex Honnold, Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk and Tommy Caldwell. At its core Camp 4 is an international community where people who share a passion for the outdoors gather to experience the Valley not as tourists but members of a great collective where everyone is welcome.
If you’ve got some tips or suggestions on how to enjoy your time in Yosemite I’d love to hear them! Post your comments here or drop me an email at info@joytripproject.com
Go be Joyful!

The Joy Trip Project is made possible with the support sponsors Patagonia, Rayovac and the New Belgium Brewing Company

 

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Author:James

I'm a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

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