YOSEMITE SUMMER: Lexus Rescue

This and several upcoming blog posts are about my recent month long visit to California and experiences in Yosemite National Park, where I served as a park volunteer.

July 6

Yesterday, after completing the 15-mile Clouds Rest hike, I thought I had the biggest news of the day. Not so.

Susan, a volunteer who has hiked most of Yosemite’s trails, wanted a new challenge. She got one. She had driven down Tioga Road to 395 South and then on a 4-mile rough road to hike the June Lake North Loop. Eager to begin her new adventure, she hit the car lock button on the driver’s side door, hopped out, and shut the door. As the door left her finger tips, she suddenly realized she had left her car keys (along with all the important personal possessions she had brought to Yosemite) INSIDE THE CAR. Her new-found adventure proved to be trying to restore the status quo rather than striking out on a new trail.

Susan walked 15 minutes up the trail and met two women, a mother and her daughter, coming off the trail. The women kindly offered to take Susan to the June Lakes Shell station. When Susan got there, she was told the Lee Vining Shell would have to help. That station offers AAA towing service.

When the tow truck arrived, the employee drove Susan to her car. The employee made a valiant effort, but he was unable to open the car. Susan would have to contact Lexus for information on how to access her car.

"Social hour" at the Mobil

“Social hour” at the Mobil

Meanwhile, the employee kindly took Susan to the Lee Vining Mobil, where she expected volunteers to come for dinner. She could catch a ride with them, she said. They always had dinner there every Sunday night. Well, almost every Sunday night. Not this Sunday night.

She then tried phoning two of the volunteers. Good luck with that. Cell phone service in Tuolumne Meadows is spotty at best. Time to put out the hitchhiker’s thumb. Humbled by multiple drivers avoiding eye contact with her, Susan finally caught a ride with the fifth prospect. About 6:30, she dejectedly hobbled into camp with her story.

Her fellow campers’ suggestions focused primarily on breaking one of the windows to gain access. Ultimately, everyone agreed she should try to reach Lexus for assistance. All of us thought she might have to have the car towed to Bishop, CA, or Reno, NV.

Fun times and a rainbow at the Mobil

Fun times and a rainbow at the Mobil

After numerous efforts to reach Lexus, she finally reached a representative who told her she might be able to open the car trunk by pushing a button on the rear bumper. If that did not work, the Reno Lexus dealership, 120 miles away, would have to retrieve the car.

With our fingers crossed, I drove Susan and Woodlee to the Lee Vining Mobil. There, we checked e-mails and cell phone messages before heading to the June Lakes trailhead. Down 395 we went until Susan directed me to the side road leading to the trailhead. I maintained a speed of about 8 mph over the rough road. I did not dare drive any faster.

After about 25 minutes, we finally reached Susan’s car. She approached the rear bumper with a hope and a prayer and VOILA!, the trunk opened. She now had access to all that the day before meant so little to her but now restored her to ready access to the modern world – car keys, credit cards, cash, and prescription medicine.

From there, we hurried back (well, after getting off the 8mph road) to Lee Vining for a celebratory lunch. All was well.

The remainder of the day was pretty uneventful. But restoring Susan’s peace of mind, and her car with the worldly possessions all of us have come to rely on, made for a great day. It’s the type of event that builds cohesion in this talented group of volunteers.

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