Trip Report
Merced 1986
Monday December 18, 2017 8:59pm

Fresh out of my 1st year of college I found myself in Merced. I had missed the last Via bus to the Valley, and didnít have any extra money for a motel. I started out hanging at an all-night diner to kill some time until morning. I would buy something every hour or so. I finally fell asleep in the booth after midnight and was politely asked to leave. I was only eighteen and was a pretty green Kansas boy when it came to dealing with cities and city folk. I walked out onto the streets of Merced with a big backpack and a duffel and headed back to the bus station. I met some guys on the street and they took me back to their motel room where they were living with their girlfriends who were the breadwinners through the oldest profession known to man. I had a couple off beers and got talked into giving them $20 for weed. The pimps took off to buy weed. I was alone with their girls. Needless to say, I felt a little uncomfortable with the situation but ended up spending the night with them anyway. I was cautious and only kissed one of the girls at her request. The pimps never came back. The women one who was pregnant apologized for their pimps taking my $20 and seemed upset with the pimps. I could only shake my head in disbelief at the whole scene. I made it to the bus station and caught the early bus to Yosemite for my summer job.

I was sent to the village hamburger stand for a sanitation janitor position. It wasnít a bad gig as I was able to walk around outside and pick up trash or make rake marks in the dirt next to the village store.

I usually had a one hour lunch break which was plenty of time for a quick jaunt up Indian Canyon or a scramble around Sunnyside Bench. On one of my scrambles up I ended up on the Regular Route. Now at this time I had to have black polishible shoes for work. I had picked up a pair of dress shoes with a leather sole not great for Yosemite scrambles. Anyway I ended up taking a good slide coming back down but stopped before it got to serious. I went back to work a little bloody.

Late one evening after reading Royal Robbins Rock Craft books I found myself at Swan Slab. I started up the 5.6 crack on the right side and felt super solid with the jams and found myself at the top in no time. It was becoming dark and I realized I had made a big mistake. I was fiddle faking around trying to find a way down when a ranger hollers up to ask if I am OK. I reply down to her that I am in a bit of a conundrum. She tells me to stay put and goes to get a rope.
The ranger solos up the Swan Slab Gulley, sets an anchor and belays me as I downclimb the Gulley tied in with a bowline around my waist. I didnít fall.
I thank the ranger after she gives me a short lecture about safety.

In the morning I go to the mountain shop and buy a pair of Boreal Fires so the silliness can really begin in earnest.

  Trip Report Views: 1,055
Jay S
About the Author
Jay S is a mountain climber from Silver Gate, MT


Comments
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zBrown

Ice climber
  Dec 18, 2017 - 09:17pm PT
I sure hope you ran this by MFM for grammatical and historic accuracy.



BTW did the weed have an airplane-fuel-like smell to it?

neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
  Dec 18, 2017 - 09:21pm PT
hey there say, Jay S...

wow, thanks for sharing... as to this quote of yours:

It was becoming dark and I realized I had made a big mistake. I was fiddle faking around trying to find a way down when a ranger hollers up to ask if I am OK. I reply down to her that I am in a bit of a conundrum. She tells me to stay put and goes to get a rope.
The ranger solos up the Swan Slab Gulley, sets an anchor and belays me as I downclimb the Gulley tied in with a bowline around my waist. I didnít fall.
I thank the ranger after she gives me a short lecture about safety.


i LOVE it... :)
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Dec 18, 2017 - 09:40pm PT
The Upper Merced vs the Downer Merced.
What else is there to say?
"Go Climb a Rock."
zBrown

Ice climber
  Dec 18, 2017 - 09:47pm PT


https://ssl.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I0000sNS_iCWTA.o/s/750/750/IMG-0906.jpg
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Dec 18, 2017 - 09:47pm PT
Would you do the same trip today, knowing what you know now?
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Dec 18, 2017 - 10:42pm PT
Fun little read on a monday night. Thanks for the story. I live in Fresno. Not a lot has changed in Merced since '86. Congrats for making it out of that hotel room and off of swan slab alive. Both could've bedn the end for you before it all began.

Scott
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Dec 19, 2017 - 05:00pm PT
Pardon me, Micro.

Much has changed since '86 in Merced.

Ya just don't know.

Newest UC campus, of course...
Metropolitan population was @ 47,000 then, now over 80,000...
Castle AFB, now gone...
Ragu Foods, now gone...
Pistachios are replacing cattle out in the marginal ag lands...
It's still a way better place than Clovis/Fresno...ahem

WTF are you on about?
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
  Dec 19, 2017 - 05:10pm PT
Jay S living life.

Thanks

DMT
originalpmac

Mountain climber
Timbers of Fennario
  Dec 19, 2017 - 05:42pm PT
Nice. When I was 24 I left Yosemite after a 2 month stint that left me penniless. I parted ways with my climbing partner in Tuollumne and hitchhiked down to the valley. I sold a number five Camelot for about 40 bucks in Camp 4 and then had Tom Evans take pity on me in the Cafe and buy me a burger. I spent that night among some baby Pines near the river close to Curry Village, the following morning I began hitchhiking towards Merced. Flight out of San Fran Airport in a couple days was my reason. I left a day ahead of schedule to give me time to make it. I got the Merced late with only enough money for my bus and train ride the following morning. I must have walked a couple miles to make it to a Denny's all-night Diner where I ate all you can eat pancakes about 1 or 2 an hour till around 3 in the morning when I walked to the bus station. Heard a car getting stolen the alarm blaring and then saw it drive by with lights flashing alarm still blaring. I spent that night on a bench at the Amtrak station one hand on a knife the other hand occasionally lighting cigarettes and reading tabloids I found on a trash can. The following morning I woke up to the sound of commuters looking for a place to sit. I got out of my dirty sleeping bag took a half-smoked cigarette out from behind my ear, lit it and packed my stuff and walked off to the side to finish my Camel then bought my ticket and got out of there.
So I can relate to your story though unfortunately did not run into any hookers. Thanks for bringing back some good memories.
scaredycat

Trad climber
Berkeley,CA
  Dec 19, 2017 - 05:43pm PT
Awww. I liked that. Ten+ years before that, I was equally dumb and lucky right around the same spot. Thanks for posting, but yeah, look into fixing up the grammar. Otherwise we might think it's a troll.

ryankelly

climber
Bhumi
  Dec 19, 2017 - 06:28pm PT
That was awesome. Thanks for posting that.

I love all the stories folks tell me that start out in a similar fashion:

"When I first showed up in Yosemite and I was 17..."

How else has true or slightly tall tales like this?
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Dec 19, 2017 - 10:07pm PT
Mouse from Merced I was just kidding around. I have family up around the Merced area so it's fun to poke fun of each other when the opportunity presents itself. Viva la Central Valley!
Jay S

Mountain climber
Silver Gate, Mt
Author's Reply  Dec 19, 2017 - 10:13pm PT
Mouse, there was a little mountaineering shop downtown in Merced in the eighties. What was the name of it? I bought some skis there once.

I had all but forgotten this event then remembered it the other night and thought I should jot it down to help keep the memory alive.

Jay
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
  Dec 20, 2017 - 08:44am PT
That is a wonderful story, thanks for sharing this with us. I think all of us were shaped in profound ways by some of the silly decisions we made in our youth. Such decisions we would never make with more experience, but how would we get that experience any other way? I love these kinds of stories.
Thanks again
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Dec 20, 2017 - 09:02am PT
The shop was not but a half a block down Main Street from where I sit typing. It was Tuttle Outdoor Equipment, run by a local named Mark Tuttle, at one time a YMS guide.

DMT knows Mark pretty well, I think. Mark's back is seriously messed up enough that he doesn't climb any longer. He used to do a lot of climbing with Ron Skelton from El Portal.

Mark sold bicycles and backpacks and camping gear, even some XC skis, as you say. And his TOE label is still going strong...Yerian had him make up a haul bag a while back and his chalk bags are LARGE LARGE.

The shop went by the wayside when Castle AFB was shut down in the nineties.
Tami

Social climber
Canada
  Dec 20, 2017 - 09:15am PT
Sounds like a vignette from a Michael Chabon novel.

Jot down more of it. The story that is. It's a poignant thing to read. As someone above noted it's good you survived it to tell us.

Me, I'm not thinking memories like that are "good" but "cathartic". I think of some of the shxt I got up to and survived and I get a bit of a cold sweat :-D

And for those of you harshing on this person for their grammar? It takes courage to post thoughts like this. Why not muse on the images this writer has given us ? Language is a fluid and dynamic thing.
Cogged

Social climber
Merced, Ca
  Dec 20, 2017 - 02:32pm PT
Thanks for the TR! It was cool to get a little read about what Merced was like for a passerby in the 80s. I left Merced a year ago after four years at the new UC for graduate school. As an Illinois kid moving to Merced, the fact that I was only two hours from the valley, one hour from sport climbing (Jailhouse), and cheap(ish) rent (for Cali)Ö I felt pretty lucky. Once you get down to the essentials Ė close proximity to climbing, nice coffee shop that is connected to a great brew pub, and cheap rent Ė Merced ainít that bad! My only hope is that the new UC will have a positive impact on the local community.
Slym

climber
Merced, CA
  Dec 21, 2017 - 08:22am PT
Great look at the past. Being born-and-raised in Silicon Valley, I can say with certainty that the Central Valley isn't just a "drive by" place any more. Merced's got its quirks, but it's a good spot with an interesting history.

MFM, I still owe you a beer...otherwise I'm all talk. Things just slide what with work, two toddlers, etc...I only got out to climb twice this season.


Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Dec 28, 2017 - 03:50am PT
Interesting story Jay,
Thanks!
Byran

climber
Half Dome Village
  Dec 28, 2017 - 04:54am PT
Some things never change. Yosemite employees and climbers missing the last YARTS and getting stranded in Merced for the night is one of those things.
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