April 26, 2011

We Are Men Who Reek: Justin's Bachelor Party Revealed

As I write this, sitting here in my go-to mega chain coffee shop, it's not hard to notice that people are staring. The table's central location, just a few feet from the register, makes their gestures (the pointing, the covering of their mouths with their hands) and their actions (the complaining to management, the projectile vomiting) that much more obvious.

And I suppose it's in this precise moment when I realize that it's me. I'm the nuisance. Every item of clothing that I'm wearing reeks of campfire. The pores on my skin seep smoke and sauteed onions, overcooked sausages and pure sweat. It's been two days since Justin's camping-inspired bachelor party, and I haven't showered. The stench is so unbearable it's almost impractical; the Starbucks customers are beginning to think that they are the ones who smell and that I, in fact, am the only pleasant-smelling one among us. It's the only rational explanation.

[click photos to enlarge]

The festivities began on Friday, when we stocked the van with two cases of beer, two coolers full of beer, beer wrapped in blankets, and a set of jumper cables. We, amateur group of genuine bad-asses, headed north to an undisclosed occasion, carried on a discussion about hover boards for longer than I can recall, and pretended -- 4-1/2 hours into the trip -- that the countless signs for Yosemite did not exist.

Surprise, Justin!

From left to right: yours truly, Groom Justin, Co-Best Man Odin and fellow groom James

After another five hours of making our mothers proud and photographing ourselves around a national park entrance sign, we shot over to the Mariposa Grove, home to a bunch of giant trees and giant logs and all other things giant.

Notice how the Mariposa map display at the trailhead, typically at eye level, is buried in four feet of snow.

This mock sword fighting moment is hilarious; even more hilarious was the moment after when I fell into the icy water below.

We sought out the "Upper Grove of Sequoias" and the Museum at the end of the Outer Loop trail but could not find either one. (Later we learned that the museum was completely buried in snow. Perhaps that piece of information was on one of the displays engulfed in snow at the trailhead.) So we abandoned the search and started climbing boulders, as real men are prone to do.

That evening we stopped at Yosemite's Ahwahnee Bar (part, of course, of the ornate Ahwahnee Hotel, a not-too-distant cousin of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining) where a sizable surprise was awaiting our groom. Justin's longtime friend Matt had flown in from Baltimore, rented a car in San Fran, drove five or so hours and met up with us the Ahwahnee. He propped a menu in front of his face and sat at the table beside ours, waiting for the perfect moment to reveal himself. It couldn't have worked out better.

The fifth and newest member of our gang stares down a fish

With Matt on board, we ditched the suffocatingly woody Ahwahnee Hotel and found our campsite at Hodgdon Meadow. In pitch black and a light rain, we set up our tents, unpacked our cars, loaded up the bear-proof food locker and cooked a solid meal. We crawled into our sleeping bags in several layers of clothing and rocked ourselves to sleep.

The following morning we set out for the Upper Yosemite Falls (the tallest waterfall in the U.S. at 2,425 ft), a strenuous multi-hour hike with some of the most amazing views of mother nature. We stopped for lunch atop a stretch of rocks about a mile up and then continued on, taunted by spectacular views of the falls all along the trail.

From top to bottom: lunch with a view, sights from the hike, and Odin recreating the "Lower Falls"

And after 3.2 miles of steep uphill climbing, debating whether or not to "go on," and trudging through both mud and snow, we arrived at the peak -- the Yosemite Falls Overlook -- and took in our accomplishment.

Matt left us that evening just before midnight (he drove through the night to catch his plane back to Baltimore), but we had one more manly activity planned for the following morning: Target Practice.

We ventured into the wilderness and set up a shooting range of shoots using three quintessential enemy targets, including a Nazi zombie and the shark from Jaws. Justin and comrades were asked to choose a weapon (either a slingshot with pine cones or a throwing knife) and move from target to target. I'm proud to announce that I was the victor that morning, driving a particular prickly pine cone into our third target, a photograph of Michael Bay.

Kill shot

And that was the close of our weekend, save the hour and a half drive through dense, zero visibility Yosemite fog and the five hour drive back to Los Angeles. We were sore, we smelled like burnt logs, and Odin may very well have punctured a lung; but we were reborn in some way. Redefined. Three days in the earth, in the dirt, in the rain and snow, building campfires from starter logs and NewCastle summer ale cartons -- we were men, in the truest sense of the word. And Justin was returned home, unscathed. All in all, it was a success.

I think Beckett put it best in Waiting for Godot: 

Who are you?

We are men.


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Photos by Brian Leahy for Joanna Wilson Photography


  1. Beer, beer, beer, and jumper cables...epic!

  2. I actually HAVE showered. Twice. And while the scent indeed remains, the sweat smell of bachelor (frozen mud-beer-sausage-onion-bean-smoked sweat) is slowly fading. Methinks by the wedding in August it will be all gone. But the memories and the pictures of me smelling radio active moss will always remain. Thank you, shel.