I'm still here at Tom's place in Kennedy Meadows today, just resting and repacking in anticipation of big climbs and long stretches into the Sierras today. The general store here is a deadly place with lots of goodies (Ben and Jerry's anyone?), a small grill, a laundry, and the ability to keep a tab open for days at a time. Scary.
Its also the place where everyone receives their bear vaults, a cumbersome necessity that is required inside Yosemite National Park. These are heavy plastic canisters, about a foot tall with a screw on lid that are supposedly bear proof which, in theory, are meant to hold any scented items that may attract animals. In practice, this is easier said than done; everything must be repackaged, shoved, crushed and twisted to make sure all the space is used. Then, the whole unwieldy contraption has to be strapped onto your pack, making it top-heavy and unbalanced. We all groan about the inconvenience and generally try and put off the event, but ultimately it is for the best. Aside from the peace of mind about not having your food source snatched by a food-crazed ursine, it also sets a good example for the day hikers out there, and in the long run keeps the bear safe. Problem bears who get too used to human food and harass the people visiting the park are often relocated, but sometimes put down. Its a huge pain to reconfigure ones pack, especially considering that many of us are carrying 9 or more days worth of food, but the fines for noncompliance are stiff and can include having your thru-hiking permit revoked.
Therein lies a bone of contention amongst some of the hikers here. The fact that we have to have a piece of paper in order to walk across the country is somewhat infuriating; one can drive anywhere without needing a specific permit, and thru-hikers are by far the most minor offenders as far as littering is concerned, but we can still be kicked off the trail without a permit. Oh well.