Deep in the heart of the Yosemite mountains is the caracass of a plane that once carried 6000 pounds of Mexican weed from a drug smuggling operation gone wrong.
In 1977, the climbing culture in Yosemite National Park was one of wild parties, acid consumption, mad toking and transient, intrepid sorts taking on some of the most difficult climbs in the world. They were termed “untraditional visitors” by park officials and “Stonemasters” by others.
Derived from the San Fransisco beatniks, these former city dwellers wanted a life steeped in nature and nonconformity so they lived in tents and cars, created climbing gear and hunted for food.
One winter in 1977, two hotel employees from a nearby resort were snowshoeing on a mountain trail. They went off course and came upon a path leading to Lower Merced Pass Lake. The men noticed something strange jutting out of the water, on closer investigation they saw a plane wing and then a submerged plane. Too high on acid to further search the site, the duo instead went to inform rangers of their discovery.
While the rangers discussed this over the radio, an employee of the park’s radio station, and girlfriend of a Stonemaster overheard. She tattled to her boyfriend who gathered a group of climbers and together they made their way to the crash site in the dead of winter.
They didn’t expect to find what they did. Weed, lots and lots of it. The cargo was frozen and submerged in the ice so the climbers started hacking away with pick axes to retrieve their bounty.
Word spread like wildfire and so began the Yosemite Gold Rush of ’77. Hundreds of hippies and dirtbags came up from all parts of the states with scuba equipment and chainsaws to dive into the wreckage. To their amazement, they managed to pull out 6000 pounds of weed.
The weed wasn’t perfect though, it had been soaked in airplane fuel and you knew when you were smoking a Yosemite stash when it singed off your eyebrows upon lighting it.
The sad part of this story is the loss of lives. As stated in a piece by Greg Nichols in Men’s Journal, the casualties were a pilot and one passenger. Jon Glisky was a Vietnam helicopter pilot turned drug dealer who left behind a wife and child. Jeff Nelson, the only passenger on the flight was a colleague of Glisky’s.
Almost a month after the crash the plane had been stripped of its green treasure, the DEA finally investigated and began the process of surveying what was left. Included in that effort was the recovery of the bodies of Glisky and Nelson, who no-one had thought to pull out of the lake.
According to an article by All Day,
“While no one knows just how much money the lucky climbers made thanks to their big discovery, it’s rumored that some were able to buy houses, cars, and live for up to a decade off the money they earned peddled duffle bags full of weed to California hippies in Los Angeles and San Francisco.”