When Paul Vasquez shot video of a double rainbow over Yosemite National Park, he already knew it was going to be huge. I guess you already knew that, if you watched his emotional reaction on YouTube. This weekend, Jimmy Kimmel linked to the video on Twitter, and it's already spread to over a million viewers and inspired several remixes and parodies.

"It wasn't a big surprise to me," he tells me. Before this video in January, Paul, also known as Hungry Bear and Yosemitebear, had uploaded over 250 videos of his life ten miles from Yosemite National Park, his stint as a cagefighter, his small business breeding Queensland Heeler puppies, the young visitors to his organic farm, and several rainbows in Yosemite. He wondered, he says, "When am I gonna go viral?"

He nearly had, in 2008, when he visited the Jimmy Kimmel show and Jimmy declared Bear was his boyfriend.

Here, let's watch that clip before we continue this massive report on a massively cool mountain man.



Yosemitebear's History

Other than that brief appearance, Yosemitebear wasn't anyone famous. He was, of course, already someone special. After a few years as a firefighter in LA, Bear was shaken by the early death of his father in 1985, and he moved to Yosemite at the age of 22.


He met a woman descended from the original inhabitants of the Yosemite Valley, whose mother had been born there. They married and had two children. "We divorced almost 15 years ago," he says, "but we still live close and I have an amazing relationship with my children."

From '85 to '94, Bear worked in Yosemite, buying his own land in '88 and building his own farm. From '94 to '04 he drove trucks long-haul, but he had to quit because of his obesity. To work on his health, he trained to be a cagefighter. Bear, at 465 lbs, lost to a 6'8" 425-lb fighter but got him down at least once during the fight. "The thing was five days before my fight I tore my rotator cuff and my left arm didn't work so I fought this giant with basically one arm tied behind my back. I had a blast, there was absolutely no fear what so ever. I got inside his head and told him it should be fun and wore a Yosemite Indian Tee Shirt, and he respected me for fighting him and it was fun."


Since then, Bear's dropped 200 pounds. He's also met his soul mate, he says, a woman named Sage who hung out with him during our interview.

Bear's Current Life


Bear, his kids, his girlfriend and his ex-wife all participate in the "whole thriving culture" of Indian ceremonies and outdoor life. I asked him if there's something special about Yosemite, or if he just appreciates the majesty in any surrounding. He credits Yosemite, a place so incredible it was the first to inspire the U.S. government to set land aside for preservation, and it became the first national park. And preservation has kept it the most amazing place in the country. "When friends come here, they can feel the vibrations." Paul makes his living through the dog breeding and photography.

Bear has constant visitors at his farm. Workers come through the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms program, and other visitors come through Bear's couchsurfing page.

So if you want to meet Yosemitebear, that's your best chance – as long as you wow him. He says he already got ten visit requests each week before his video made him famous, and last year he hosted over a hundred people from thirty countries.


Yosemitebear's First Week of Fame

And then a friend of Jimmy Kimmel's found this video that Bear made in January.

Bear wasn't high, by the way. It was just an intense experience. "You could feel the rays, like from the sun or from a heat lamp, only it was rainbow rays. It knocked me down. And that's why I had that reaction! The camera only captures 40% of the color. You can't imagine how intense it was.

"It looked like God's eye looking at me. That's why I had that reaction, why I said 'What does this mean?'" It felt like a sign to Bear, who compares his farm to Noah's Ark. (Paul raises chickens, turkeys hatched from wild eggs, breeds puppies, and cares for 25 fruit trees and three greenhouses.)

"When am I gonna go viral?" I'm used to hearing that from the makers of mediocre web shows. But I was glad to see that Bear has no agenda he's pushing. He won't even run ads on the video, though YouTube has offered the option. "I'm not opposed to making money, I just don't want to degrade it or disrespect it," he says. "This was given to me by the creator, and it's a sacred thing, and you don't mess up something just for money. I don't have very much money – that's probably why – but this is why these things come to me."

He's thrilled about people's reactions to the video: "I love people telling me that it made their day, that it made them feel good. It's not about me. I've always told people that the universe flows through me. I'm just a vessel."

He also likes the remixes and reactions that have come in, though he says he has a whole personal rating system for video responses. "If they have some creativity, I'll let it stay there [as a response video], if there's a little more work I'll comment on it." He only likes and favorites the best. His favorites so far are the two Auto-Tune versions of the video.

This first one, named Auto-Tune the Rainbow, came very early after the Kimmel tweet, and that quick turnaround earned it nearly 50 thousand views so far:

The second is by the Gregory Brothers, creators of Auto-Tune the News, and it ends with the band singing in beautiful natural harmony:

Bear's happily giving interviews, but he doesn't seem particularly hungry to chase the attention. His girlfriend prompts him to tell me about the one way he might capitalize on this: He's been thinking about giving tours of Yosemite. Sage says, "Every time we go there, he shows me some new beauty, because he knows so much about these places that no one else does." She says he has a bigger picture of the area because he's connected to the culture and the land.

After all, he says, no one should come to Yosemite without a plan. "It's so popular and regulated that you can't just come here. You have to have everything set up ahead of time." So when I finally run away to the mountains, I'll ask Bear for some help.

One last treat: While Bear wasn't high in the famous rainbow video, he says he and his son were totally high in this one:

Man, I hope he and his son made it to that thing.