High Sierra Adventure
WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF THINGS
The evening ended late and the morning came early. It was hard to sleep thinking about the week ahead. At 2:30 a.m., I found myself driving up the I-15. Traffic was light which was a good thing because after I saw the sign for Fallbrook, the fog was immediately on me and akin to sticking your head into a bag of cotton balls. The WalMart 18 wheeler that suddenly came out of the fog was too close for comfort. I slowed down, turned on the fog lights and prayed for a safe drive. We met at Joe’s house near Winchester and filled the back of his VW wagon with our gear. Now I have an idea what it is like to stuff a sausage. It seemed like we had a lot of food, but you can never have too much, right? The previous night, a fairly large fire had broken out about 50 miles north of Temecula near Riverside, very close to the 15 freeway. We were concerned that we would have to make a huge detour, which would add even more time to a planned 18 hour day. Fortunately, the fire had already burned near the freeway and the northbound lanes were open. We planned on entering Yosemite through the Tioga Pass Rd. with our goal to hike 7-10 miles past the Cathedral Lakes before nightfall. Making our way up the 395 , the sun arose in the Mojave with an amazing spectrum of colors, followed by the gateway to the eastern Sierras. Whoever came up with the word majestic to describe mountains was spot on. They rise on either side of the highway like sentinels guarding the valleys below.
The drive up was uneventful. We entered the Tioga gate to the park, pulled into the Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station and discovered that we arrived on one of the busiest weekends of the year. I’ll put my lesson learned in early for this blog: Don’t go to Yosemite around Labor Day. The line to get the required backcountry permit grew quickly. We found out that we couldn’t get our preferred or alternate trail because the rangers limit the number of hikers on each trail to minimize the damage and allow time for nature to recover.
We did receive a permit to hike the Ten Lakes trail, and it was explained that not many people venture up that way and that fishing was good with awesome views. When the ranger asked who was signing for the permit, I told the guys ” Papa John has this one fellas.” We rented our mandatory bear cans, (bear cans, not beer cans) and received the exciting brief from the ranger on pooping in the woods as well as being good stewards of the pristine wilderness. The ranger reminded me of the dude with glasses from Ghost Busters. As we carried our bear cans back to the car, we saw a sight that scared us. A guy was changing his clothes in the parking lot behind his car, naked as a jaybird. That wasn’t the worst of it; I think this guy missed the lesson on pooping in the woods, because he had the streak of Montezuma’s Revenge down the backside of his legs. That sight stuck with me more than the worst scene from any horror movie that I’ve ever seen. It reminded me that my 1st Aid kit had about 10 Immodium tablets. The ranger’s lesson on pooping in the woods was invaluable.
We found the parking area for the trailhead and began packing our food into the bear cans. They sure seemed big until you had to stuff 5 days of food into them. The Marines showed me how to “field strip” the meals ready to eat (MRE) to shrink their size and I chuckled when I saw the mini toilet paper and Chic-lets gum. I kept them both. The bear can was cumbersome and I crammed it in my pack along with the rest of what would become my life for the week into my German-made ultralight pack. The old saying about cramming 10 lbs of “stuff” into a 5 lb sack was very real now. My pack was so tall that I wouldn’t be able to wear my wide brimmed Aussie hat. Instead, I wore my “Old Guys Rule” cap which would symbolize the trek that lay ahead. We put the excess food into the bear lockers and ensured that there was no trace of food or smell-good stuff in the car, as bears do not respect private property.
Black bear cans in our first camp
We crossed the Tioga Road and made it to the trailhead. I reset my GPS, excited to finally be here. The altitude was 8,300 ft and we had 7-8 miles with about 1,300 ft. of elevation gain. I told my friends – “Let’s do this”
Next blog: I can do this….