Above 10,000 feet.
The constant attack of the mosquitoes convinced us to move on quickly. We found the trail and began our walkabout through a lush forest with tall pines and strange foliage that I’ve never seen before. The deer watched us from a distance, leery of our presence. Often, we would only see the white bushy tail of one in retreat. We would emerge from the forest and begin the real descent to the Tuolumne River below. The steep switchbacks consisted of boulders and scree that moved beneath your feet and the hiking poles came in very handy. In places, a slip would result in a fatal drop. Of course I didn’t tell Mary this. By the end of the day, we would experience over 4,000 ft of elevation change.
As we made our way down, I looked at the path that the trail followed on the map and noticed the steep ascent on the other side of the river. The terrain flattened out in the valley, at this point we had done over 7 miles and I was feeling it. The bouldering to get down to the last lake drained my energy like an old rechargeable battery. We stopped by the river for lunch. Hmm, what to eat today? Tuna? It was good to eat something, but an IV drip of 5% glucose probably would have been better.
The next couple of hours consisted of steep switchbacks up to the Tuolumne Pass. The views at the top were probably the best yet. That’s the neat thing about Yosemite, the next view always seems to be more scenic. The guys were patient with me as I trudged up the trail. At times, the trail consisted of large rocks or small boulders that you picked your way over or around. Hoping for level ground, we seemed to hit it around 10,000 ft. This is where we would also see the only other person today. This guy had already hiked 12 miles and had another 7-8 to go. Something else happened up here that was cool-cell phone reception. Not sure how, I just know we had it because my phone started beeping. Thinking that it was powered off, it must have gotten turned on by the jostling in my pack. I was able to send/receive a few messages to Mary before losing reception. God is good, he allowed the three of us to call or text our loved ones. After 3-4 days, it was a luxury of sorts. We came upon a fat furry creature, half beaver, half rodent and it seemed to ignore us. Wanting to get a closer look, I was reminded of the scene in the movie “Elf” where the raccoon hissed at Buddy and jumped on his face. I think it was a marmot and am not sure what they eat, but it was plump.
Although tired, the terrain was too high for us to establish a campsite. We had to get down below 9,600 ft. We would also be running low on water, so we needed to find some before it got dark. As we entered the pass, we saw a large pond with a snow pack on the other end. I got out the water filter and raced over. It was disappointing; the water was kind of stagnant and had lots of algae. I kept moving closer to the snow until I was almost on top of it. Hopefully, the water filter could take care of any microbes in this pond. It was getting noticeably colder up here and we were losing daylight fast. We needed to descend and find a campsite before dark. It’s no fun trying to find a campsite in the dark.
Next: Where’s the hiker shuttle?