Where’s the Hiker Shuttle?
Hoofing up the Tioga Road.
Waking up the next morning it was good to see that the gophers did not have their way with our backpacks. Surprisingly, we didn’t have any problems with vermin getting into our stuff all week. normally, you hear about bears or some other critter ripping through or stealing your stuff. One ranger told us to wedge our bearcans between rocks so that the bears wouldn’t roll them down the hill and off a cliff to crack open the contents. Here again, my imagination took off and I could see Yogi and BooBoo walking upright, carrying our food away during the night. We were to learn later that some people put reflective tape on their bearcans to find them in the dark after the bears moved them.
After the standard breakfast of oatmeal, energy bar, coffee I searched out today’s spot for the loo. Usually, I would look for a large tree or collection of rocks to hide behind. I can only imagine how embarrassing it would be if you picked a spot that just happened to be in plain view of a trail. Well, maybe not. Since everyone else this far out experiences the same challenges, you probably wouldn’t give it much thought. I found a fallen tree with soft ground – perfect. What would I do if a rattler came up on me? Naaah! By the end of this trip, we all became proficient at digging catholes. Cathole- google that one…..
Gopher hole campsite
Today would be our last day of hiking and it would be mostly downhill. Our 5 day route took us in a roughly inverted U shape route where we would come out near Tenaya Lake, about 10 miles east from where the car was. We had a schedule for the hiker’s shuttle which made only one daily run the Tioga Road and into the Yosemite Valley. We only had about 7-8 miles to go, so we could easily make the shuttle. The descent was steady with a few switchbacks and passed through mostly forested areas. At times, the trail would be lined with ferns and wild lilies. Nearing Tenaya Lake, the day hikers were heading to their destinations like they were on a Sunday stroll. I felt like a pro with my 35 lb pack and 5 days of trail dust on me. of course, the previous week I was one of those daytrippers. We crossed vast slabs of granite which were outlined with cairns (piles of rocks). To think that someone took the time to mark the trail this way – how nice.
We came out on Tioga Road and made our way to the nearest shuttle stop. There is a series of shuttle stops during the summer between Tuolumne Visitor Center and Olmstead Point. We asked the driver if she could take us where the hiker shuttle would stop and away we went. The riders on the shuttle seemed squeaky clean in their sneakers and shorts. We probably looked and smelled like homeless people. We got off the shuttle at Olmstead and waited for the bus. We went out on the point and got a great view of Clouds Rest, one of the higher summits in the park. We had lunch and went back to the road where the hiker bus later zoomed past without slowing down. The shuttle driver had given us bum gouge, the bus does not stop here. With the only bus of the day gone, we began a 10 mile walk toward the car along the Tioga Road. Oh well, this was the only mishap of the trip. It was a warm day, like 75-80 degrees and the walk along the road with its steep inclines was tough. After a few miles, we found a pond, refilled our water and rested. Hiking another 7 miles, while possible was not going to be easy on top of the mileage we had walked today. The road had narrow shoulders, curves and was really not safe for pedestrians. Hitching back to the car was tough since there were three of us and no place for cars to pull over. Then Joe came up with the best idea ever.
“I’ll run get the car” he says. I’m like ok, you crazy Marine, you do that. Sure enough, he grabs his Nalgene and starts running west on the Tioga Road. He was my hero. I went back to the area near the pond, pulled out my sleeping pad and proceeded to take a nap on a bolder. This was fine until something woke me up, a weird tickle. I sat up and brushed off a strange millipede-praying mantis-ant looking thing. It was hard to take a nap with critters like that crawling around, so I packed my stuff and headed up to the parking lot to await our ride. After a couple of hours, we were starting to wonder where Joe was. After all, a 7 mile run on the Tioga Road should only take a Marine like – what – one hour? He did show up about an hour later and admitted that the hills did him in.
We looked for one last campground on the map and found one about a mile off the road. Yes, we hiked another mile so that we could camp and have a fire. I was halfway joking when I offered to buy a hotel room for the night. The thought of a hot shower and real bed was heavenly. We found a relatively flat area a hundred yards or so from a creek and settled in. The pork-n-beans cooked in the can were the best ever. I remember turning in early and hearing the guys get spooked by a deer that decided to walk through the middle of our camp while they were sitting around the fire.
The last day, we drove down into Yosemite Valley and turned our bearcans in at the ranger station. It was strange to be around so many people. After only 5 days of being away from civilization, you start to change. I think that it’s because you adapt to the environment. No cars or modern conveniences, and lots of peace and quiet. No, I’m not a tree hugger, but do have an appreciation for the amazing beauty. I honestly believe that the Lord created places like this for us to enjoy. We must be good stewards and protect these parks. I believe the Sierras are like no other place on earth. John Muir said it best: ” The mountains are calling and I must go.” This is an amazing place that forever has a place in my heart.
Next: Raising the Bar