This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
We take the Devil’s Postpile detour from Red’s Meadow, heading past day hikers to the rock formation. Then, we are back on the trail. I’m hot and tired and it is easy to lay my Z light by a fallen tree and nap for a few hours. Then, I am racing to catch my friends back up, through the lupine and cow parsnip, across the mosquito filled meadows. I find them high on a ridge and set up my bug net as the sun goes down.
I get a head start in the morning, climbing up towards Donahue Pass and ten thousand island lake. I stop at a ridge with the view of the minarets and wait for everyone. It is Canada day and the two Canadians in our group are celebrating. Everyone sports Canada tattoos, and Shake’nBake wears a Canadian flag like a cape. We head up to the pass, sipping Canadian Rye. People shoot funny looks at us, until we start wishing them happy Canada day. And then we are up, eating dinner at the crest of the pass while a marmot sneaks closer and closer, to try and steal a bite. We lose the trail after a snow field. We see our friends far below, scrambling and down climbing a steep cliff face. This doesn’t seem right. I check the maps- the trail curved just a few hundred metres back. We back track, picking up some weekend hikers, and bushwhack until we find the path. We drop down to meet our friends by an Alpine lake. In the morning, we are running for Tuolumne Meadows and a connection with Yosemite Valley. I lag behind on the steep downhill, getting more and more frustrated with my pace. Then we hit Lyle Canyon floor and I am flying, passing my friends. No one can catch me, until we hit Tuolumne and its tourists. We gawk, like we are at the zoo. Then we are hitching down to the valley. Traffic is bad, so our hitch drops us five miles from the backpackers campsite. We shrug and walk. Five miles is nothing now and the scenery is stunning. The JMTers leave from Yosemite, and there are plenty of people here who have obviously never been camping before in their life. Here starts our brush with karma. We watch a couple struggling to set up their tent, suppressing giggles. We joke about making bear noises when a ranger comes around warning of recent bear activity, so we can scare the baby campers. It comes back to bite me in the middle of the night. A rustle in my backpack- the pop tarts I forgot to put in the bear locker! It is a raccoon, my arch nemesis on the trail. We hiss and it scuttles off, and I clean up the pop tarts. Everyone else is lazy in the morning, but I am up early and ready to hike. I catch the shuttle to Yosemite falls and beat the rush. Then, a longer hike to Vernal and Nevada falls. I pass day hikers like they are standing still- no back pack and lower elevation doing wonders for my legs. I come down the JMT, sharing encouragement and info about the passes. One girl is incredulous that I want to go hiking on my day off. I don’t warn her that she’ll feel the same in just a few short weeks.
It is a hard hitch back to Tuolumne. We watch hundreds of tourists drive past- no one wants to pick up smelly hikers. Finally, we get back to the trail and our home.
We hike down to the river. I wade across with my shoes on as always and wait on the other side as the others try to find a dry way across. I miss it as they have a misadventure with a log and a waterfall and Shake’nBake walks up soaked to his chest. We’ve been taking it in turns to fall into rivers lately.
We finish out the little passes- Benson first, and Sevey the next day. There is no snow, but they still exhaust us. We sail over Dorothy Pass and out of Yosemite, and hit one thousand miles at noon. I packed out Scotch for the occasion and we sit and sip it under the pines. Then we climb high, up towards Sonora pass. We camp on a ridge, cowboying for the first time in a while. An owl swoops low overhead, silent until he is past us and we hear a whoosh.
Sonora in the morning is one sketchy snow field after another. I opt to scramble around one, and then another, slipping on the loose rock. And then we are safe but shaken, left rattled by the scariest pass. We catch a ride with a woman to Northern Kennedy Meadows to resupply, and then we are back on the trail, running for Canada.The trail hurls us up and over ridges, then down into valleys over and over again. We are lower than the high passes now, but we still have as much elevation gain. Water begins to dry up as we move worth- we see dry creek beds again, and gradually the landscape changes, until we come over an iris dotted pass and see Lake Tahoe below.