Day: Tuesday, July 12th 2016
Miles: 914.6 – 932.2
Remote Camp 914.6 – Remote Camp 932.2
Waking up to strange noises on the Pacific Crest Trail eventually becomes nothing more than a nuance to your morning routine. Maybe I’ve finally become numbed to the sheer sensory overload of the past few weeks, but the swooning sound I heard this morning barely crossed my mind as I engaged in my morning parambulations. Later however my curiosity was piqued – I eventually identified it as the howls of a dog somewhere distant, I have seemingly lost the ability to even identify a domestic hound on the presumption that its some kind of nefarious beast.
I decamped in a pleasant and refreshing cool and moist atmosphere, the creek and the meadows at this part of the national forest hiding in a shadow that ordinarily would represent a morning condensation disaster zone. Happy that for some reason I survived the dripping mess that befell me at the Kings River site a while back, I hit the trail quietly confident that Lady Luck was on my side.
I entered the Ansel Adams wilderness last night. The late arrival didn’t really match up with the spectacular visuals one ordinarily thinks of in regard to Ansel Adams however that was truly “my bad”. Perhaps a little insensitive of me to arrive in one of the most visually specutacular areas of the Sierra under the cloak of darkness, but as you all seen up to now, I sometimes don’t bow to convention with my contorted logistics.
So it was that I met Nelson and David almost at once when I hit the trail. One fell behind and one jumped ahead almost instantly but it was good to be back with the clan I hiked many miles with back at the beginning of the Sierra. As the trail rose above a deep valley, I also met Neil Bob (who was having a disasterous time trying to leave Mammoth Lakes, as he left his stove and his solar panel behind – sadly only realize each of these independently whilst on the trail between two return visits to the hostel). The valley to the west opened up as the trail ascended, affording what is quintessential Ansel Adams fodder – spines of granite jutting to the sky in infinite formations of impossible shapes, with waterfalls, cliffs and imposing rivers working their way through. All that was missing was clouds for some additional dramatic effect. The views were all encompassing and laid out in a logical fashion of increasing dramatic effect, as if assembled by a concerned personal trainer – eager not to strain anyone with an overly dramatic impactful view before the subject was ready for it.
My attempt at an Ansel Adams original:
As the trail ascended, I spoke to some curious day-hikers as well as some thru-hikers I had met (as well some I had not met). I also bumped into a curious woman who had lost her two dogs. After helping her for 30mins, she quipped “they do this all the time” at which point my level of interest in the endeavor dropped off a precipitous cliff, as I realized the dogs would undoubtedly come back and I was losing miles in my day. Not meaning to be cold-hearted, but one doesn’t get to Canada, assisting every soul on the trail!
At one point I found some spring onions to add to my lunch:
My main target for this afternoon was Thousand Island Lake and Mt.Ritter, which delivered exactly the drama which the trail-guide promised, in the form of an alpine lake as beautiful as any in the Sierra we had previously passed, with a single incredible imposing peak. The approach was typical Sierra – babbling rivers and alpine meadows but the backdrop was truly memorable.
Eventually rising to Thousand Island Lake, I pushed on to a high saddle named Island Pass. Not so much a pass as a barely indentifiae recess in a rocky meadow.
I suspected as I approached Island Pass that Thousand Island lake may have somewhat less that a thousand island state. With little time to count them all, I enjoyed a nap and lunch with this view instead:
After leaving Island Pass, the trail swung through a series of river crossings and a major mosquito infested meadow which led to Donohue Pass. This would form an important gateway for js, the final entry to the area around Tuolumne Meadows, the iconic high altitude meadows and activity area of Yosemite National Park. The trail was reasonably difficult with far more snow than expected, progress tempered further with incessant mosquito swarms and a route that was not entirely clear at some junctures. I shared the climb with S’rocket and Blue which lead to some good conversation on a section with obscure views to the east and little else to excite.
We finally summited as the sun fell away to the west. The huge entryway carpet of snow leading us down into the valley was truly a spectacular sight, one which a South Korean film crew followed us and filmed for a time – documenting the PCT for a movie about endurance hikes.
Arriving down to the lakes and valley below, I can say that Donohue Pass was truly spectacular from the north side, the view of snow fields and evening sun was certainly a beautiful sight.
As we ventured further, we also were joined by Levi, who took a very interesting path at fording one river (namely the wet route), whilst myself and S’rocket opted for a more stylish, dry routing:
The river eventually would become the beautiful and famous Tuolumne River, an important part of the Yosemite National Park geography and a major defining feature of the next two days hiking. A beautiful and fast flowing river in its infancy, we eventually found a beautiful tent spot nested by a river crossing. We are now in Yosemite National Park, and the well known features of granite domes and the lower valley are just a day away. Enjoying a hot chocolate and camp dinner together, it was really nice to share the moment of accomplishment with good friends – Yosemite has been a very important goal for so long, it feels surreal to be right here!