“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out, I found was really going in.”
Friday August 12, 2016 Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin 7.5 miles.
It was cold last night in Tuolumne! I can feel the weather changing to fall in the high Sierra! I woke up early, trail time 6am but it was way too cold to get up so I waited until 7. Once I was up I made a quick decision to take the 8:15 bus into Lee Vining so I could shower (!) ( and what a glorious shower it was!) and post at least one section on my blog. I said goodbye to my new friends and wished them luck on the trail. Once on the bus I made some new friends and enjoyed talking with them about all the SIERRA trails….they were about to start a 30 day JMT plus hike!
After my shower, blog posting and iced Americano at my favorite coffee shop, Latte Da, I was back on the bus at 1235 ( the last bus of the day back to Tuolumne.) Next I sat on the “backpacker” picnic benches while eating a cheese burger (mmm) and made even more friends! I just love talking with all the backpackers and trading stories of the trail. I like the sense of immediate community, friendliness ( for the most part) and sense of belonging. It feels exceptional to belong and be a part of something!
One woman had a hurt heel and was taking a few days off the JMT, while her friends continued on. I gave her the extra pair of gators I carry for moments just like these. She later told me it was her 30th birthday. Another woman was waiting for the bus to take her to Yosemite and her car…..she had just finished the JMT. She said after years of wearing the same boots and not getting blisters, she had horrible puss infected blisters and had to take 4 days off the trail. I shared the story of my blisters, not nearly as bad as hers, and it turned out we were both wearing and loved the same boot….we wondered if the manufacturer slightly changed the design. While we were discussing boots a couple from Nashville were going through their resupply bucket and giving food away. It is always fun to trade food or sample food that you may not necessarily try. I took a packet of spam, ( I know Lisette, right, kinda gross) but they said it was delicious for lunch and I’m sick of peanut butter.
I went into the post office and looked through the hiker box and found a few interesting things. I also thanked the workers who do an amazing job of organizing the resupply boxes. I bought some cheese in the store and the cashier happened to be someone who I’m familiar with from the High Sierra Topix forum. I told him how amazing I thought his pen and ink drawings of the Sierra are. By this time it was 3 pm and I still had to pack my bear canister. I decided to shorten this last leg by 4 days so I only needed to pack 6 days of food. While I was doing this, all my food lined up on top of the bear box in the parking lot, another woman showed up and started doing the same thing. We had a great conversation about hiking solo, the back country and of course bear canisters. She had the lighter weight one….lighter by 4oz. We laughed a lot and I was sorry when we said goodbye.
Finally at 4:15 I was off hiking down the sandy, sandy trail towards Glen Aulin High Sierra camp, where there is a backpackers camp. I thought about staying in Tuolumne for another night but then figured It would be good to get a few miles under my feet today. Also I really want to see the petseid meteor showers and being down at a lower elevation means no rainfly on Pea Pod.
I made it down here in 2 hours….that’s a pretty good pace! There are a lot of people in the camp tonight including two guys who I met in Red’s Meadow who are hiking the PCT. You may find this hard to believe, but I also chatted with them. With all this chatting I’m doing my trail name might change from Tidy to Chatty. But I like Tidy and so does everyone I meet!
Saturday August 13, 2016 Glen Aulin to Miller Lake. A lot of miles! Like 16!
Well I did not see the meteor showers. I was too much in the forest understory. Being down at 7,000 feet it was warm last night…such a big difference from 9,000 feet at Tuolumne.
I hit the trail early knowing that I had a 10 mile dusty stretch with no water. I walked through brown meadows which have their own beauty despite the lack of flowers. I passed several people hiking South, but no one going North like me. The first person I passed told me how bitter and angry he was at all the rocks in the trail yesterday. Having been there myself on other parts of the trail, we both laughed. He told me 3 years ago he promised himself he wouldn’t hike this section again…and yet, yet here he was. However, today, today he was looking forward to the backpackers picnic table and a cheeseburger in Tuolumne Meadows.
I took an extra long lunch break at Spiller Creek where there are fabulous miniature swimming holes. The creek runs down the glacier polished reddish slabs and the aqua water is so inviting despite it being freezing. A great way to cool down! Also during my lunch break I had to fix my broken sunglasses with tenacious tape….now as long as I don’t drop them or try to close them they should make it through the rest of the trip.
It was hard to get going after such a long break…but onward i trudged. And I really was trudging up, up, up the dusty switchbacks toward Miller Lake. Upon arriving at Miller Lake I immediately jumped in the water to cool and clean off. It’s amazing how much better I feel once I do this. Miller Lake is nestled between cliffs and meadows and has a sandy beach. Stunning. And because I didn’t feel like 16 miles was really enough walking, I walked barefoot along the sandy shore. The coarse sand felt nice on my tired feet. I have been here before but this time I am camped up high on the rocks and I’m currently eating dinner and watching the last light fade from the shore. There are two other people camped here and they are across the lake. It is very quiet. No rushing creek or waterfalls to lull me to sleep.
While I was swimming and later getting water I noticed there were hundreds of tad pols on the surface. I had to be extra careful not to scoop them up into my container.
And now for a blister update…..About 80 miles back I put this stuff called “liquid skin” on both of my heels. It is like super glue for skin. Ever since I did that and ditched the tape and moleskin my heels have been blister free. It’s hard to say if it is the “liquid skin” or if it just took 175 miles to break in my boots. And at this point the soles of my boots are wearing down and they won’t last for another long hike.
Sunday August 14, 2016 Miller Lake to Smedberg Lake 11 miles
Hunger and the need to pee drove me from my tent earlier than usual. The morning is quiet and still. Almost too quiet. I watch the steam rise and dance off the lake as I sip my coffee and eat a pumpkin spice power bar. I pretend the power bar is a freshly baked, still warm piece of pumpkin bread or pumpkin muffin or scone. Anything really. I lust after the fluffy pancakes I devoured 100 miles ago in Red’s Meadow. The sun arrives on my rock perch and the birds sing, “Time to hike! Time to hike.” It is a glorious morning.
I descend over 1,000 feet and once again find myself walking through a meadow on the forest floor. A small stream meanders through the brown meadow and I pause to watch the water. Soon my forest floor walking ends and I am ascending 1,600 feet to the top of Benson Pass. The trail follows the creek and I stop 4 times to swell down my feet in the awesome rock bowls the water has carved out. I’m tired today and the going is slow; at least it feels slow…but maybe I’m fast…or fast and slow. At one stop I have a chocolate coffee milkshake, sans the milk and ice cream. It is delicious and fuels me for a few more hundred feet of climbing.
All day I play flip flop with the couple that were also camped at Miller Lake. Each time we leap frog we exchange more information. I learn that he works at REI in Mountain View. They show me their Leki carbon fiber trekking poles and I’m impressed with how small they fold up. I’m in the market for new trekking poles. We discuss gear, campsites and the likelihood of finding someone to give me a ride back to Tuolumne when I exit the trail at Twin Lakes.
I stop at the last water before the top of the pass and eat lunch. I’m starving today and cannot satisfy my hunger. I eat the Spam with cheese on a tortilla. It tastes good but later I burp all the way to the top of Benson Pass. I don’t think I’ll take Spam again from the hiker box!
There is a trickle of water running down the west side of the pass and it is lush and vibrant with indigo lupine and cherry red Indian Paintbrush. The rest of the pass is sandy and barren and then the granite appears leading to Smedberg Lake.
Even though it is early, I decide to camp at this beautiful lake nestled into a rock bowl. I swim. I wash my shirt and my shorts. I swell down my feet. I study the map. I look at the map so much you’d think I would have it memorized by now! I love the map! It is a guiding friend. The afternoon wind picks up and I watch the ripples make their way from across the lake and lap at the shore.
I eat my dinner, pasta primavera, with my back resting against my pack which is leaning against a tree….boots off, legs resting on a granite rock. A true Sierra easy chair. As I eat dessert I watch the long shadows appear across the lake and the illumination of alpenglow begins to form on the peaks.
Monday August 15, 2016 Smedberg Lake to Kerrick Creek. Let’s call it 10 miles.
Hunger has me out of the tent earlier than usual again. I watch the mountains reflected on the lake and the sun coming over the peaks as I drink my coffee. Upon leaving Smedberg Lake the trail climbs 400 feet as it contours around Volunteer Peak. I see many deer this morning and I get so close to one that I can hear it pulling up and chewing the delicate meadow grass. I watch this for a while until the deer realizes I’m watching and scampers off.
I come to a three way intersection and read the trail signs and mileage. None of the mileage makes sense compared to the previous signs….such is the way of the Yosemite signage. I imagine most signage is off.
And then, then the trail plunges down 2,040 knee crunching feet all the way to the forest floor. The trail is very torn up and rocky and I wonder if this is the bitter part the man I met a few days was referring to.
Once on the forest floor I take a side trail to Benson Lake where I swim in the cool water and relax on the sandy beach. I do not walk along the sandy beach the way I did at Miller Lake. There are several groups camped here tucked into the quaking aspen groves where the sand ends and the forest begins.
I eat my lunch here leaning against a gigantic pine tree in the sand. As I’m eating my cheese, peanut-butter, and crushed corn chip filled tortilla I think about BBQ chicken and corn on the cob. Mmmm how wonderful would that taste right now?! And maybe a fresh cucumber and tomato from my garden. I listen to the wind rustle the quaking aspen leaves and after a long,long rest I shoulder my pack and begin the hot, 1,600 foot climb to the top of Seavey Pass.
Near the top of the pass I meet 3 people who are shadowing a pack train trip and measuring the impact the mules have on the meadows. Interesting. Even more interesting is the fact that they work in Tuolumne Meadows and are exiting the trail the same day I am. They offer to take me back to Tuolumne. Perfect!
Tonight is my second to last, penultimate, night on the trail and I’m camped at a magnificent spot along Kerrick Creek. I’m up on the rocks so I have a great 360 degree view of all the distant peaks. And there are amazing deep swimming holes all along this creek. So so great! Love it.
Tuesday August 16, 2016 Kerrick Creek to 1/2 mile before Barney Lake 10 miles.
It is a beautiful morning as I make my way up along Kerrick Creek and the meadows contained within this basin. Today is more of a stroll than a hike simply because I only have to climb 800 feet and it feels like heaven!
The stream and trail meander in and out and alongside the meadow. In some places the meadow is green and lush and in other places it is brown, sandy and desolate. It feels like Siberia….although I’ve never been to Siberia and I imagine Siberia is much colder…but still and yet.
I arrive at Peeler Lake and I’m struck by the intense aquamarine color. The lake is surrounded by large granite boulders, pines and towering peaks. I happen upon the Yosemite National Park Boundary marker and think this is cool because I wasn’t even looking for it.
The water is freezing…as in take your breath away cold….and of course I jump in. Well, not exactly jump, more of a flop and then a scramble back onto the rocks. I have the lake to myself and spend three hours here lounging on the rocks. It is fabulous! It is hard to peel myself away from Peeler Lake. I thank the lake, shoulder my pack and move on down the trail.
At the next trail intersection I meet a father and son out on a quick backpack trip. They offer me beef jerky and I eagerly accept. We chat and I learn the son goes to Santa Barbara City College. When I tell them I live in Santa Barbara they are very excited. I tell the son I’ll probably see him at Trader Joes. We laugh and I move on down the trail.
I pass about 15 people all trudging up, up, up. I’m glad I’m going down, down, down. 1,000 feet down! All day I have been watching the clouds gather and it certainly looks like rain. I find a campsite tucked under the quaking aspen just as it begins to sprinkle. The rain disappears almost as soon as it starts.
I fall asleep watching the almost full moon rise, listening to the rustling of the leaves and and the distant sound of the creek.
Wednesday August 17, 2016 1/2 mile above Barney Lake to Mono Village 6 miles.
I try to sleep in but am still up, packed and on the trail by 7:40. I cannot help it, it just happens this way. I stop at Barney Lake and sit on the sandy shore. I don’t walk the sandy beach. Instead I watch the birds search for worms and the squirrels attempt to sniff my pack. I stay here for 2 hours…..sitting, watching and contemplating. My ride won’t be hiking out until 1 pm and I have plenty of time.
When I leave Barney Lake I descend over 1,000 feet passing through many different tree varieties before landing on the forest floor amongst the Jeffrey Pines. The air is filled with the sweet sense of vanilla. I pass many day hikers as well backpackers starting their trips. They all want to know where I’ve been. When I tell them this is day 19 on the trail they quiz me more. “How much does your pack weigh? Where did you resupply. How many miles do you hike” One woman was so inspired she asked to shake my hand.
I arrive at the trailhead 2 hours before my ride. I whip out my stove and make and devour Mac and cheese along with the rest of my crushed corn chips. I eat the crushed corn chips with my spoon. If I had salsa I would mix it all together in my cup and eat that with a spoon.
There is a Latin saying, “solvitur ambulando” (“it is solved by walking”) I don’t know WHAT exactly I was trying to solve by all this walking but I do know that I feel peaceful and content, vibrant and alive, happy and satisfied. And this, this is why I come to the mountains and hike these hikes.
This blog was typed trailside on my eye phone one letter at a time with my index finger.
This concludes the series of The Great Big Adventures of Tidy and the Pea Pod and Cruiser too. Thank you for reading. We, as well as other readers love your comments and if you would like to leave a comment or ask a question please do so by using the section at the end of each post titled “leave a reply.”