Thursday, June 26, 2014

Yosemite Loop Day 3: Tuolumne Meadows, Vogelsang, Merced Lake and Little Yosemite Valley

31 miles

I wake up early, I think about going back to sleep but the cool morning air eggs me on and soon enough I'm cutting across a marsh in the dark. I lose the trail but soon enough I'm back on track cutting down towards Tuolumne. Three miles brings sunrise and the lovely bathroom (complete with flush toilets!) near the Tuolume Meadows Ranger stations. Its blissfully quiet and I only see a few other people. I had passed some climbers heading down as well but it seems we are the only ones actually out on the trail this early. I remember this area as a zoo, neat to see it so empty.

I decided that I wanted to see Vogelsang High Sierra Camp rather than Glen Aulin so I turn towards Lyell Canyon and in a shockingly short time leave the JMT/PCT for the Rafferty Creek trail and start climbing.

The climb is pretty mellow. The views open up and I start to feel like I'm really in the High Sierra, my favorite.

This higher alpine area is apparently just what I needed.

Vogelsang Peak
Looking back

At Vogelsang Pass I debate my options. I choose to skip the High Sierra Camp itself and take off towards Boothe Lake. I'm ready for a break and a snack and find the perfect spot on a high shelf overlooking the lake.

Boothe Lake

I've already hiked almost 13 miles and its still ridiculously early. I take a leisurely break, napping for an hour and enjoying a late breakfast. The trail heads down, I hear voices at the lake but I'm all alone on the trail cruising towards Merced lake.

Past an intersection I enter a meadow that takes my breath away. Although any stopping means hordes of mosquitoes so its not really a leisurely time for enjoying the view.

The wind picks up and I get to slow my pace a little. So thankful for this wonderful morning.

The trail takes a turn and starts to head steeply down what I think is Fletcher Creek on its way to Merced Lake. This is the one corner of my day that isn't on my map. Its only 3 or so miles of well signed trail but the topgraphy and details are unknown so its a fun surprise.

Past the crashing river the trail flattens for a moment and I am in a huge old burn, the day is finally starting to heat up and I am staring open mouthed at the giant open views as I descend towards the Merced Lake junction.

the creek is really a giant cascading river I get to follow down the mountain
I'm hazy on the details without a map but this trail is speedily dropping. The trail work is impressive, all rock. The tricky part is that it is basically an over sized cobblestone path and my feet keep hitting the rocks at funny angles. 5 miles of this sure is tiring! I later figure out that the cobblestones dropped me almost 2000 feet in a few miles, no wonder it felt long. Guess I'm going to be the footsore one today.
I finally catch a glimpse of Merced Lake, where I was tentatively thinking of camping for the night.

very rocky trail, trail crew you certainly were ambitious
I pass Merced Lake, not wanting to camp in the developed backpackers spot near the High Sierra Camp. The buildings look closed and I decided I'll take a break somewhere on the Merced River and figure out the rest of my day then.

I find a nice shaded spot next to a huge cascade of water. I don't think I can ever understate how delicious cheese and salami is on a hot day sitting by a river after spending hours on my feet.
I stare at my map and since its still only early afternoon I think I may just push on. I'm not technically in any rush but I feel compelled to keep moving. Plus my body seems to be tolerating the miles so I head further down the canyon.

I get a little cranky as the trail suddenly veers from the river (after crossing an awesome bridge) and takes me high above the water. But I'm in a slightly better mood when I see my new views.

Back down cobblestone trail land. My feet are a little achy but I realize its time to stop lying to myself. Hours earlier I had thought about just heading all the way to Little Yosemite Valley or even the valley floor itself. Why pretend I didn't want to do the mileage when I clearly did? So on I went.

The trees became thicker and I knew I was getting closer to Little Yosemite Valley. A mile or so from Little Yosemite Valley I realize I'm pretty tired. Its around 5 in the evening and I decide that I really don't have to rush all the way to the valley floor. I can wake up early the next day and hopefully avoid the crowds and enjoy the Mist Trail on my own. Besides I see how cranky I am in this last sandy section. My feet are dragging and its more of a trudge than an actual walk. I stumble past the other backpackers and lay out in the dirt in a campsite. Eventually I get some water and eat some of my food as I people watch. I've done this trip much faster than intended and have quite the array to choose from for my dinner. I decide to cowboy camp and happily read my book as I ignore the swirl of people around me. The giant group of teenagers starts a campfire and I wiggle deeper into my sleeping bag. Right before sunset there is endless screaming, apparently a bear is on the other side of camp. Soon enough it quiets down and I happily finish my book and try to get some sleep. I'm beat, 31 miles was no joke for my somewhat out of shape self, but I'm glad I decided to camp one more night. The odd need to push miles is something I know about myself. I often try to pretend its not true or just assume my body will rebel so my trips always seem shorter than I intend. Regardless of speeding through I'm happier the second half of my trip, Yosemite's high country was a treat and today was a great one. 

No comments:

Post a Comment