Sunday, August 22, 2010

I must have slept soundly

Hiking past campers at Clark lake early the next morning, they said bears had visited camp and that they had used an air horn to drive them away.

"No, you're joking!".

"Not at all. We banged pans, yelled, and used an air horn."

I have to say the new sleeping pad is exceptionally comfortable.

Day 3 can be summarized as:

Thousand Island Lake. Foolishly, after several hours I hiked on, planning to return in a day or two. Five miles and dinner later I finished the day by climbing Donahue Pass (which had looked so distant the night before), wandering a few feet into Yosemite National Park to gaze down shadowy Lyell Canyon toward Tuolumne Meadows--it was uncomfortably close to nightfall--and dragging back to camp. I was dragging all the way up as well, looking for any excuse to quit, but the trail is so well graded it seemed lame to turn back.

Camped nearby were Doug and Joanne, serious travelers and keen on natural history, and we talked as moon and stars took over the sky. They mentioned that the Perseids meteor shower was still happening, and waking later I slipped on my specs just in time to catch a cross-the-sky shooting star. Nothing like luck; I usually see little during the Perseids.

Day 4 started with slow creekside ramblings in the upper Donahue basin

but ended with a slow gimpy five mile walk back to Thousand Island Lake after jamming my knee on a mis-calculated jump. Argh! Then again, any day ending at Thousand Island is not a complete Argh.

My trusty tent echoes the shape of Mt. Banner. Up here near the head of the lake it's not the cast of thousands camping just two miles away near the outlet (first photo).

Day 5 was a lingering morning at the lake, then a ginger ten mile march to the roadend, where I've since nursed the jammed knee with mochas and easy day hikes. And blogging.

What not to leave behind

Recall that the air was pulsing with insects. Many of them wanted my blood. I covered up what I could and reached for the mosquito repellent. Squeeeeeze...squeeeeeeeeeeze...oh no. Seems my DEET had evaporated, or maybe been sabotaged by ninja mosquitoes. Which brings me to

Day two: leave pack behind, hike back to road, shuttlebus back to car, drive to town, get DEET (and grab the pen, spoon, and cup I'd left in the car), have mocha, reverse travel steps--huff, puff--and after ~11 miles arrive back where I started the day (except now it's 80 degrees). Pack up, move a couple miles into trees and call it good.

Camped off trail at the top of a pass, there were no bugs.

The view from camp was nice: the largest Clark Lake due north, backed by peaks along the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park. When the US Cavalry had patrol duty over Yosemite--which then included the Mammoth backcountry I'm traveling through--they came via passes near the right hand peaks. A trail still goes through there, but the famous John Muir and Pacific Crest trails come this way via a pass just left of the leftmost distant peak.

The watering hole wasn't bad looking either. 

A friendly family camped in the trees purified water for me with a little Star Trek device that uses UV light to kill possible nasties. The owner had to put on dark glasses to use it. Fascinating what you encounter in the backcountry.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Not fair!

Barely ten months ago I was cruising 20+ mile days through the Klamath Mountains, Sierras, and Cascades. Ten miles of hiking after an early dinner was no big deal. I was often surprised at how light my pack felt. 

This trip I have not cruised any day, however short. And not once have I been surprised at how light the pack is--in fact I eye it with some suspicion. What the heck happened?

Day 1: Depart Devil's Postpile area 4pm for a lake six miles distant, a mere 1500 feet higher. "Casual" is the word I used with the ranger at the wilderness permit desk. Poor choice.

Three miles in my legs were so wobbly it felt like the trail was swaying; not firm earth but a rock-and-flower-littered tightrope. The honey colored air was thick with late sun and pulsing with insects and with my own heartbeat, a phenomenon I believe my eye doc calls a "visual migraine". As my head got lighter (alas, not the pack...) the entire scene was dissolving into a vivid amber solution. By the way, no 'shrooms were involved;-).

Interrupt: a hummingbird is working the flowers on the patio where I sit outside the invaluable Looney Bean Cafe and Therapy Center, but after each short sip it lands and rests, sometimes barely reaching a perch before the wings quit, panting w/beak held high. A rough day?

Back on trail: I swam on, inwardly repeating "strength in weakness". Around 8 the sun dropped out of sight, the colors drained away, and by 8:30 I made camp a whopping 5 miles from the trailhead.