Day 21 (7/19/2017)
In the morning the wind had dissipated. Aside from the mountain chill, the fantastic beauty of thousand island lake shone forth in the morning sunrise.
Two passes to do today. I fueled up and was off. Island Pass came up much quicker than I thought, I just couldn’t find it. No trail, boot marks everywhere. Lakes were frozen and the signs were unclear. I went up and high to get a vantage point. In the distance I could make out an ice traverse around the mountain. I shot for that.
That led me down to Rush Creek where I met Southbound Traveler. We exchanged information and I started the ascent to Donahue Pass. Open with few trees, marmots, squirrels, and chipmunks ate their morning meals ignoring me completely. Up alongside Rush creek I continued until the creek became submerged under ice. It was time to cross some snow, then some rock outcroppings, then some snow, then some more rock outcroppings. After rounding a bend I saw some people coming down from the summit. They went in a much different direction, but by now, I knew that was the nature of things. In this season, and in this expanse, paths weren’t as clear, just general directions. Many of us made our own path. After a short ascent I was on Donahue pass. My second pass in one day, and all of a sudden I was in Yosemite. Euphoric and blubbering to complete strangers about how excited I was to see my girls and wife. One hugged me and shared in my elation of almost being done. There were quite a few people starting out their hike. “I do this hike every year, I call it fat camp.” “I’m a vagabond, just out wandering.”
I snapped this image of the promised land: Lyell Canyon
I could barely contain my excitement. A few minor crossings and a lot of down. At upper Lyell Fork bridge I came across a hiker with just a day pack. He asked how much farther to the summit. He said he was out of Tuoloume Meadows. I told him it was a lot more up and was surprised how far from the day camp sites he was. I left him and continued down and eventually hit the valley floor. The path was well defined here and the mosquitoes were not too bad. The first few sites were taken, but I kept going. My goal was to get as close to Tuolomne as possible. As evening crept in, I noticed the air becoming smoky. It was a lot, and I figured it was due to the Happy Isle and Tuolomne campground folks and their evening campfires.
A deer in the trail signified my new campsite. One of the small pleasures on the trail was how much of the wildlife just didn’t seem to care that I was there. They’d look and then go back to what they were doing. I hiked up the ridge a a ways following deer tracks through the mud to a flat area. I pitched the tent, washed my socks, filled up my water bottle, and made dinner. Sitting on boulder overlooking a creek, I panned right to find a giant turd wrapped in reams of toilet paper half covered by a rock. How pleasant. It was a gentle reminder that I was returning to civilization. It was also a reminder that people loved nature, just not enough to kept natural for the next person. Returning to people who cared, but whose caring had obvious limitations. Limitations that were visible just near where I sat.
In the last light, I saw the day hiker from earlier. Heading back towards where he came from. This set my mind at ease as now I didn’t feel obligated to describe a missing person or look for one.
I did my nightly tally: 13.5 miles on the day, with 1641 feet of gain and 2781 feet of decline. Trip mileage 250. Every time I did this the overall mileage surprised me.
I started moving into reflection mode. I had three mantras I would tell myself as I climbed and pushed forward:
- Each step is one more step closer to my girls.
- Each step up is one less foot of elevation of elevation I have to climb.
- I don’t get anywhere by stopping.