John Muir Trail – Almost There

Day 22 (7/20/2017)

My excitement about getting home got me up early.  I had finished all the major passes.  It was all down hill.  No more ups.  I had already decided to bypass Cloud’s Rest and that would save me time.   My predawn start looked like this:  Morning mist with a mild smokey smell surrounded everywhere by chirping bird, no doubt heralding my triumphant finish.

Morning in upper Lyle Canyon

Signs dotted the path instructing me to take an alternate path to help with restoration efforts.  I thought I was close, but in reality, I was about six miles out from Tuolumne Meadows.  It wasn’t strenuous, but it long due to my heightened sense of almost being done.

At the Rafferty Creek Bridge a ranger stopped me and asked for my permit papers. Wow.  The first time.  They also wanted to check my bear canister model.   I was getting close.

At the Lyell Canyon trail head I met two hikers hiking with kayaks on their backs.  Wow.

I stopped the Tuolumne Wilderness station to throw away some trash I had been picking up.  About 40 people were in line for walk up permits.  I walked around with a rather unbecoming smugness of: “Hey I already did it.”  It was there I found out about the Mariposa fire and that roads were closed.  The Lodges were closed which contributed to the low numbers of people.  It was July 20, and the Tuolumne Lodge was still closed due to snow damage.   I took the long walk through Tuolumne Meadow looking in awe at Cathedral Peak

Cathedral Peak from Tuolumne Meadows

Due to it’s pointy nature, geologists reckon it was above the glaciers in the last glacier period, whereas most of the other peaks were under glaciers.  I came upon two bucks eating spring time buds along the river. Careless about my presences, they carried on with their business. Just 100 meters down stream a large family frolicked in the river. Throwing rocks, splashing each other, yelling, and completely oblivious to what was just upstream from them.

I crossed the meadow and then the street to start down to Little Yosemite, my planned stop for the night.  But something was wrong.  I was walking up.  Up?  It was supposed to be all down hill after Donahue.  I continued for about an hour and then stopped, exhausted.  More up?  I pulled out my map, and found that I had one more pass: “Cathedral”  What the heck?!   No one ever talked about this and it slipped my calculations.  I had to go over what I took a picture of in Tuolumne meadows.  Oh the irony!  Arggggg.    I stopped every hundred meters.  Clearly my lack of nutrition and fatigue was catching up me.  Family after family of day hikers surged past me.  After every turn there was more up and switchbacks.   Finally after making past the cathedral lakes cut off, it leveled out.  I dunked my head in a stream, which felt incredible.  I felt so rejuvenated!   Up through the pass, I went forward to Finger Point.  I passed a few senior hikers who were headed for upper Cathedral Lakes.  I gave them as much positive energy as I could muster.  The smoke became more intense as I descended down from Finger Point.  The air became hazy and sun turned wondrous colors through the smoke.  The up put a serious damper in my stride and I was too far from Little Yosemite.  I started to look for a campsite and found one in Long Valley, not too far from creek side.  The site was sloped but I didn’t care.  My legs hurt from the incline.

I cooked dinner and tallied my daily progress:

14 miles on the day with 1170 feet of up and 670 feet of down.  I only had about 20 miles to go to the valley floor.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was almost done!

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