Robert and I drove out from Texas in the third week of July, 2011.
First view of the Sierras, from Hwy 395.
Yosemite Valley was busy the first Sunday in July! Glad we were backpacking, not vacationing there!
Final rummage before starting the trail at Happy Isles.
Base of Vernal Falls, Mist Trail.
Morning at our first camp near Sunrise Creek. No crowds here! We ran into BPL'er Roleigh Martin at the Little Yellowstone Valley junction. And saw tons of exhausted looking day hikers coming down from Half Dome, which we opted not to climb.
We woke up cold at first light so we hiked about an hour to warm up before stopping for breakfast. The trail is especially beautiful early in the morning.
Mosquito city. Beautiful, but put on a headnet and keep moving!
Best break room ever! Outcrop below Columbia Finger.
Resupply at Tuolumne. We were to camp at Upper Cathedral Pass, but got there early and didn't want to sit in camp battling mosquitoes all afternoon, so we kept going all the way to TM, got in about dark, had the d|ckens of a time finding the backpackers camp, and then got to take a whole day off for a geology ranger hike and a long nap.
Lyell Canyon. Many other hikers in here. Easy to see why.
One of many marmots we saw.
We met a trail crew climbing out of Lyell Canyon. They were making steps, easier for the horses.
Campsite, Upper Lyell. The way up Donohue Pass is across the cirque in the background. Lots of snow still, and high creeks. Most folks were changing into sandals or crocs to wade the creeks. I didn't see why--there was so much water running on the trail that everyone's hiking shoes were soaked anyway. We just walked on through the creeks. Only one creek was high enough to be dicey. (See below for that one.)
Advised by veteran high-altitude snow hikers to wear a bandanna to keep from getting sunburned roof-of-mouth (!) we looked overprotected, but as snow novices we weren't taking chances. We met a man from Quebec who kindly coached us on picking our way over melting snowfields.
Climbing Donahue Pass. Like the Japanese hikers we passed in Lyell Canyon said, "Very cold! Lotta snow!"
Top of Donahue pass. The guy from Quebec invited us on a side trip to climb the nearby peak, but we were about at our altitude limit for the time being, and just wished him a fun climb.
Just put this one in because it is one of the best photos we got on the trip.
The natural details give depth and texture to our day. I can't put in photos of wind and water splash and birdsong; a few nature shots will have to serve.
Island Pass, pretty soon after Donahue, and after Thousand Island Lake. A fun afternoon; after lunch and a nap, the altitude fatigue went away.
We were going to camp at Garnet Lake, but all the camps there were full of big scout groups, and there was a lot of commotion and trash, especially out on the rocky shore. So we climbed out of the Garnet basin, nearly to the top of the divide, where we found an exquisite little camp high up overlooking everything. The next day wound through a series of lakes, with lots of mosquitoes, so we kept moving. The forest north of Devils Postpile was really different--all glacial moraine or volcanic ash or something. Kind spooky, but interesting.
Being tourists at Devils Postpile. Before it was protected, a mining company applied to blow it up to dam the San Joaquin River for hydraulic mining water. How many other, forgotten, places have been destroyed by things like that?
Weather coming in!
Reds Meadow Resort. Our laundry outfits. No change of clothes, and everything else was in the wash. We had a resupply there, and a tasty burger lunch. No showers there this year. Everyone was really nice. We headed back out on the trail after lunch, in steady rain.
Lupines, extensive burn area south of Reds Meadow. We were wanting to climb Red Cones, but missed the turnoff and decided not to go back. A couple of day hikers ahead of us said they saw a bear cruising down the mountainside across the trail, but it was gone when we got to the spot.
Scenery, rain clearing off.
Stealth camp up on a forested hillside. We were going to camp at Deer Creek, but it was full of other campers and mosquitoes, and we had a couple of hours of daylight left, so we went on. Robert's shoulders were too sore before we got to the next series of impact sites near Duck Pass Jct. though (he has neck issues) so we stopped. One of those mountainsides that, upon inspection, has hardly any level spot big enough for two. An interesting experience. Also, where our "adventure" (in the old-fashioned sense) began.
In the night I went out to pee, barefoot (who puts on their wet muddy socks and shoes just to go out and pee?), and, standing up all groggy, lost my balance and did a face plant down the slope, fortunately into soft duff. My big toes were not so lucky, and were lacerated on a sharp lava rock. I wrapped them in a hanky and went back to sleep. Inspected the damage in the morning--lots of torn skin, and a cracked toenail. Washed them well, slathered them with antibiotic ointment, and taped them thoroughly with sport tape. Worked pretty well for a couple of days...
Next day it rained all afternoon, and hailed for a while. Many folks were setting up camp to get out of the weather. But it wasn't a lightning storm, so we put our driducks on and kept hiking. Much more fun.
Wet weather all the way down past Tully Hole to our camp at Cascade Valley Jct.
Chill damp, and mosquitoes, and we were at low enough elevation for a legal fire. Took a whole esbit to start the soaked kindling, but the fire worked nicely. Note bandaged toes.
In the morning we woke at first light, but being on the shady side of the lush but cold and wet Fish Creek Valley, we could see that sunshine was hours away, so we quickly packed and headed up the trail seeking warmth before breakfast. Finally broke through on a rock outcrop by Squaw Lake. Luxurious!
Silver Pass Creek, coming down the gorge. I was having a great time until we started down that steep gorge, then my toes really started to feel it. But I was distracted by the breathtaking country.
Mott Creek crossing. This is the crossing that was more dangerous than we should have done. Hard to see in the photo, but the center channel, narrow and fast, was almost hip-deep for me. I barely made it across, and broke one of my GG LT 3's in half. A bad misstep and I would have washed right down the gorge. Whew! We had explored up and downstream for a better spot, but it was all slippery rocks and wide jumps, which looked worse.
We hurried down to Edison Lake to meet the Vermillion Valley Resort ferry, got there just in time. Some guys on the ferry were coming out early from a fishing trip at one of the high lakes, because one of them had, while searching for firewood wearing camp sandals, torn off a toenail on a log. We commiserated. That evening at VVR I cut off the sport tape for inspection, to find evidence of infection setting in, especially on the toe with the cracked nail. When it wasn't better by lunch time the next day, we found a ride with a really nice woman and her young daughter, all the way down to Mariposa, where we laid over and took the bus in the morning back up to Yosemite Valley and the medical clinic there. The doctor gave me a course of amoxicillin, and advised that whether we could return to the trail within our time frame would depend on how quickly the infection responded to the antibiotic, and I would just have to judge that for myself. Encouraged that we might be able to continue our hike, we collected the car, drove around to Mammoth Lakes where we got new maps and advice, and camped at Mosquito Flats trailhead below Mono Pass. The next morning my toes were dry and felt a whole lot better, so we packed up for our "trial run," figuring if I could make it over the pass in reasonable comfort, we could rejoin the JMT near where we left it by hiking about 10 more miles down Mono Creek.
Ruby Lake, on the way up to Mono Pass.
Near Mono Pass, it was like a moonscape. And there was a lot of snow!
Lunch stop just over the pass. Moment of truth: Toe with cracked nail was red, swollen, angry, and painful. Infection obviously flaring up again. It would be dangerous and stupid to go on. We turned around.
Picking our way through deep snow and melting suncups on Mono Pass.
All ailments aside, it was a mighty pretty walk down.
Portagee Joe campground, Lone Pine. If you find yourself in LP on a summer weekend with all the lodging full, this pretty spot out on the desert is only a couple of miles from the town, and much quieter and cheaper.
We spent a couple of days visiting the big trees at SEKI before heading home. I walked everywhere in socks. Didn't even try to wear shoes again for a week.
Back home early, on August 14 we looked at each other across the breakfast table, and said, we were supposed to be summiting Mt. Whitney today. But the trail will still be there next year, and so will we!