It has been a great move for me to come to California. The incredible variety of backcountry options is so refreshing. I have considered Yosemite to be one of the jewels of California but had never really explored it. This year, I wanted to really have a good look. I was limited to 5 days and so I chose to do a semi-loop around the southeastern portion of the park.
Day 1: Catheral Lakes trailhead south on the JMT. ~ 10 miles
Started at Cathedral Lakes trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows.
I hiked south on the JMT and found a quiet little campsite near a stream.
Day 2: Campsite on the JMT to Washburn Lake. ~ 10 miles
The next day I hiked a couple more miles south and then turned East towards Merced Lake. The camp was deserted as I passed by. It felt great to be in such a popular spot without anyone else around.
Passed by an area where many trees had blown over. This bridge was damaged as well.
Saw bear #1 (sorry no picture) near the Merced ranger station. A beautiful walk to Washburn lake where, as the sun set, this incredible pink glow lit up the entire valley.
Day 3: Washburn Lake to Upper Ottoway Lake. ~ 15 miles
Continued up the Merced river the following day. Saw bear #2 in the morning just after leaving the lake.
This was the only bear I encountered that actually seemed nervous around me, all the others completely ignored me.
I continued, mostly uphill, through a mix of conifer forest and rocky subalpine terrain.
This was probably the best day of the entire trip. I was in a great mood, the hiking was strenuous but enjoyable, the weather was fine and I got to see a great variety of landscapes.
Looking up towards Red Peak.
View down the valley.
Almost at the pass.
Steep switchbacks down the other side, the trail continued past upper Ottoway Lake.
I spent the night near upper Ottoway Lake, camped next to a stand of Junipers.
Looking back up towards the pass.
Lower Ottoway Lake in the morning.
Day 4: Upper Ottoway Lake to Little Yosemite Valley ~ 17 miles
I followed the Illilouette river towards the valley. This was a much lusher area with many aspen trees.
Bear # 3
Bears 4, 5 and 6. (Mother with 2 cubs, cant see the cubs in this picture) I gave them lots of space.
I passed by a series of domes.
Near Nevada Falls.
Sunset on the Merced river.
Day 5: Little Yosemite Valley to Cathedral Lakes Trailhead. ~ 16 miles
I passed the back of half dome in the morning and hiked uphill onto the JMT.
So there I was, minding my own business. I had hiked up to the top of a small pass, just above Sunrise High Sierra camp. As I got to the top, I saw this strange white furry creature through the trees ahead of me. Bandido the Lost Llama.
I have not had too many interactions with llamas and it was strange to come across one here. I called out to see if anyone was around, the llama looked like it had broken free during the night and wandered up here. He seemed to be pretty relaxed, happily munching away on grass. I didnt really feel like I should leave it, since I had not seen anyone for many hours on the trail up, I thought that perhaps there were some people camped at Sunrise who had lost their llama. After much thought I decided that I should take it with me in the hopes that I would run into the person looking for it. So along we went. Sometimes he went in front but he would get easily distracted by the tempting grasses, therefore I decided that if I really was committed to getting him somewhere, I had better take the rope.
We walked a long ways. As I kept passing backpackers going south, I grew increasingly unsure of my decision as nobody had heard of a missing llama. I began to wonder if I had brought Bandido in the wrong direction. But, we continued on, it was too late to turn back and I didnt feel right leaving him alone.
At upper Cathedral Lake I ran into a forest service crew who had a satellite phone. They were able to call the number on the tag of Bandidos harness. I spoke with the owner and agreed to continue walking Bandido down to the trailhead where he would meet me.
Bandido giving me the “eye”.
It turns out that he was missing 2 llamas and he was very happy when I found one of them.
And that is the end of my trip. I drove home exhausted but happy. I had dreams of llamas in my sleep.