PCT Tuolumne into Ansel Adams ◆ 7 Days ◆ 55 Miles
Back on track for 2009! After a few years of variations on a theme, it was time to get back to slogging trails and hauling stuff. Our goal this year was to complete the Yosemite section of the PCT. The trip was ready to go but then Mother Nature tossed out a twisted challenge in the form of the Big Oak fire. As H120 was closed from Crane Flat to White Wolf, that meant the long way around via Sonora Pass and Lee Vinning.
The fact that we were able to snag the Tuolumne Stables to take us up trail was a stroke of luck, but to top it off our packer was to be Sheridan, whom had lead the High Sierra Camp trip that Betsey and I had taken a few years back. It was a pleasure to have her as our guide and we chatted all the way to our drop off point at the footbridge. This is a scenic spot with good shade, ample established camp sites with fire rings (last chance since fires are prohibited above 9600') and a strong running creek draining the Maclure lakes and glacier. We set up camp and it was not long before we were scrambling up a face wall to get a peak at the next day target, Mt. Lyell.
Pack-in > MacLure Creek > Mt Lyell Ascent (Geo) & Photo Views (Mark)
Waugh Lake > Donahue Pass
Packs on and up and over Donahue Pass was the plan for today. Nothing out of the realm of what we have done before, but after a few years of not carrying a load at these altitudes, it took a toll on me. Nevertheless, I trudged on and was comfortably moving downhill towards Waugh Lake, when George appeared. He was coming back up trail as Waugh Lake, our target for the night, was not a lake this year, as it was bone dry except for the creek that ran thru the basin of the valley. We needed to find a water source and camp for the night, and luck had it that there was a running creek about 2 blocks back up the trail where I had just replenished my water supply. Having met our goal of finishing the PCT portion thru Yosemite and George bagging Mt. Lyell, the remaining portion of the plan was not looking as good as when we had finalized it a few months ago. Water sources thru Parker Pass were of concern, as well as a total lack of shade for two days. So we decided to turn around and do a slow burn home and stop at several nice spots we had spied on the way in.
Mile 160 Lake & Lyell Canyon Camps
An Alpine lake at the 160 mile marker on the John Muir trail was our goal for today, as we wanted to maximize the time we were in the back country. No big rush to return to civilization. This picturesque hanging valley, with a small lake and Mt. Lyell and the Cathedral Range rising as a ring of towering peaks, has become one of the my top ten camp spots!
In Lyell Canyon you must camp at least 4.5 miles into the canyon to be legal, so as we wandered down the trail, we started to look for a decent site that met that requirement. We got to what must have been a popular staging point as quite a few sites popped up above the trail, and some were stocked with firewood ready to go. We looked around for about 30 minutes and settled on a smaller site well hidden from the trail. As sunset was enveloping the canyon, we heard some loud voices that seemed to be shouting out for someone who might have not returned to camp yet. They went on for about 30 minutes, but we did not see anyone come up or down the trail and then silence returned to the night. We had a nice fire, hot chocolate with Bailey's and headed to slumber land. All was well until around 3:00 AM. More loud sounds from down canyon, but this time a markedly different tone and pitch. The telltale sounds of a bear in camp and the efforts to chase it away! I woke George and figured that it was 15-20 minutes before we would be treated to the same task. After 15 minutes of high voices, quiet had returned and I fell asleep to wake an hour later. No bear, no yelling, no encounter. Another year of plying the Sierra without having a confrontation with a bear. Many footprints left in our camp, but no face to face encounters. And I like that way, as it is a good indicator that these bears are wild and stay away from us smelly humans, and also a telling sign that we keep a clean camp.
Next day we hiked out and wondered what George will choose for his turn next year!
May our paths & errands meet