When we set up our tent the evening before we purposely set it to face the sunrise in the event the clouds had cleared. As light began to fill the confines of our tent, I checked my watch. 5:30 AM? WTF?! So much for “sleeping in”. I did have to pee anyways, so I flipped open our soaking wet rain fly to staggering bright sunshine. Eureka! The skies had cleared! But it was bitter cold, for a SoCal gal, that is. A quick pee and I wormed back into the warmth of my sleeping bag. We weren’t going anywhere, anytime soon, until all our stuff dried out.
As the sun rose, so did we all. Normally our system is to dress and pack up the interior of our tent (sleeping bag, air mattress , head lamp, etc.), and then break down/pack our tent and lay everything on our Tyvek , ready to refill our packs. Once that is done, we eat breakfast. Again, not today. We had only 7 miles to traverse for the day in order to set up for the next morning’s ascent of Half Dome. Unless it looked like it was going to rain on us, we were in no hurry. This of course is practically foreign to us as we are usually trying to crush miles, which means an early start usually prompted by the damn alarm on Paul’s watch (I prefer analog watches). This trip, as with the Chilkoot Trail was devoid of alarms and tight agendas, and yet I awoke early…grrr!
Making sure we took advantage of the glorious sun, we laid out all of our still wet hiking clothes, socks, shoes and the rain flies atop every nearby sun facing boulder. It looked like a yard sale was going on. I have to say that I truly love my new Big Agnes Helinox camp chair. It is one pound I will always make room for now. It saves me from being hunched over whilst seated and possibly throwing out my back…and it’s so darn comfortable! Paul thinks it’s stupid, but you wait, he’ll use it eventually, just like when he said he’d never pet the dog we inherited from our daughter. (The dog sits in his lap usually during morning coffee). Prior to our packing up for this trip our garage was invaded by ants and got into the food we had put aside for our bear canisters. As everything was sealed, we brushed them off and finished packing. This morning during our leisurely breakfast I opened my Hostess Apple Pie (that I only get to eat on backpacking trips) and discovered what at first looked like poppy seeds, but upon closer examination was a sprinkling of now dead ants. Aw man, I was so looking forward to this apple pie. But wait, we are on a backpacking trip and we pick up food from the ground and brush it off, no matter how long it has been there. So, I did the only thing I could do, brush them off and eat said pie. Besides, an extra minuscule dose of protein won’t hurt me. It took some time, but our clothes, tents and even shoes dried out enough to finally be on our way. Today’s trek would mostly be a descent to the trail junction for Cloud’s Rest/ Quarter Dome and Half Dome.
We rejoined the trail which wove through the tree line and then opened up to an expansive meadow.
The trail was now deeply carved into the meadow’s soil, from well over a hundred years of purposeful tread by hundreds of thousands of people and animals alike.
Thankfully, the air was absent the acrid smell of smoke. Although the skies behind us continued to posture for rain, the likelihood of being rained upon seemed fairly dim.
The meadow led to a descent of switchbacks ,and lunch, after which the trail then opened up into a forest stripped naked by fire. It is here that we caught our first glimpse of Half Dome.
A pile of handle-less picks and shovels begged to tell a story of this devastating fire.
It was like walking through a cemetery. It felt eerie and yet strangely calming as you witnessed the resiliency of nature and its innate beauty.
Slowly we descended atop sandy soil.
A final creek crossing and we were at our destination.
We had plenty of time to possibly ascend to Cloud’s Rest, but the smoke had returned and we figured it most likely would mar any view we may obtain by making that climb. We camped atop a knoll, which on a clear day would have been a “million dollar” view, yet again smoke coated the skies with a powdery haze. Because we thought we had escaped further rain, Mother Nature decided to remind us that she was “large and in-charge”. The skies opened up and thunder roared as we dispersed to the “safety” of our tents and “hid” till the storm thankfully passed.
Once passed, it was story-time, as Scout had brought his John Muir book of adventures, which couldn’t have been more appropriate. We all decided that he (John Muir, not Scout) definitely had a screw loose, or the concept of “that’s F-ing dangerous” totally escaped him.
Tonight, because we could, we lit a fire and sat around it recapping our adventure thus far. Scout, thinking back to last summer’s climb of Mt. Whitney and the unexpected 1800 ft. glissade, seemed to think that we were the common denominator when it comes to hair raising situations, as all his other previous backpacking trips were “never this exciting”. I’m not sure if that is a compliment, but we’ll take it. Besides, it could just be that Scout is the common denominator. We’ll test that theory on the next adventure we all go on. But this one is not yet over, as we have yet to summit Half Dome, upon which this adventure is predicated.