So we have a short backpacking trip coming up in Yosemite, the Grand Canyon of the Tuolume River to be exact, a 30 mile scenic juant. The only problem is that most of Yosemite is closed due to unhealthy air quality from the Ferguson Fire. While we will be able to enter the park via the Tioga Pass entrance, I am not sure we even will be able to start or even complete this adventure for one of two reasons: (1) Air Quality; due to smoke from the Ferguson Fire settling in the canyon of the Tuolumne River, or (2) Foot Bridges crossing the Tuolume River are out in two locations – Pate Valley and Glen Aulin. Per Yosemite’s web page, the Tuolumne River crossing is a 6 inch deep crossing at Glen Aulin, which is fairly easy even if the flow is still moderate. You just need to take it slow and be methodical. The crossing at Pate Valley is the question, as per Yosemite’s website, “It is not recommended”. Does that mean the crossing of the Tuolumne River is not recommended, or the use of the damaged foot bridge is not recommended. I can’t imagine the flow being that heavy this time of year, and besides we’ve done super crazy (read..stupidly dangerous) crossings of rivers and survived, but this time we will have 5 other people with us. As they are our friends, we would like to keep it that way, so there in lies our dilemma. I have spent several hours attempting to talk with an actual Ranger (or park aide for that matter) for a “boots on the ground” assessment as to whether we need to inact plan “B” or even plan “C”, however no one answers and currently all the mailboxes are “full”. The additional problem with alternate plans include either possible smoke (due to fires near my alternate routes), terrain challenges to hiking ability, and/or time constraints (as three of the 5 have a return plane to catch the following Saturday in Orange County).
The silver lining, at least at this point, is that I was able to leave a message with my questions, so hopefully they will get back to me before we leave Sunday. I can only imagine the call volume, to include some very unhappy people on the other end that the Rangers have to contend with. Been there, done that. I always found the mute button (so as to keep from unprofessional blurts) and a healthy amount of eye rolling helped deal with such calls.
As I wait for a return call, our alternates are the following:
Plan “B” – Hike out of McGee Creek to the JMT/PCT and drop back into the Horseshoe Lake parking lot from Upper Crater Meadows via McLeod Lake. A 33 mile option. Again smoke may be an issue, and the climb up to McGee Pass is a bit arguous with a full pack. The reward however is plenty of alpine lakes in which to swim and/or fish.
Plan “C” – Kennedy Meadows to Horseshoe Meadows, via the PCT section G, a 43 mile trek. This is more physically challenging than plan “A” or “B”, and this time of year requires ardent attention to reliable water sources and possible lengthy water carries. While this is a tremendously beautiful gateway into the Sierras, there are no real places to swim (and/or fish), and frankly that is what hiking the Sierras in late summer is all about.
**Update as of 8/10/18. We are currently a go for plan “A” – White Wolf to Tuolumne Meadows via The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River. An actual Ranger called me back (whilst on a “convection oven” training hike in the foothills behind my house) to say that the Ferguson fire was nearly contained, the air quality was improving, and absent the foot bridges, the Tuolumne River is crossable…we just need to be sure to find a “safe” spot that all can manage. No problem! With any luck the predicted thunder showers will come in on Saturday and Sunday and clear out the lingering smokey particles suspended in the late afternoon/evening inversion layer. So plan “A” it is …until of course it isn’t.
***Just a reminder: If you are a 2MoreMiles “follower” on Facebook, Facebook will no longer allow me to share my link to this blog. I will have to paste a link in order for you to view each post. Either way you will have to go to my website 2moremiles.com to view the post, so you may as well “officially” sign up as a “follower” so that each post is sent to the email address you have entered. I have also updated my LinkedIn account to reflect my current “occupation”, and will be sharing my posts there as well.
Bear in mind, updates to the entirety of this adventure will be a bit delayed once we get on the trail due to lack of “conectivity”, which frankly is why one should play outside and wander about the wilderness.