A blissful and energy restoring night’s sleep, after getting up at 2 in the morning to see if we (Paul, myself, Katie and Scout) could catch the meteor shower (we didn’t) was replaced by the discovery that someone had replaced my calves with someone who had apparently jumped on a trampoline for the last 24 hours. Alarmingly, mine were not the only calves that had been replaced! At least two others complained that their thighs we’re not working properly either. And then I remembered having experienced a similar condition the morning after having hiked the Grand Canyon (the Arizona one). It was called the Kaibab shuffle. It appears that we had all come down with a similar, but different case of said “shuffle” ailment. Today we would be experiencing a bit of elevation gain (1574 ft, to be exact), which would give us a chance to stretch out our calves. Some, however, decided that a bit of “gymnastics”, before the doning of packs, would stretchout said calves and thighs.
First on the trail menu, after breakfast and a team “Slinky” pic,
would be two Tuolumne River crossings, both of which involved a “temporary” fix to washed out, partially repaired bridges, identified by the Yosemite website (and the Rangers) as “not recommended”. The first bridge, that was visible from our campsite was crossed with ease.
New boards spaced were in place, but did not appear to be permanently affixed. In keeping with Murphy’s law we all made sure to have our hip belts unfastened and shoulder straps loosened. Easy peasy, onto the next, a mile or so ahead. This one was as close to a log crossing as I want to get.
Three long narrow (for me) boards, laid across a deep pool of the river, none of which were permanently affixed. The outer two boards were in varying degrees of decay that required one to adjust one’s footing between the three boards as you cross the 20yard expanse. Had this been early in the summer, when the river is deeper and flowing with distinctly MORE power, it would have been unervingly scarry for me. As such, it was just uncomfortable. Oddly enough, I am not afraid of the water (at any flow), it’s just the height above the water that often finds me near paralyzed with fear. I push through, cause like hell I am going to climb up those switchbacks back to White Wolf. The rest of the group is mildly entertained with my misplaced fear for the conditions. Paul is used to it, but still thinks it’s ridiculous, seeing as it has not stopped me from any of our adventures, save a hot air balloon trip, many moons ago, that he thought would be “romantic”. Today’s trail was glorious. The mixture of the river and the forest smelled like clean laundry. The sights, sounds and smells were everything I dreamed this route would be. As with all trails, they begin with an uphill, of sorts. Of that we were not dismayed, as we needed to seriously stretch our calves from yesterdays 3000 foot stairway.
Most of the morning involved a “gentle” gain in elevation with the river to our right. The sun was shining, and the sky above us is a clear blue devoid of haziness. Our days goal is 7-8 miles, with a hearty climb of around 1200 ft followed by a 400 ft immediate descent towards the end of the day. A third of the way into our day, a perfect swimming hole is discovered. The air is warm, and of which will only be getting warmer, so we reward ourselves with an active and well deserved frolic in the extremely cool waters of the Tuolumne River.
Packs are dropped with exuberance, as are our hiking clothes. Skiveys will do for swim wear this trip, “modesty” be damned.
The water is so cold that a gradual entry into the invisibly clear water is impossible, so canonballs, jumps and dives are in order. Once in, you are immediately robbed of your breath that a quick stroke swim remedies. The boys explore the upper regions of our swimming hole (fed by a waterfall). They are looking for a “slide” into our “pool” that does not have a tailbone buster at the end, and/or a perch from which to leap into the icy depths of our personal water park. Aches and pains from the pervious days descent are relieved by the healing properties of a full body ice bath. Pole Dancer swims gleefully like a river otter. She explores the waterfall only to be sucked down and spit out…eventually (to our horror and relief). If we did not have miles to make, we would have stayed here all day, it was so much fun.
The large slabs of granite warm us dry. Without notice, a thick fluffy thunder cloud obscures the sun, and the temperature drops enough to remind us we are in the Sierras, where it can rain and/or snow anytime of the year. We rally reluctantly, throwing our clothes back on, and for good measure move our rain jackets to the top of our packs, and don our pack covers…just in case.
Single file we thread up and over stone stairs and through fallen leaves and needles piled untouched in the trail. It is obvious that this section of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River trail has not been touched by homosapien footwear. As we march up a stone staircase, and make a left turn, I hear the buzzing of what sounds like bees. Katie is directly behind me. Suddenly I hear a scream, “Oh my GOD, there are bees all around me! Get them off me!” I look behind me and see an angry swarm. I am about to tell Katie she has them in her hair and one under her sunglasses, but before I can utter a syllable, I am stung repeatidly in the inner thigh “crotchal” region. This sends me scurring up the trail, along with Katie who has now striped off her hat, glasses, pack and shirt, while doing her best “mosh pit” dance. I am working on getting my pack off and dropping trou to assess the exterior burning sensation in my nether-region. No one but Katie and I understand what and why we are doing what we are doing. Paul laughs, “I’ve have never seen girls take off her clothes so fast. I wish I knew bees would do the trick, years ago!” In actuality they were not bees but wasps, hence the multiple stings. It appears that they had moved into a rocky crevass and were not accustomed to being “disturbed”, thus they let us know vigorously.
Luckily April is a PA and specializes in allergies, so she was prepared with benedryll and salve to apply to our many welts. The rest of the group held off until the wasps had “calmed down” and “tiptoe” up the trail, careful not to disturb any rocks.
A bit further up the trail, Pole Dancer solidifies her name once more, when her poles get stuck in the rocks whilst trying to avoid what she calls “elevator rocks”.
Luckily, she is able to catch her fall with her face. With no major injury (just a “flesh wound”), and we are on our way.
We stop for lunch at another possible swimming hole, but decide against it as during the past two hours the air has cooled and we had been “spritzed on” a time or two.
In hindsight, we should have just made the plunge anyways, it would have prepared us for our steep ascent and lengthy descent to that evening’s campsite.
We would most likely would have collected more water as well. The earlier overcast had reduced our sweating and similarly our liquid intake, thus we failed (once again) to fully refill our water containers before our 1200 ft ascent. (sensing a trend are we?)
We joked at the bottom of the ascent, that we were probably headed to the tall tree on the ridge before us, and we were correct.
While the elevation gain was filled with rocky switchbacks (of which I failed to count), the views of where we had come from where stunning, almost more breathtaking than the actual climbing. We remarked how blessed we were, that in all of Yosemite, we were in the place where the air was absent of any smoke or smell of smoke. And we had it all to ourselves!
By the time we reached the tree, and the top, 95% of said liquid was exhausted during our climb, which initially did not concern us as we thought (based on the map, and what we could see once at the top) that the trail would empty out onto the river on the other side. NOPE.
It climbed down the rocky face and made a hard left turn into a slot canyon forest, full of a welcoming committee of mosquitoes and a bear scratching pole.
“Hey Bear! Hey Bear” was the chant through our head nets, all the way down to a jumble of rocks that we scrambled down to fetch water and soak our feet.
Here we cameled up once more, filled our water bottles, and left 4 liters in the trail for the others to drink from as Paul, April, Josh and I headed forward to scout out a campsite for us all. We stopped at a forested possibility, and Josh walked across the river to see if he could find something better on the other side. I dropped my pack and decided to continue up the trail and see what I could find. Eureka! I think I found the best campsite of the whole trip.
Too bad it was so late in the afternoon. I think we all would have been more motivated to swim at length, had we arrived earlier.
Nevertheless, the fact the water was indeed much colder than our first foray into the river, did not dissaude all from a quick spritz and rinse of our sweat soaked shirts.
With all gathered around our dinner site, where hikers previously had built a campfire, we did our best not to eat all our remaining food, and sadly, we were, in fact, much too tired to even stay awake for another of Scout’s reading from the tales of John Muir…breakfast maybe.