Yosemite Hike, Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne

So we’re back. Another memorable trip into the wilderness, complete with rain, hail, sleet, and sunshine. Mostly sunshine, but the first day out it looked like we might be in for copious amounts of misery. At first, the weather was gorgeous. We started hiking from Tuolumne Meadows after grabbing some last-minute camping supplies, such as fritos and bean dip, a slab of cheese, and an orange as a nod toward the health nuts.

Tuolumne was gorgeous. Here, look at Tuolumne:

Tuolumne Meadows

After the Meadows, the trail trended down the canyon toward our first stop, the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp. Originally, we’d planned to go a little farther than this, but about an hour out the rain started, which gave way to hail, and then sleet (I amused myself by saying “Hmmm….sleet, that’s nice” when it started), so we straggled in to Glen Aulin proper and decided that’s as far as we’d go that day. There’s a bridge over the river just prior to the camp, where I handed my camera to a passing hiker to take a picture of us, which can be seen via clicking the following:

Stan and Dave at Glen Aulin Bridge

Lucky for us the weather had cleared up a bit at that point! But the rain started again as we entered the backpacker’s camp, which made putting up our tent and hammock a wet business.

Glen Aulin is where we came across our one-and-only bear on the trip—a nice-sized cinnamon bear that lurked on the outskirts of the camp, waiting for hikers to mislay scrumptious hiker-food so he could swoop in and take it. He got someone’s hot cocoa while we were there. Most of the time I was watching him, he was rubbing his shoulders, flank, ass, and face on a tree up the hillside from our camp. He did become a little aggressive at one point, and I managed to hand my camera to a fellow camper named Felipe to record it:

Glen Aulin Camp

but Dave and I, using our hard-won veteran black bear knowledge we’ve accumulated over many years, gave him a respectful berth, and he eventually lost interest:

Glen Aulin Camp Too.

The next day the rain was but a memory, and after coffee and tea, and (for my part) an enormously successful shit in the last outhouse for the next 26 miles, we packed up and headed down the trail.

We passed several waterfalls. California, Waterwheel, Le Conte, and a couple others. The thing is, the back country being wilderness and all, we weren’t sure which waterfall was which, and the canyon was perfectly lousy with them. In “Yosemite Disney,” each waterfall would be accompanied by a sign, garish or not, that would tell us what we were looking at. Not so here. We fantasized about Park “John Muirs,” dressed in drab period costumes, who would function as roving informational Goofys, showing up in the oddest, most out of the way spots in the back country. Perhaps a hiker would be huffing and puffing up an incline, and around the bend would be: a John Muir! sitting on a boulder, smoking a pipe, ready to lay out the latest Yosemite Disney homily.

Perhaps; that was one fantasy. Another fantasy cut straight to the heart of things and populated the forest with Micky Mice and Goofys, walking about waving their white-gloved paws in a half-hearted way, just in case tourists were watching.

We found a nice isolated spot with water access, Goofy-free, near an unidentified waterfall, and set up camp.

The next day, being the 3rd day of the trip, we returned to the trail. We passed more waterfalls. It was, of course, gorgeous. Here is the Register Creek waterfall where we stopped and re-filled our water containers:

Register Creek Falls

I asked a passing ranger named Esmeralda to take that picture. All the time we spent at the falls, I had the strangest feeling I was being watched.

As the day progressed, it became clear to Dave and me that we hadn’t gotten as far down the canyon as we’d thought. According to our calculations, Pate Valley—our destination for the day— should have been an easy 5 or 6 mile hike from our riverside campsite. But apparently we were 2 or 3 miles shy of where we thought we were. I perpetually expected to get to Pate right after the next bend, or the next rise; my expectations were defeated many times.

It was also getting quite hot at these lower altitudes. We plodded through several hot, dry manzanita/scrub oak patches, which weirdly gave way to humid and fern-filled deep forest just yards away. In one such fern forest, a kindly leprechaun named Good took this picture for us:

Fern Forest Prior to Pate Valley

Finally, though, we arrived at Pate.

more later…

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