Pate Valley is at the bitter end of the canyon. Go farther, and you will fall from sheer cliffs into the Tuolumne, and your body will be carried over various falls and rapids to the Hetch Hetchy reservoir itself. Eventually your disintegrated remains will mix into San Francisco’s water supply, which will in turn cause San Franciscans’ cholesterol levels to rise slightly, and no one wants that.
So we stopped at Pate. We set up camp and spent the night. We decided to spend an entire day of rest there—a whole day of nothing to do but laze around on a beach, resting up for the three thousand foot elevation gain from Pate to White Wolf, which was about 6 miles away.
It was a good plan. The next day, we found a nice sandy beach a few hundred yards upstream from our campsite and lolled for many hours, occasionally moving our soft cushions several feet back into the shade as the sun crept across the sky. Around 3pm, we rolled up our soft things and ambled back to our camp to fritter away a couple more hours before the sun went down by eating, sitting, yawning, and so on.
We’d barely started frittering when a snake slithered by my hammock. It was a rattlesnake, a ‘one rattle’ rattlesnake. After a couple minutes of consternation, I took my hiking sticks and, feeling in the groove, feeling Australian, I lifted the snake up and tossed him to the far side of a little creek that we were next to. Hardly had I finished congratulating my nature-documentary-sized balls, when another snake slithered into camp.
This one was a five- or six-rattle rattlesnake. He coiled up behind a tree next to the river, very close to where David and I had (many times) hunkered down to pump water or cool off.
Here’s my thinking at this point: one rattlesnake is an aberration. Right? Two minutes before, I could count how many rattlesnakes I’d seen in the wild in the last thirty years on one finger. Now, in the space of two minutes, all that had changed. I mean, one rattlesnake equals one rattlesnake; that’s evident. On the other hand, two rattlesnakes equals many rattlesnakes. Gangs. A conflagration of rattlesnakes.
Obviously we couldn’t sleep in a place that was also home to a conflagration of rattlesnakes. So we left. It was 4pm or so, and our nice, easy stay in Pate Valley was at an end. We packed in just over fifteen minutes and we were, groaning, back on the trail.
Hours later and eleven hundred feet higher, we struggled into an unexpected campsite on the side of the mountain that had an awesome view of the reservoir, the first we’d seen of it on the whole trip. It was beautiful, but we were tired, so we set up camp after only a minute or two of gawking. It looked kind of like this
only a lot farther away and less oil-based.
The next day we climbed the rest of the way to White Wolf and fell upon what the little camp store had to offer. I stepped up to the window and asked for “the biggest, fruitiest athletic drink you have.” Unfortunately, all they had were half-pints of orange juice. I ordered seven of them.
Hours later at our traditional apres-hike stop at a Mountain Mike’s halfway back to the Bay, David ordered a ‘mountain-sized’ pizza for us, and we did our manly best to inhale it.
A day after that, we hooked up with Eric and Donna and Julie and spent some time inhaling beers at PCB. Also ping pong; Eric’s bought a ping pong table, and I did my level best to inhale that, too.
It was a good trip.