Sunday, August 7, 2016

Red's Meadow Rest

Heading "home" to Red's Meadow

After a beautiful shower and great night's sleep in a BED, I meet friends and family in Mammoth and head to our annual summer trip to Red's.

Ah, the lupine

Sotcher Lake hike reminds me of the beloved, gorgeous, emerald sheen--still a precious gem--just like the first time decades ago. Happy to be home!

Still in hiking and moving mode--hiked Minaret Falls, 7 miles and a bit more.  Lucy tags along (and me, being in denial, forget how hot and rocky this trail is.) She loves it, but on the return flight, her paws have had enough. Wrecked the old girl again... Sorry Lucy! Biting flies bad here too--something we've never had a problem with ( and never want to experience again.


black flies biting as we posed!

Get a bout of hives on legs and blisters and heels crack even worse. Maybe this old body need a bit of a break.

So happy to be with my family...resting and taking in more of the Sierras I love.

Last stop--hot springs near the Green church. One big deep breath as I say goodbye to the Sierras for another year...

Untouched wilderness, Uninterrupted, Unbound, Unbroken.

Little Yosemite Valley to Yosemite Valley  8 miles

Got an early start--out by 7:30...a record for us! It is refreshingly cool and shady. Steep, rocky cliffs and stars near Vernal Falls that continue miles and miles, it seems. Slow and careful on ankles with still a heavy pack pulling me down. An endless descent--but awe inspiring falls, misty and powerful. Most people heading up to do Half Dome--huffing up all 16 miles roundtrip. Ugh. It feels good to be heading down...

Rocky stars lead to more uphill traversing to the top of vernal, an appropriate ending as I started the trip there a week ago. The descent is steep with packs and it take focus, but the reward is the perfect rainbow waiting for us half way down. Gravity yanks hard at us as we descend past valleys and toward trailhead, and I feel like we are cowboys riding into town after months in the desert. Glad we are not the ones huffing it up to Nevada Falls on a 90+ day. 

So shuttle back up to Tuolumne until 5pm, (not at 11:15 like the guys lost on the trail had told us!) so we hang out and meet Mathew--a concessions employee who lets me use his phone to call home. He is gracious and funny and downright kindhearted and it is an honor to sit with him. 

We treat ourselves to pizza, salad and a drinks (boy have I missed fresh fruit and veggies!)

We huff it in the heat to the river to soak our sore and blistered feet...ah the water is heavenly. 

Waiting near the Visitor's Center, I long for solitude again, now over burdened with big families and noise. Already missing the trail. 

Being out of the craziness for a week makes me appreciate silence, reflection and pristine views of untouched wilderness, uninterrupted nature, unbound, unbroken. 

Hiking the Sierra Loop Trail...50 miles. Over 100,000 steps. It was difficult. It was amazing. It was hot, exhausting and overwhelming. But invigorating, motivating and something sacred. So grateful to be with my dearest friend. Two ten-year-old girls still laughing and trouncing through the woods...just a few decades later. :)

Sky-stretching granite faces

From Merced to Little Yosemite Valley  8.7 miles

Pleasant up and down hill rock trailing following the all mighty Merced River once again. Gorgeous rock formations, sky-stretching granite faces cradling pools of emerald and jade as they usher in cascades and roaring rapids.

We take a peaceful swim in our own private pool that calls our name. So serene, meditative paddling through the chilly water. Attacked by a strange bug-yellow jacket mixed with a bee--with menacing green eyes. He stalks us, and we are on guard!

Breathtaking granite cliffs continue and upon the trail a lucky horseshoe!

But the heat intensifies and we drop in elevation and near Little Yosemite Valley. Quickly we notice the remains of a canyon fire--miles and miles of charred trees. Extremely hot passes with no shade. Slivers of respite, only a few degrees cooler--quickly named THE DEAD ZONE. No leaves to absorb the heat, no bugs, no birds, and eerie quiet that makes me want to move through this area as fast as we can.

Hello rattlesnake, slipping and sliding under the brush. We are zombies, so hot, so wiped out that we barely see it.

The heat almost gets the best of me, but we make it to camp.  Dusty and crowded--full of hikers doing Half Dome and families wanting to overnight it there. Hike a mile further to filter water--bit by something vicious on my calf. Instant fire and swelling. Argh!

So tired--eat powdered eggs and mashed potatoes, laughter and a wonderful friend.

 Fall into my tent.

Out cold. What a day.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Vogelsang to Merced Lake via Vogelsang Pass  9.5 miles

My new mantra: Nothing about backpacking is EASY.  

I thought 7 miles straight uphill in the heat was killer? Now I find 9.5 miles down steep, rocky steps combined with biting black files is possibly even harder.

We did it, though. Sore hips, knees, shoulders and 2 killer blisters growing minute by minute. Alien toe could win a beauty contest...disgusting.

On the trail, it is gorgeous, following the might Merced River. Astounding views over snow glittered Vogelsang Pass..truly do feel as if we are on the top of the world. Meadow after meadow, water flowing like melted silver...nurturing dream-like wildflowers, even the spectacular Yosemite Lily.

Last 2-3 hours are extremely hot--so thankful to finally arrive at Merced. A cool high Sierra camp, a dunk in the river (though we feel as if we are on the "wrong side of the camp" as we stroll through with wet clothes just washed in the river.) Meet an awesome woman--in her 70s-- hiking the loop alone--an artist and wanderer with her sketchbook. We hang out with her at the river, peaceful and on the same page.  A father a two sons in camp, one off to college, one off to grad school. Many people bringing and leaving pieces of the mountains in their life.

We have laughing fits as we take our place on the hiking social ladder, definitely riff-raff on the "wrong side of the camp" and loving it. So wonderful to be with my oldest and dearest friend.