My original intention for this August trip is to spend ten days walking along the Sequoia "Circle of Solitude" with several off-trail segments. Intense fires closed the western Roads-End trailhead, so I drive up the east side of the Sierra hoping to enter my planned hike from the east.
The view from Lone Pine towards Whitney of smoke-filled mountains finally dissuades me from my planned hike. No choice but to keep driving north.
This amazing map shows the path of flames and smoke extending all the way into Nevada. As I drive north along 395 I carry a variety of maps with me, intending to stop and hike in the first non-smoky place.
I end up in Mammoth. The Devil's Postpile bus is filled with foreigners.
I enter and leave this ten-day trip at Devil's Postpile.
DAY 1: A brutal wind in 2011 that has since been called the "Devil's Windstorm" knocked down a horrific number of trees. Not a pleasant site.
I sleep under the stars almost every night. The large bear canister filled with food weighs 20 pounds and constitutes the majority of my otherwise light backpack.
DAY 2: Off to a good start; the first backstroke in Garnet Lake.
And now a story without pictures: The previous night I meet a thin young man who is struggling to stay on his feet, is incoherent, and appears close to passing out. I assist him to lie down and I extract basic contact and medical information from him as quickly as I can. He says that he does not have a headache, and has no medical conditions, but is feeling very weak and confused. After 30 minutes of lying down, some water, and a snack, he becomes more coherent. When I ask about medications, he names three serious sounding drugs, and then reluctantly confesses that he is "in transition" from male to female. We talk about this a bit and she is relieved that I do not care about her sexual orientation. After an hour of rest and more water and snacks, Kaycee tries to get up and walk, but her legs are hopelessly cramped, and it is clear that she has to make camp right there, and that I must stay with her. Next problem; neither of us have any water, and we both need it badly. So after ascertaining that Kaycee is now coherent enough to make camp and stay put, I have to walk to Garnet Lake and back to fetch water, a 90 minute trip in the dark I am not thrilled about. The next morning Kaycee seems completely functional and recovered, and we meet James coming down the trail. As it turns out, James had met Kaycee the day before and had warned her to drink more water, a warning that she did not heed. Like Kaycee, James has his own story of turning to the trail as part of a life change, which you can read about here. "Dehydrated" sounds only like a thirst; when I met Kaycee, she was so far gone that she was incapable of helping herself and making sound judgements. Without others around to help, I can easily imagine a train of events leading to exposure and death. I consider it an honor to meet these two exceptional people. Spotify/Lou Reed/Walk on The Wild Side.
No hike is complete without daily trailside naps.
Starkist Yellowfin Tuna packed in virgin olive oil is bomb. Pita bread and parmesan cheese are new items in my menu. Amazingly, both last for ten days, except for a few mold spots...
This view of Thousand Island Lake shows some smoke haze from the very distant Sequoia fires. Spotify/T.Rex/Ballroom Of Mars.
I always enjoy camping at the Rush Creek trailhead with a view of Donohue Peak and the Koip Crest. There is a large open meadow of unusual rocks that tell many stories.
DAY 3: Ascent of Donohue Pass.
Nice swim just below the pass.
Lyell Canyon. Spotify/Beethoven/Pastoral. I know, pretty obvious, but I still like it.
Critters chew holes through the fabric of anything containing food.
DAY 4: This ridiculously overbuilt and overmarked trail near the Vogelsang Camp must be considered an interesting 'historical legacy", because I cannot imagine any other reason that the trail angels don't take it apart.
The Vogelsang Camp is one of the Yosemite High Sierra Camps. It is a charming and very old-fashion conceit.
The trail above Vogelsang leading to the valley behind the Vogelsang Pass.
Bernice Lake. Coming down the trail I meet the Austrailian John Chapman and his wife. John is a full-time author of many "bushwalking" titles. As I am making up my itinerary on the fly, I ask John for his opinion on some routes and he sketches some on my map. John has some thoughts about other High Sierra routes that you can read about here. Spotify/54-46 Was My Number/Toots&The Maytals.
This valley is filled with grey, dead looking trees. Even when deep in the Sierra, there is no hiding from climate change.
Quintessential Yosemite granite dome.
The trail down to the Merced Camp is one f**king pain in the ass. Steep trails with tightly packed rounded rocks may be good for horses but are really tough on human ankles. My rush downhill to make it for dinner at the camp makes it worse. Spotify/Ziggy Marley/Cry Cry Cry.
I spend the night at the Merced Camp to take advantage of the showers, washing machines, and the camp experience.
I meet some interesting and not so interesting people while dining. Some patrician-affecting Nor-Cal blowhards act like they own the place as they make pious statements about their involvement in the Yosemite Conservancy and how important their work is. But there are also some fun IT nerd guys from San Jose who are absolutely thrilled that they can employ their considerable armada of solar chargers and batteries to top off my tiny power-bank.
DAY 5: Most public stops have what is called a "hikers box", where hikers deposit excess items for other hikers to draw from. As I am now reasonably certain that I need at least one more day of food for my spontaneous and unfolding journey, I am pleased to acquire some Famous Amos cookies, Oreos, nuts, and a power-gel. Food, showers, clean clothes, USB power: life is good!
Despite my restorative night and morning at the Merced Camp, I feel very tired and take a first nap at this lake. But after that I am still very tired, and meet some people on the trail who advise to keep going until the Indian Falls.
I am happy that I kept going to reach Indian Falls as it is exceptional. I jump in the water and then sleep in the sun on the warm rocks for an hour. I wake up dizzy and disoriented, so I have to finally concede that am very ill and should stop for the day.
With time to kill, I walk around the campsite, to find Mr. Bear only 300 feet away. I am not afraid of the Sierra bears, but am nevertheless not thrilled to be in such close proximity.
With more time to kill, I play around taking night photos, and make a fire for myself.
I never make fires. I actually don't like fires. But I am feeling very ill and need comfort.
DAY 6: I sleep an amazing ten hours, et voilà, the next morning, all better. My entire cooking and water kit is shown above.
I carry bulk items and avoid smaller bags. Above is Alpen, whole milk powder, coffee, and Tang orange drink.