Thursday, June 28, 2012

June in Yosemite

Boundary Peak, Nevada's highest point
as seen from Highway 6.
There's no excuse for me not being in Yosemite more often. It's an easy 5 hour drive from Las Vegas through Nevada's open desert and California's high sagebrush hills to Yosemite's eastside entrance of Tioga Pass and the fresh air of high alpine forests.
Marmot flattened on a rock
soaking up the sun.
I met up with my grad school friend, Sarah, who was in California for a cousin's wedding and had the brilliant idea to follow that up with a few days backpacking in Yosemite. We spent the first night in a campground tent site. Conditions in Yosemite like most of the western US are very dry this year, but we were lucky enough that fire restrictions in campgrounds wouldn't start until the next day. We had also been warned about bears, and we were very dutiful putting food and everything scenty in the bear box. Besides the mosquitos that afternoon and the mule deer walking near camp in the morning, it was a quiet time acclimating to the thinner air of 9,000 feet.

The signing getting onto the trail was a bit confuing, but all things considered, we did manage to get on the Young Lakes trail from Tuolomne Meadows fairly early. Our plan was straightforward: hike the 6.5 miles to the Lakes, set up camp, and relax. The first couple miles were flat and easy. Then we hit the uphill, which went on and on and on. I am a bit of a work-horse (or maybe even more appropriately, a tortoise) when I hike. I just go slow and steady on the uphills. I tend not to stop to catch my breath or take breaks because once I stop, that's pretty much all I want to do. My tortoise approach went well for me up until mile 5 when I stopped. The break was nice but after we started hiking again my boots seemed to shrink a few sizes, my backpack's hipbelt seemed to be made of plyboard, and my tummy was growling like a rabid dog.
Hallelujah! My backpack is off.
Young Lakes is a series of three lakes: the lower, middle, and upper. We were intent because of a recommendation from a friend to get to the middle or upper lake to set up camp, so we kept trudging upwards past the lower lake. Wow, was I happy to take my backpack off when we found our campsite at the middle lake, and even happier when the boots came off.

Our campsite tucked in the trees above the middle lake.
The middle lake at dusk.

Low-intensity backpacking is kind of my favorite way to go. I can set the tent up and just dayhike from that site without taking my 50-pound backpack. It's easier on my joints and muscles, and it lets me enjoy the scenery without being in a rush to get to the next site. That's exactly what Sarah and I did for the next couple days before hiking back out to the real world. For as close as this semi-looped trail is to busy part of the park, we saw very few other people and just enjoyed the scenery and quiet. Little specks on that big Sierra alpine landscape. I really love it. Colors and smells seem to have a heightened intensity. Skies are bluer, trees are greener, and the air is oh-so clean and fresh. No excuse. I've got to get back soon.

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