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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Section H, South from Tuolumne

Sunday --Well this morning we woke up early at the strange haunting shores of Mono Lake. Lots of birds quacking around the tufa spires glinting in the sunlight.

We drove up Tioga pass, the place Maggie would constantly tell the tourists at Panamint..."No, Tioga Pass is actually closed, you are going to have to drive up 99 to get to Yosemite through Fresno."
"Well how long does that take?"
"7 hours."
"What? This is UNACCEPTABLE!"
and so on...people need to blame someone for the road closure

So when Maggie saw for the first time the sign, Tioga Pass:OPEN! She was a little surprised. We drove up there to where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the highway and hiked deep into Yosemites backcountry. Tuolumne Meadows was the place, I got pulled over here but just got a warning last October.

It was so beautiful. Wide open meadows with big mountains around. There was a river, the Tuolumne, and it was this crystal green hypnotic color with a turquoise glassy sheen. It looked like if you fell into it you'd just be suspended there in time. I jumped in and it was freezing.

The hike through Lyell Canyon was nice, flat, wet. We met some interesting PCT characters who were all the people at the front of the pack, being already done with the Sierras at the beginning of June. These are the fast ones, serious hikers. They are hiking north and we are, and were today for training, hiking South.

We realized after a few hours we were going up into the real High Sierra, with its quintessential lake basins on smoothly carved granite. This is the hardest, and highest elevation part of the PCT, section H, so it was a good place to train. The altitude is often above 10,000 feet, Sierra means snow. This is the lowest recorded snowfall in history I think for California and there really wasn't much up there, 13 percent of normal.

The hike steeply climbed from the immense flat Tuolumne area at 8500 feet up, and up this huge mountain pass around 11,000 feet. It was so incredibly strenuous and taxing, we started this relentless climb at 1:30 and didn't get to the top until near 6. In that time we had to cross dozens and dozens of streams, two of them being wide and swift with the water up past the bottoms of our shorts. Maggie almost had to cry on a rock on the second one. In some other places the trail was swift roaring waterfalls ankle deep or more and you just have to ignore the water, walk through it like it was a dry trail.

Then the snow began, and more streams and the trail was a stream and the snow was so cold, we wore sandals to keep our shoes dry. We had gone 12 gruelling miles in about eight and a half hours which is pretty bad but will go a lot faster downhill. We met a cool kid on top.

We had our asses kicked, the scenery was really ridiculously beautiful.

We took the first home we could find once we were finally able to climb up this thing and down the other side. Looking for somewhere more hospitable, seeing as how there was a giant lightning storm crashing a way to the east, we had no choice but to decend. Thunder blooming off the cliffs.

We came to camp in this Alpine floodplain with grass and a few sparse pines, boulders and slabs of granite dotting the landscape. Streams raging all around and a beautiful small lake. We made fire and had delicious food and the tent set up within 45 minutes and were soon full and have tomorrow's breakfast of rice and veggies cooked. We clean up and wash dishes and were very exhausted but not quite as exhausted as the day we did the desert PCT hike, but we both agreed this was much harder.

We feel great now and are going to sleep pretty early, we're probably at 10000 feet tonight. I stepped outside to pee in the moonlight and it's scary out there the place is so vast and incredible, and all the water in the streams are rising as the night goes on because that's what they do. It's possible they'll keep rising and flood us out. We'll see and the marmots will probably get our food

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