SHR Days 14 & 15: A Brush with Civilization

October 11th & 12th, 2018

Tuolomne Meadows and Yosemite Valley; Resupply Day

Last night it started raining while we were still eating (me) and cooking (Hurlgoat) our dinners. At first it was tolerable and we were making due with a bit of moisture, but then it started dripping off our rain coats. I was boiling water for tea and Hurlgoat was simmering the last few minutes of his rice and quinoa, so we stood under the protection of a big Jeffrey Pine, waiting for the flames to die out. Then we made a break for the tent. It was good timing really, because it definitely started to rain harder, and we stayed all cozy and dry inside. I worked on my blog and sipped my tea, while Hurlgoat enjoyed his hot meal. Throughout the night there was rain, but not significant enough to soak us. In the morning the sky was clear and the air fresh and clean. Ready for town day!

We set off in the frosty morning, absent of sun for the first mile to the trail junction at Bernice Lake. Just beyond the junction the sun began to stream through the trees, and I stopped to let the light hit my face and infuse me with life. I was still hiking in my down puffy and not ready to layer down until we either did some climbing or the sun shone on us in full force. From where we camped it was approximately 9 miles, all on trail, to the JMT/PCT junction in Tuolomne Meadows, and all together we ended up hiking 11 miles by 1:30pm where we reached Tioga Road. Compared to the recent days on the SHR, we were flying! From the get go, we were pacing at at least 3mph, it felt so dang good to stretch the legs and move to that familiar rhythm I know so well.

We had a littlte bit of a climb up to Vogelsang Pass, which proved to be another trail extremely well constructed, as all the trails in YNP are, and this one had the views to match. We crossed several semi-frozen streams on the approach, and then ascended to above 10,000 ft with relative ease, stopping a couple times to take in the views and not get all sweaty. This was my first time climbing up to Vogelsang Pass, and I was excited to see yet another new perspective of a place that was at once familiar and strange. My Mom used to ride her horse to Vogelsang and this made me think of her and stories she has from those days when nothing could get between her having an adventure with her horse. I guess I follow in her footsteps with my passion for hiking, and I’m so thankful for that!

Well constructed trail

The pass itself, when we arrived, was a large level basin with a lovely body of water, Vogelsang Lake, surrounded by high granitic walls and pleasant alpine meadows. As we skirted the corner around the lake and continued toward the High Sierra Camp, we were once again treated with views of Half Dome. We are getting so close!

Vogelsang Lake
Half Dome in the distance

The High Sierra Camp was closed for the season, but it looked like a pretty cool place, with several areas to accommodate horses and stock, a few small buildings and tents. There is a major trail junction right there as well, whare you have several options in which to travel, two of the trails there connect to YV within a 20-21 mile distance. You could do all sorts of cool loops around here! Our trail was only another 6.7 miles to get to Tuolomne, and we cruised the rest of the way there. It was 11:30 when we crossed through Vogelsang High Sierra Camp and I’d hoped we could make the remaining 6.7 in about hour and a half. We got close. The trail was so cruisy and quite a few of the miles took place on flat sandy trail lined by old dead twisted Lodgepoles, with yellow grasses and views of the domes of Tuolomne getting closer and closer.

Perfect Tuolomne

The sky was in perfect Sierra form in her cobalt blue dotted with bleached cumulus clouds. There was a frosty breeze that never really let up and at the same time the sun was glaring down on me. By the time we began the final descent into Tuolomne, we entered a cold forest, which had not yet been greeted by the sun and had slopes covered in little white bits of snow as if someone had sprinkled confectionary sugar across the landscape. We saw a set of footprints in the snow and this triggered me to ask when was the last time we saw another human? This set of footprints was from one large lug soled boot, most likely a male maybe size 10 ish, and it was fresh from this morning. It had led in the opposite direction that we were headed so it was probably someone who hiked in this morning and split off at another trail junction. We never saw who it was.

When prompted to think about when we last had human contact, we realized it had been on the same day we’d left Devil’s Postpile, the guy who appeared out of nowhere during that snow storm. He was a day hiker, too, and he was the only person we saw after leaving the crowds close to the Trailhead. After that, which was now 6 days ago, we have not seen another soul. Impressive.

The only souls we saw were trees

As we approached the last trail junction, at the PCT, we had another 1.4 miles to go and it was 1:00 pm. Hurlgoat had mentioned he was getting really hungry, and excited for town food. I was too, but I knew it was going to be a while before we were sitting down for a proper meal so I stopped to layer back up, go pee and grab a sanck for the ride into YV.

Tuolumne, we have arrived

From Tioga road where we came out, we had to walk down to the Lambert Dome parking area for a good place to stand and hitch, which added to our miles and time. It was around 2:15 pm by the time we scored a ride from a couple visiting from France, Paris to be exact. When I hiked in France a few years ago, all the locals kept telling me “bon courage!” which took me a while to figure out what they meant. Our French couple who picked us up were subdued but very nice, their English was a little bit limited, but better than they led on and better than our French.

The ride was a fairly quiet one, but they drove us the entire way to Yosemite Village. I was sleepy in the car and wanted desperately to take a nap, but that never materialized. By the time we reachced the Valley, we were all chatting more and getting excited about the magestic scenery. It was around 4:00 pm when we arrived in the parking lot by the Visitor’s Center. We said our “thak you’s” or “merci beaucoup” to them and we all kissed and hugged farewell. So there we were, Yosemite Valley proper. Now what?

We were both starving but had a lot that we needed to get done, namely figuring out where to charge all our electronics, especially Hurlgoat’s camera equipment, we needed a place to sleep, a shower, laundry, resupply and of course, food! Town days are so funy this way, you’d think it’s just time to relax and rest up, but it is never restful. We grabbed a quick basket of mediocre fast food french fries, and promptly wiped our oily, salty hands on our pants and hopped on the shuttle to what is formerly known as “Curry Village”. We went to inquire about renting a tent cabin for the night but the prices were outrageous. We refused to do it, even if it meant a little more comfort and privacy. Instead, we walked over to the Backpacker’s camp and picked out a lovely spot under some Ponderosa’s and set up camp.

Empty Backpackers camp in YV

We had to get our priorities in order yet there were so many chores to do! We decided to head back to Camp Curry and get to the dining pavilion, plug in all our stuff, order a pizza, and eat and charge. Hurlgoat grabbed a couple well deserved beers and I treated myself to a glass of wine. We ate an amazing pizza and then had to figure out about lauandry and showers. Turns out the laundry, the only place in the entire valley, was at Housekeeping camp, about a 25 minute bus ride and closed at 10pm. We had to get moving!

We lucked out because all of Housekeeping camp is closed for the season, but the laundromat was open, and functioning. We stripped down naked right there in the room, and put on rain gear and puffy jackets to wear while our clothes washed. By the time our laundry was warm and fluffy clean, coming out of the dryer, it was getting awfuly close to 10pm when the shower house was to close back in Camp Curry. We were preparing ourselves to be forced to go to bed without a shower. It had been a solid 8 days since I’d had a shower, and I was really loooking forward to it.

When we got back to the shower house, we had just missed it. I remembered another shower house in the village that sometimes you could sneak into when another person left the door propped open. We tried our luck and both got into the bathrooms, hooray!! Oh my goodness was that a treat. Hot water streaming all over my back and legs, washing my face with soap, luxury! Our evening had largely been a success and we took the “scenic” route back to the Backpacker’s camp, turning it into about a 40 minute walk through the dark back roads of Curry Village. Because we hadn’t walked enough already today?

Last light over Royal Arches

When we got there we had a “Warning” citation from the camp host because our registration was missing our permit number. The thing was, we never got a permit number from Inyo because their computer had been down and they issued us a manual permit. We figured we could tell someone in the morning and it would all be fine. I tell you, there are a LOT of rules in this place!

We fell asleep after reading Roper’s book outloud about the final section of the High Route that we are about to embark on. Snuggled into the tent and warm bags, requiring far fewer layers of clothing to keep warm at 7,000 feet lower than we camped just two nights ago, it seemed like a balmy night. We both passed out pretty good but by about 5:00am, there was a light shining on my side of the tent, and a tug and a flick of the permit…. Then more lights shining, and by then I am awake. Really, 5:00 am and you have to come check our permit again, what gives? Damn Rules. Humph. I tried to go back to sleep and drifted in and out somewhat, until my watch alarm sounded at 6:00 am. Dang it, forgot to turn that off!

Nevermind all that, I went back to sleep until 8:00am, thank goodness, and Hurlgoat was fast asleep too when I woke up. The morning light was making it’s way through the forest into our camp and I needed to pee pretty badly, so I braved the day and got up and out of the tent. I saw that we had been issued a 2nd Warning notice! What the…?? Wow, I can’t believe how intese these peole are being, we HAVE a permit!

No sooner had I taken 10 steps toward the bathrooms, the camp host made her way over to me and started right up about the permit. I quickly explained what happened and said we would be glad to show her our permit. I told her I was on my way to the restroom but she immediately started talking. So, I walked over to our tentsite and we rustled up the permit. No joke this woman did not stop talking for 45 minutes. She was like a talking machine! She was all around friendly, if not maybe lonely for someone to talk to, and all in all we got away unscathed, but seriously, I needed to pee and finally, finally excused myself. To her amazement, her comment at that point was simply “my… you must have a very strong bladder.”

Wow…. so not only did that happen, but it happened without coffee. The thing about Yosemite is they serve Peet’s coffee everywhere, and Peet’s is my favorite commercial roaster. So, you can imagine how much I was looking forward to the coffee I was about to get. Not only that, Hurlgoat and I LOVE to eat breakfast food, and we were craving eggs. We packed up all our gear as quickly as possible and darted over to Curry dining pavilion. First things first, we plugged in our electronics to continue the charging bath, and promptly headed for the Peet’s. Oh my goodness was that an elixer that coursed through my veins upon entry of the first sip. Ah-mazing!

Next, we walked over to the cafeteria to get our breakfast. We stood outside the door looking at the limited menu for about a minute and then realized the doors had been shut. Right in front of our faces, we could not enter. It was 10:03 am. They stopped serving breakfast at 10:00. Dang it!!

Oh my goodness our hearts sank. We were both so sad. So Sad. And we resentfully blamed it on the chatty camp host lady. We wouldn’t have missed this if we had just cut her off a few stories earlier, why had we been so polite? What to do now, a conundrum. We were both well on our way to hunger pangs, so we decided to try the Base Camp cafeteria over at Yosemite Lodge. We thought they may have breakfast until 11:00 am and we walked the 2 miles over there in under 40 minutes. Of course when we got there, it was no longer breakfast time and we resorted to lunch food. Nevermind though, the food was great. I got Asian vegetables with tofu and brown rice, and Hurlgoat got grilled Salmon, vegetables and mashed potatoes. We were happy.

Good ‘Ol JMT

We hung out there for a few hours, finishing up our chores. We needed to get Hurlgoat a new plane ticket. Remember the thing about needing a few more days to finish this hike? So, we found him a ticket, we called Mono Village to let them know we’d be arriving late, and I worked on a blog while we finished charging our stuff. Then it was time to walk over to the General Store and resupply.

See what I mean, the chores never end.

We ended up getting on the shuttle bus and stopping off at Camp 4, where all the climbers hang out, at the base of El Cap, to hitch back to Tuolomne. We got two amazing hitches with the coolest folks we could have met. The first one was a guy who was there climing, he drove a Jeep that was painted in faded pastels with scenes that looked both geometric and curvy, hand painted and super unique. He was a really down to earth, chill guy and he drove us all the way to Crane Flat, about a 40 minute ride, with me in Hurlgoat’s lap, and we talked about rock climbing the entire way.

El Cap from the car window!
Our “ride”

The second hitch from there came to us in a matter 10 minutes, and this couple along with their 9 year old son were on a little familly camping road trip. They were also super down to earth and chill and we talked with them the entire next hour as if we were all old friends. It made for such a pleasant ride and they dropped us off at exactly the same spot we popped out onto Tioga road just over 24 hours ago.

This brush with civilization was quite productive, but we were ready to get back to the woods. Yosemite was intensely crowded, and it is even the “off” season. Thank goodness though, I can’t even imagine how the park deals with 6 million visior’s annually! We said goodbye to the family who gave us the ride and their son told them as we got out of the car “I want them to come with us.” Bittersweet.

Crane Flat

We popped our packs onto our backs, loaded with 4 days of food and enough water to get through the night, and headed across the street for the trail. As we walked into the woods, I expressed to Hurlgoat this feeling, this emotion, how much I LOVE getting back on the trail after being in civilization. You walk off the tarmac onto the dirt, and as soon as your feet hit the soil, and the trees embrace you, it’s like you are entering through a veil, an invisible curtain to “back stage” where all the “real magic” happens. But what it truly is, is returning home.

7 thoughts on “SHR Days 14 & 15: A Brush with Civilization

  1. What a beautiful, sunny and exciting “town day”! Ah, Yosemite! Too bad about the breakfast loss, though. My heart would have been broken, too. I didn’t want this post to end.

  2. Hey! Just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying your blog. I did the SHR in June/July and it’s really interesting reading about a late season traverse. I think I’ll come back to do it again in the fall.

      1. We wrote a blog of our trip – click on my name and you should find it. Not a lot of snow really – I think it was a low-snow winter in the Sierra. We used microspikes a few times but no great problem. Our speed was very similar to yours!

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