After shopping and eating in Mammoth we caught the return shuttle bus and got off at Agnew Meadows. There was still some drift smoke in the air, but it wasn’t too thick. Our destination was Tuolumne Meadows, but we wanted to take trails besides the busy John Muir Trail.
Camping along the head waters of the river I tried my hand at more dabbing with flies and caught 5 pan sized trout in 20 minutes. We had fish and bean surprise for dinner. It was a surprise because we got our dinners from the hiker box at Red’s Meadows. All along the PCT and John Muir Trail there are locales that you can send your resupplies. Many people find that they send too much or find that they don’t like what they thought they would like and put these ‘extras’ in a big bin. This is where I got our dinners for this second leg of our hike. This dinner was a bit bland and boring, but free is almost always good.
The river sang a steady chorus all night and I wish I could say I slept well, but acrid smoke came in the night and I had to don my mask again. I thought and prayed for my uncle with lung cancer. It was a bit claustrophobic.
Ahhhh, who doesn’t love forks in the trail. It is like life choices. Which way to go? We decided to head to Waugh Lake. We saw a single older man (our age, haha) hiking this morning and he told us to tell his boys that he was ok. Later, much, later we met the ‘boys’, who were in their late 20’s. Once someones kid, always their kid.
Man-made Waugh Lake. Is it Wow Lake, or Woe Lake or Wah Lake? Please, we really want to know. We met a big group of teenage boys here with 2 adult ‘leaders’. They are in parenthesis because it appeared that they lacked in leadership ability. It was very unfortunate how most of these young men were equipped. Most looked very uncomfortable. With the backpacking information on the internet and a little time before the hike the leaders should have done a better job. An Indian Paintbrush along the way. I thought that the flowers would be about over as it was August, but was pleasantly surprised.
We decided to camp near the Marie Lake trail head and I think we hiked about 12 miles this day and did a half circle around Ritter and Banner. It was a beautiful hike. We didn’t see very many people until we hit the JMT, and then it was like walking on main-street during the lunch time rush. Group after group heading south to Mount Whitney. We did the JMT hike last year and understand the draw, but still it was a bit much going against the flow, as it was.
We spent the evening fishing Rush Creek. I hooked a few, but didn’t land any. Luckily Mark did. I used to feel bad eating the fish, but last year we met a fisheries scientist and he said the high country creeks need thinning out for the health of the fish. “Eat away”, he said. I say, “Yummy”.
Every night Mark reads aloud in our tent. Last night a quote by Mark Twain caught my fancy and I made sure to write it down, “Always do right. It will gratify some and astonish the rest.” Well, in my dream I was very tempted by greed for money and before I made a decision I woke up. I was a little surprised that I was so tempted in the dream and I thought long and hard about that quote and how it sounds easy, but isn’t. Doing the right thing is best, but it is hard too.
This was a low snow year in the Sierra, so this was Mark’s first snow cone with a little Vitalyte sprinkled on top. He just loves these things. Always asking people along the way if they’ve seen any snow patches. We met one married couple along this stretch of path and had a good discussion. It is always amazing how along the trail normal social norms pass away and one can have semi deep conversations with complete strangers. Kindred spirits are most of us hikers.
In lovely Lyell Canyon we took a lunch break and had a long conversation with Ken who was just finishing the John Muir Trail. He went from Mt. Whitney to here in 10 days! About half the time it took us last year. He was in his 40’s and had traveled to many places we have been, as well as many others. Lovely chat. This stretch of creek is very fishable. I had a lot of fun teaching fish to fly. Childlike glee for me, maybe not so much for the fish. My grandma used to say fish don’t have feelings and I hope she was right. There are many ways to dab, but I like to throw my fly in the ripples and let it float down to the fish and then swing them through the air to the bank. Last year we brought a fly rod and reel. This year we opted for small collapsible backpacking casting rods and reels. It works, but it isn’t as beautiful as a fly laid out well on the water. My dad was probably rolling over in his grave watching me fish. Then again probably not.
We had a very cold night camping in Lyell Canyon. 28 degrees when we got up with frost all around us. I had another inspirational dream, but I will spare you. You get the idea. I started thinking I was on a vision quest or something.
Getting off the John Muir Trail we head up the Ireland Lake Trail and met a doe along the way. Graceful dancer of the woods is she.
We had a pretty steep hike up, but with the cold morning air it felt good.
Behind me is Evelyn Lake. This large windswept meadow has little vegetation and the feel of a high plateau with views straight across to the crest of the Sierra Nevada. Nearby are rocky citadels that remind one of castle ruins.
Volgelsang High Sierra Camp. We spent a little time here using their bathrooms and washing our faces and hands. Looking in the mirror I realize I have dark circles under my eyes and decide we will make camp ASAP. A day of rest is in order and lovely Booth Lake fits the bill to a T.
One of our favorite backpacking activities is taking the plunge in icy cold water. It is a pure and almost holy gift. The cold waters invigorating and enveloping all your cells with the ceiling of blue and walls of granite holding it all together. I just can’t seem to get enough of it or be able to find the words to describe the joy.
While Booth lake is very close to Vogelsang we got there before lunch so we got the prime camping spot on the west side of the lake. There were a couple of other campers by sunset, but the camping sites are all very far apart, so we felt like we had it all to ourselves. The fish were biting too. They liked gold spinners. Unfortunately, I didn’t tie one of my spinners on very well and now a fish is sporting a gold lip ring. OOPS. I learned my lesson and make extra loops in my knot now and double-check it too.
The next morning we hiked down the Rafferty Creek Trail to Tuolumne Meadows. This time of the year Rafferty Creek was dry and the hike was kind of blah. I did enjoy the small birds who were busy with song and industry. It was inspiring how joyously they go about their work. I need to remember this in everyday life.
Tuolumne was a shock. People everywhere. Tourists passing through for the day, campers with RV’s and tents and backpackers of all ages and shapes and levels of cleanliness. We have friends meeting us in 24 hours and I was hoping to find a washer to make myself a little more of a clean hiker. Unfortunately there weren’t any and the bathrooms have signs saying you can’t wash yourself or your clothes.
I opted for a ziploc wash. You put items of clothes in a large ziploc or in my case a large opsak. I added Bronner’s soap and water and sealed the bag and agitated for about 5 minutes. You then drain the water out and add fresh water and rinse. I usually rinse a few times. Hang clothes to dry and they will look pretty presentable. Make sure you are a couple hundred feet from running water. Here is my wash area. Lembert dome in the background. Pretty sweet.