I survived big winds last night, freezing cold in the morning, a huge snowfield, a ranger incident, miles and miles of meadow trail, a general store/post office in a tent, and a group campsite.
I camped atop Island pass last night and selected a spot behind some trees that I thought would shelter me from the wind. I was wrong. The wind was gusting so bad that it was deflecting the tent poles about a full foot. I had the vestibule opening downwind, but the wind was so strong it seemed to want to turn the tent inside out. It was also quite cold. I did not get much sleep. I met another hiker from Belgium in the morning who had the same experience but was so afraid his tent would collapse that he took his tent down and just wrapped himself in his fly. He said he got about twenty minutes of sleep. I probably got two or three hours.
Despite all the ruckus all night, I got up at 5 to try to get to Tuolomne Meadows by 3 PM. But as I am gathering things up, I noticed one of my stuff sacks is missing and it’s former contents are scattered on the ground. Great. It’s too dark to look for a navy blue stuff sack, so I keep to the morning routine and wait until it’s bright enough to go looking. As luck would have it, I finally found it stuck between some rocks about 150 yds away and almost 100 ft down. Ten minutes later I have the stuff sack and finish packing. I don’t get out until 6:15, which is still a respectable time given the festivities of the morning.
It’s only about an hour to the bottom of the canyon then begins the next climb to the next pass. It’s cold enough that I have to wear my gloves but not my jacket. By the time I got to Donahue pass, it’s pretty cold and I have to put on my rain jacket. On the backside of the pass is either a rocky twisty trail, or one really long snowfield all the way down. It’s early and the snow is still hard, so I opt for the snowfield. It’s so long, I have to take several breaks down it, but it’s pretty good travelling. There are boot prints I can settle into without slipping most of the way but some sections are a little steep and slippery so I opt to travel on the fresh sun cups on those and the snow is just sit enough to crunch into them a few inches but not slip. The trail is much tamer at the bottom of the snow, so it’s quick travelling the rest of the way down the canyon.
Half way down to the meadow level I meet a ranger. Only the third of the trip so far. She asks for permit and bear canister and says my permit is not valid. I have not signed it yet. That’s an easy fix. She asks if I am heading to the Meadows for the night and I tell her I plan to just buzz by and keep going and she informs me the next six miles after the meadow are no camping, so I’ll have to be sure to go at least six miles past it to the Sierra camp or further. Good to know. I should still have enough time.
Once down to the meadow level, the last eight miles to the store are easy level hiking for the most part. I stop for lunch on a big rock in the meadow and marvel at how much I love salami and cheese. I should eat this more often. I wrap it in a tortilla and use a packet of Mayo and it is heavenly. Mayo makes the sandwich.
I don’t get to the store until 3:30 or so, but the store and grill are both open. I hit the store first for some fruit and more cheese and pepperoni and a few more items to extend my food a day. Then I head straight to the grill, but they are out of salad, so I settle for just a double cheeseburger. It’s a frozen patty affair, but it has lettuce and tomato so it serves as my salad. This post office/store/grill is actually built inside a giant tent. Very odd. An ice cream sandwich and Pepsi later, a little small talk with other hikers, a little packing, and I’m finally ready to leave at 5:30.
The hiking out of the Meadows starts very easy on a ten foot wide nature trail, then gets a little rocky, but nothing too bad. We are following the Tuolumne river and eventually hit a fifty foot waterfall. The Sierra camp is not too far after that, so I turn off to go to the camp. It’s only a tenth off the PCT and when I see it I’m a little overwhelmed. It’s a giant complex with a store and about twenty tent cabins. It’s not what I was expecting. I ask one of the patrons about it and he says there is a campground in the back. That’s more my speed.
I head back to the campground and there are at least 25 tents all around. They have running water and a pit toilet and I do finally manage to find a good spot, so I set up quickly and eat a nutritious dinner of potato chips, carnation instant breakfast, and skittles. Eating at the Meadows store so late is still keeping me fueled but I want to be sure to have plenty of raw materials for my body so it can rebuild while I sleep.
They have bear storage lockers so I put everything that even remotely has a smell in it except for my bear canister. These big campsites are almost always frequented by bears, so I don’t want to take any chances. Let’s hope for uninterrupted sleep tonight.
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