Day One & Already Dreaming of Burritos
JUNE 20: 9 miles, June Lake, Tuolomne Meadows
It’s 6:30am on Day 1 and the birds are on vocal warmup already. Sound of zippers and coughing in camp as people wake up. We made the long drive from Santa Cruz to Yosemite yesterday and as soon as I got a look at the dramatic views from the Yosemite Valley floor, I was smiling. After several rounds of car karaoke (wherein I subject the boys to a Whitney Houston medley OMGYou’reWELCOME), we took an icy dip in Tenaya Lake, set up camp at June Lake Campground, and grabbed the last non-dehydrated meal that we’ll eat for the next week…at least until we get to VVR and straight up hoover some burritos. Mike’s wife (and my dear friend) Caitlin makes these trips possible. That’s Caitlin on the left next to these bearded fools.
A lightning strike near Whitney Portal started a wildfire near the end of our trek and it’s only 60% contained at the moment. We’re keeping an eye on it, but it’s the new normal to have wildfire season begin in June now. Yikes.
To prep for the altitude, I’m constantly drinking water and adjusting to one of the gifts of Trail Life, where you can pee anywhere you please. I used to have a hard time with this when I first backpacked, but now any friend of mine in real life knows that I’ll pretty much pop a squat in an alley, a city park… once you’re feral, it’s tough coming back to civility. Some never do…
The ranger at the permit station gave us a download of safety tips, a “wag bag” for the Whitney area (pack it out!) and told us she hoped we had some “Five Star poos”, where you have a view of a canyon while an eagle flies over and a gentle breeze washes over you.
With a short day of just 9 miles, we took our time. Dipped our feet into ice blue water and set up camp early around 5p (for our crew). Listened to the waterfall churn down the canyon and watched a herd of deer in the meadow before an early bedtime. Seriously, what Disney set have we stumbled upon?
JUNE 21: 15.5 miles, Tuolomne Meadows to Shadow Lake
I see fellow travelers covered head to toe out here and I walk past them with my running shorts rolled up to my crotch, PCT-style. Look, if it were not so awkward socially, I’d pretty much hike in my underwear, but like…bugs and skin cancer and normal standards of human conduct. Maybe it’s time to invest in one of those hiker skirts, but I am already careening dangerously towards 40 and I’m 65 in my mind and it’s a real slippery slope to a full Sahara suit. I hear today is National Hike Naked Day, so I wore my short shorts proudly. Frankly, it’s all good until Jerry and Al walk by you with your under-buns hanging out because you “like to minimize the chafe”. Based on my Dad hat, sunglasses, generic hiker top and the two dudes I roll with, Jerry and Al usually think I’m a guy with really great legs anyways. Gender is a construct, the end.
I digress, today we did 15.5 miles from Tuolomne to Shadow Lake. Highlights include: feeling pretty damn proud of myself that Donahue Pass didn’t end me, pelting Joe with snowballs, watching the tubbiest marmot sun itself in the best seat in the house, and seeing an osprey catch a fish at Thousand Island Lake and fly it back to its nest. And finally, we’re only like a block from civilization and we’re already talking about kimchi pancakes, tri-tip and It’s-Its. The heart wants what it wants, man.
JUNE 22: 14 miles, Shadow Lake to Reds Meadow/Rainbow Falls
We headed towards Reds Meadow with the promise of burgers and beer and we were not disappointed. I’d have a photo of this meal, but it was carnage. #NoPickleLeftBehind
After a delirious indulgence and a few hours zoning out at Reds, we decided to switch up the next couple days on the route. (JMT purists: keep your powder dry, we DO divert from the trail for a bit here.) Joe’s done this leg several times and saw on Guthook the option to take Rainbow Falls Trail to Fish Creek. This took us down into Cascade Valley, where the ecosystem changed from dry and dusty to Fern Gully. Our campsite tonight was a 360 panorama of phenomenal with a waterfall in the background and NO BUGS.
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