I didn’t make any entry into my journal for this last day of our hike, but it is still vivid in my mind, and so here goes:
Barbara and I popped out of our respective tents, fully dressed, at exactly the same time this morning, sometime near 6:00 AM. We seem to have synchronized our inner clocks perfectly.
We ate our last helpings of oatmeal, drank our last cups of coffee (for B) and tea (for me), with the last of our powdered buttermilk. No snacks for today. We spread out our tents by the river on a lovely smooth clean expanse of granite to dry out after yesterday’s drenching. The wait forced us to enjoy our last campsite, as we slowly pack up our well-worn clothes, personal trash, and detritus picked up along the trail. Finally, the tents were dry, and we finished our packing and hit the trail. From here to the van, it’s mostly a pretty flat wander, mostly along the Tuolumne out to the parking lot, for about 5 miles or so. Easy-peasy!
We had parked in the lot for the stables, so on the way back we took the turnoff to the stables. I kept waiting for the landmarks that I remembered from our hike out, and nothing looked very familiar. Then, suddenly, we were out of the trees and actually at the Tuolumne Meadows stable. Like everything else in Yosemite, it never opened this season, and it looked so desolate. We hadn’t been there before. I was briefly disoriented, until I spotted the parking lot off to the right, and the van sitting patiently waiting for our return.
We tossed our very light packs into the van, and drove the short distance to the Tioga Pass Road bridge over the river. We took one last rinse-off in the bracing waters of the Tuolumne, and done our clean clothes. Heavenly!
Tioga Pass Road is spectacular, plunging over the smooth granite mountains and down the rubbly Nevada side to Mono Lake and Highway 395. I was too busy driving to take any photos. The air looked hazy, and Mono Lake faded out to invisible in the near distance. At 395, we turned left to the town of Lee Vining, hoping to find something to eat. The town is still pretty closed up, but there was a restaurant with an outdoor patio, and we donned our masks, sanitized our hands, and sat down to a fantastic late brunch. I had eggs over easy with hashbrown potatoes, salsa, and sourdough toast with marmalade. We shared a piece of cherry pie for dessert (too sweet for me). It was really incredible-tasting. When I backpacked in my teens, we always used to stop at the A&W drive-in in Tracy on our way back from the mountains and order root beer floats. That doesn’t appeal much to me anymore (at least, I don’t think it does. Maybe I should try one again…), but this food celebration had the same ritual feel to me.
Having to deliver Barbara to the campsite on Highway 50 meant that we got to take the road over Monitor Pass. As long as I have lived and traveled in California, I had never yet been on this road. It’s so exciting for me to have a new road under my wheels, and this pass is a beauty! When we stopped up near the summit to take photos, we talked to two motorcycle riders who were enjoying the road, too. They told us that there was a fire east of Mono Lake that was causing the smoke in the air. And they mentioned the dry lightning storms of the night before last that set off over 300 fires around the Bay Area. So that’s what I smelled all the way up in the mountains. The nose knew. What will we be coming home to?
Now I am back home, and California is on fire. Luckily, here in Berkeley, we are far from the actual blazes, but inundated with smoke. And friends, acquaintances, and strangers are being evacuated and losing everything to the flames. Poor California! We need our water, we need our snow, we need cold winters in the mountains. We need our rivers to flood the valley floor in the Springtime and replenish the groundwater.
Barbara and I have been planning another hike, in Yosemite, for next week, but just this evening I got news that there s a fire very nearby. Maybe we will just stay home indoors.
Wishing you well wherever you are.