The Ups and Downs

August 12

Morning at McGee Lake

Today was a long day, from McGee Lake to the south fork of Cathedral Creek. Lots of up and down, and I felt pretty good all day. But B was suffering from her blistered foot and got very tired. I ended up waiting for her for long stretches of time—long enough that I began to wonder if I should reverse direction and try to find her. We have a rule to always wait at all water crossings and trail signs. And I have done that, but still, there are long waiting periods. And then she shows up, all happy and smiling and ready to push on. Such a trouper!

Up in the granite, my favorite place.
North fork of Cathedral Creek. The water is low, but so clear and cool.
Suddenly, a little patch of mass so green it almost hurt my eyes!
This lookout point was really special. A nearly flat expanse of smooth granite with randomly-spaced boulders scattered across it.
Where we are headed and not headed. The last time I was on this trail was in June 2018. The snow nearly obliterated the signs, and there was nobody else to be seen anywhere—though there were footprints.

We saw an osprey at Glen Aulin fly right over our heads and land on a snag overlooking the T. Saw dippers in the river, lots of stellar jays, a few ravens, woodpeckers, mountain chickadees, juncos and robins. I always think there should be more wildlife than we see, but this is a well-traveled area and maybe they avoid us—except for big fat marmots who want to chew a hole in our packs. Actually, I don’t know where they are around here. Haven’t seen any so far.

I guessed that this is Tuolumne Peak, towering above us, but later on decided I was probably wrong. Maybe not…
The trail at the top of the first pass, over into the valley of the South Fork of Cathedral Creek. We stopped at the saddle for a little while to just enjoy the sunshine and the air.
Looking down on the little pond on the far side of the pass. It has no name.
Looking across at the far side of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. We will be spending the night somewhere at the bottom of the valley. It’s a long ways down…
Slow-motion group dance of the lodgepole pine. They look like they are doing a hula!
We entered into an area of very happy hemlocks, growing all around a lovely green meadow.

I love being up high. We stopped for our midday hot meal in a hemlock grove by a tiny freshet running over the granite. It was a perfect Japanese rock garden, only better.

Yeah…it’s a lousy photo of Barbara. This is our lunch spot.
Celebrating a mother tree, surrounded by her offspring. I am currently reading “Finding the Mother Tree,” by Simone Simard.
Definitely smoke is beginning to blow in. From where?

We camped this evening near an area where Cathedral Creek runs over smooth, sculpted granite. I bathed in a tub-sized pool and sat naked in the sun to dry. It was so free-feeling! I rinsed out my clothes as usual and spread them to dry in a little hemlock tree.

This little lake was the last water until we hit South Cathedral Creek. It’s a tiny gem, nestled right up to the lip of the rock before it spills over into the valley.
…and down the other side we go. Somewhere down there is tonight’s campsite.
I waited for a long time at the point where the trail hits Cathedral Creek, for B to show up. Such a lovely late-season flower garden here.

Late in the afternoon, I saw smoke blowing in—or at least visible. It looked like it might be coming from way over by Sonora Pass, maybe. We are in a valley now, with blue skies everywhere, but I think I can see some smoke to the north. I can’t smell it, though.

The creek runs over smooth granite with lots of little bathtub-sized pools. The smooth stone on my bare feet is such a tactilely rich experience.

I love the walking up and down, through the various biomes. We are now in lodgepole and hemlock. Yesterday, we passed a Jeffrey pine that made the air smell so delicious—butterscotch, vanilla, maple syrup. I stopped to put my nose to a crevice in the plates of bark, and just breathed it in. Glorious!

More people on the trail today—short hikers from Tenaya or May Lakes, going to Glen Aulin. But after the May Lake turnoff, there has been nobody. No, not exactly right: there was a group led by a Teva-sandaled woman guide, one young man from Oakland and a lone Aussie woman.

Much of every day up here—hours on end—is spent alone, with just my thoughts and emotions. I spend a lot of the time just trying to register, take in and retain the beauty all around me. Sometimes it is overwhelming, and I start to cry. All my emotions seem to be just under the skin, and the skin is so easily torn, like a delicate covering of tissue paper. Waves of sorrow wash over and around me in the midst of all this space. There is the intense depth of the drought, the fact of Tom’s physical decline, the worry over everything in the World, the guilt and fear of being away from home if something were to happen. And then the wave is past and I am again floating in the Beauty, grateful for what is here around me.

Our campsite for the night is in a large clearing among sparsely-placed lodgepole and little hemlocks. There is an “improved” campfire ring, surrounded by wooden benches and tree-stump seats. But it looks sort-of like a ghost camp. Where are all the people? This is a relatively untraveled area connecting two of Yosemite’s popular hiking destinations. Yet we see nobody on the trail, which winds along on the far side of the creek from us. Out on the rocky slope below our camp, you can catch glimpses into the Grand Canyon f the Tuolumne, and trace our path.

My phone shows 11.3 miles today. There were precious few places to camp on this stretch where water is available. I guess that’s why people avoid it. It’s a long pull. But so beautiful! My favorite part of the trip so far.

Most definitely smoke! I started smelling it at around 9:00 at night, and I stayed awake for hours plotting escape routes, just in case.

3 thoughts on “The Ups and Downs

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