Reconstructing the Trail Home

August 14

Good morning, Moon!

Like so many journals I keep, the last day of the trip never gets written up. We rejoin the busy, urban world, and I don’t have that time to sit and relate the day’s events. So I am just going to have to go by my faulty memory of that day.

Daybreak over the lake.

I recall that the days started fairly early, with beautiful clear skies in the morning and a quiet around the lake. I think most campers were still slumbering by the time we got up and packed. Now that we have decided to hike out a day early and to a different trailhead, we are wondering how we will get to the van, which is still parked (we hope) at White Wolf. We will now be exiting the trail at Yosemite Creek/Ten Lakes trailhead. We could hitchhike, but I have found that, even though all the guide books say that hitchhiking in Yosemite is easy, it has never worked for me. Nobody has ever pulled over, even when I raise my thumb up higher so no decent soul can miss it, to paraphrase Gordon Lightfoot. I am thinking that two bedraggled hikers with backpacks might be even more difficult. So maybe one of us could hitchhike and retrieve the car while the other just waited with the packs. I also recall having fantasies that the van had burned up in a fire while we were out on the trail. The brain gets active.

It was a little difficult at first, finding the right trail, as the overused area around Ten Lakes is braided with trails. But eventually the main trail emerged from the pack.

As we climb out of Ten Lakes Basin, we began to see fingers of smoke encroaching from the east.
Yep. Definitely smoke. But blowing in from somewhere far away.
Down to the left is the deep Tuolumne River canyon. It boggles my mind to imagine the river cutting that deep channel through the ages.

The views start looking like the Great Smokey Mountains, with the mist hanging in the valleys. Only, of course, it’s smoke.

A peek-a-book view of our lake, nestled among the folds of granite.
Hiking out of the basin, feeling good on the last day. That is always the case, it seems.

At Ten Lakes Pass, we entered a broad open expanse of gravelly ground, with beautiful little buckwheats and other flowers growing sparsely throughout the area. It made it difficult to think about stepping off the trail, for fear of crushing something. But we did. We carefully picked our way over to a mixed stand of junipers, spruce, and lodgepole perched on the edge of the pass, set down our packs and just sat there for awhile, soaking up the high mountains, munching dried fruit and nuts and coming to terms with saying goodbye. We could look down into the Tuolumne River valley, and almost trace our entire trek from this vantage point. I didn’t want to leave.

Looking across the valley to Rancheria Mountain (I think).
Awwww…

Then it was back to the trail and the descent to Highway 120. The trail winds down switchbacks through quiet forests, occasionally breaking free of the trees to traverse granite patches of sunshine, with views down towards what I think is Cloud’s Rest, and Tenaya Peak. I really need to get that app that shows the peaks so that I can know what it is I’m looking at!

1,500 feet lower, B and I ran into two women, Kelly and Bren, hiking out to the Ten Lakes trailhead. they were the only other people we saw on the trail today. B is so easy with starting a conversation, and in no time we had a ride to our van all arranged! At some point, I quit taking photos. I remember walking through a big recently-burned area of forest, with blackened spires of trees standing among lush green grasses and brilliant fireweed, and down long granite slopes toward the valley below. The women were an interesting pair, who had decided last-minute to take a little overnight backpacking trip. They both work in or near Yosemite, and had been nearly trapped together in the big Creek Fire of 2020. Their accounts were so harrowing, but since I didn’t write it down, I really think I’ll get it wrong if I try to describe it. One of them had just had to evacuate from her home in Mariposa a few weeks earlier, due to the Oak Fire. They were both dedicated and veteran backpackers, and I asked what areas they most wanted to return to, but alas—I didn’t take notes and can’t remember their responses.

We finally emerged at the parking lot alongside Highway 120, and I sought out the creek for a little cooling bath before we hit the road. It felt great, lazing in the stream, nearly under the highway bridge. And again, the waters made me whole and new-feeling in this old world. 

Just a little smoke peeking over the range. We were incredibly lucky to get the clear air that we got. I’m sure that the next few days were much smokier.

Barbara and I loaded our packs into Kelly’s car and she drove us back to White Wolf, where our still-intact van awaited. It turned out that Kelly is in charge of wilderness rescue curriculum of Nature Bridge in Yosemite, a wonderful organization of which I had previously been unaware. Then it was the long journey home in the afternoon sun, bright in my eyes as I drove down the mountains. Soon, we were within cell phone reach, and the phones started beeping and downloading messages from the last six days. Ugh! Re-entry is so difficult. So abrupt and un-nuanced. Life goes on without us. Every time I see a message, a little jolt of fear runs through me. What cataclysmic event happened when I was out of range? I drove while Barbara checked her phone, and responded to her people, and then she drove while I did the same. Luckily, all is well, it seems, though Tom had a rough time while I was gone. Lots of back pain.

I’m happy to report that my shoes held up well enough for me to have no problems with the hike out. So far, I have ordered three different kinds of shoes to replace my beloved New Balance Minimus trail runners, but have sent them all back for various reasons. I expect my next pair to show up next week. Because of my foot issues, I prefer getting men’s shoes (wider toe box), but no stores stock men’s shoes in small enough sizes for me (not that they are all that small…). It’d be so much easier if I could just go somewhere and try everything on!  Oh, and I need to make sure that I always have a roll of Tenacious Tape in my pack. That stuff is amazing! Tough, lightweight and so sticky. Of course, I imagine that if I have to use it on my shoes, I am leaving a trail of microplastics on the rocks behind me, which will get washed down to the streams and carried to the rivers and end up in the ocean where a blue whale will ingest it as a part of her 95-pounds-a-day of microplastic consumption. It’s hard being a responsible member of the community of Earth. But I’m so thankful I didn’t have to walk out barefoot, or in my campsite Crocs, which would have been really dangerous on the rocks.

The phone shows a nice easy 6.6 miles for today’s hike. We were back home to Berkeley in time for dinner. I want to go again. Thanks for hanging with me as I revisit the hike. Wish I had more photos of the day, but it just didn’t happen.

5 thoughts on “Reconstructing the Trail Home

  1. As always, Laurie, Its wonderful read of your adventures, and it was wonderful to see you again at the Crazy J ranch concert. Be well, and say hi to Tom for me., Best, Harley

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  2. I love the line that ends in “…., I am leaving a trail of microplastics on the rocks behind me, which will get washed down to the streams and carried to the rivers and end up in the ocean where a blue whale will ingest it as a part of her 95-pounds-a-day of microplastic consumption.”

    Hope you and Tom got our card/poem. On we go…

    Andrea & Alan

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  3. The last day is always so ambivalent.: Part of you wants the creature – comforts, and the other part is just getting lean and mean, pared down and in time with the wilds…

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