Day 4 – North of Donahue Pass to Tuolumne Meadows

Miles: 12

Last night I slept well. I woke up at 1:45am per usual after a deep sleep, but this time, instead of tossing and turning til morning, I rolled over to my side and fell right to sleep again.

I was warmer tonight too thanks to my down jacket and proper bedroll setup. By placing my head to face the wind I prevented the crosswind that plagued me the night before.

We had planned for an early start to get to our car by 1pm. We left precisely at 7:25am.

The trail was gentle and the temperature was very pleasant.

As we descended through the forest, Lyell Canyon came into view. Stunning is the word that comes to mind to describe the beauty of this canyon.

We hiked in the shadows for many hours of the morning, making our way down to the canyon. Once out of the trees, the temperature plummeted. The brown grass covering the meadows were covered in frost. The cool, damp air had descended onto the canyon floor and was still there. It was colder here than where we camped near 10,000 ft.

Three miles and and hour and a half later, the canyon began to warm.

We took a break mid morning to snack, soak our feet and enjoy the beauty of Lyell Canyon.

After the initial downhill of the early morning, most of the hike to the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Permit Office parking lot is flat.

Flat and beautiful. The dry brush, the lazy river, the coyotes, the distant jaggy peaks and the pure blue sky made for very pleasant hiking.

We stopped once again to soak our feet near the junction of the John Muir Trail and the Tuolumne Meadows High Sierra Camp. The season is over and they are slowly taking down the tents.

A half hour later we arrived at our car, replacing our hiking shoes with flip flops, our hiking clothes with cotton shirts.

It has been another beautiful trip in the Sierras. If we get any snow this winter, we will be back to snowshoe!

Day 3 – Thousand Island Lake to North of Donahue Pass

Miles: 7.2

Our alarm clock this morning was a 15 minute howling from distant coyotes.

The girls were up early as Laurie wanted to get a time lapse of the sunrise.

They stayed dry in their tent last night even though it was very humid.

As for me, I did not sleep as well. I cowboy camped on a rock and woke up every few hours with water dripping into my sleeping bag.

We had another lazy morning.

As we ate breakfast, I dried my sleeping bag and pad. At 9:15 we set off down the trail.

But we didn’t hike long as Laurie wanted to take a soak. On trips like these (low mileage days) we take opportunities to soak and lounge. Why not?

By 10:30am, we were hiking up toward Island Pass. The views of Thousand Island Lake were spectacular from the switchbacks.

As we climbed, we knew it would be a warm day. The first half of canyon between Island Pass and Donahue Pass is really pretty. Lush plants and trees, and active rivers. The second half of the canyon is exposed, dry and hot.

I decided to hike faster and try to get to Donahue Pass before 2:45pm. The heat, endless steps and views behind me made for slow going.

I arrived at the Pass at exactly 2:49pm. Didi mention it was hot?

Around 3:10 the girls arrived looking worn from the heat and the never-ending climb. I know Laurie can handle long climbes – after all, her nickname (one of many) is The Grinder. But I am so proud and happy that Erin made it too. Go Erin!!

After an hour break at the Pass eatin and chattin with other hikers, we packed up, laced up our shoes and headed down the trail. The view of Lyell Canyon from Donahue Pass is spectacular.

As we slowly descended, we talked about how far to go and where to camp. We decided to call it a day when we reached a beautiful flat section of trail still exposed and out of the trees, only a mile from the pass.

We set up our tents, one tent actually – I chose to cowboy camp again – stretched and ate dinner.

The temperature dropped soon after the sun sank below the mountains. Looks like it will be another cold night. But I was prepared. I set up my sleeping bag to prevent a crosswind. And I wore my down jacket on top of my silk and midweight wool long johns.

Another lovely but difficult day of hiking in The Range Of Light. Time to spot a few shooting stars and drift off.


Day 2 – Bushcamp South of Parker Pass to Thousand Island Lake

Date: October 8, 2015

Miles: 15

I woke up with a very stiff neck. My pillow had unraveled during the chili night. But no matter, we’re in the backcountry. And there’s no one else here. We saw only two people (day hikers) yesterday and probably won’t see many people today either.

Sunrise was absolutely spectacular. The few clouds that lingered turning orange and pink before the sun greeted us.

We lounged about in our tents until 8am, finally deciding to brave the cold and take care of business.

Around 9 am we were finally hiking. We predicted to be up and over Koip Pass by 11. Boy were we wrong.

There was so much more snow on Koip mountain than we expected. It was slow going as we kicked steps into snow to make progress. We must have been the first group to hike this trail after the last snow fell.

As the sun made its way over Koip mountain, it softened the snow enough to make kicking steps easier.

We decided to skip the switchbacks and go straight up the mountain. It was slow going and hard work, but we kept at it. I’m not very comfortable on snow and this was Erin’s first time traversing snow.

We both did very well. The dropoffs were massive and there were a few stretchy, rocky sections to manouver around, but we did it – following our fearless, sure footed leader Laurie most of the way.

By noon, we had finally made it across the pass.

We were beat.

We dropped our packs and devoured most of the food in our sacks. After consuming too much guyere cheese, an entire tray of smoked salmon, gorp, powerberries, and ginger chews, we were ready to set off once again. Except we didn’t want to put on our wet socks and shoes.

Nature always has a way of getting you moving though. In this case, the wind began howling and we were moving in no time.

On the long downhill to Alger Lakes, we took off most of our layers and couldn’t believe how different the landscape was on the south side of Koip Peak.

At 5pm we made our way down to Gem Lake, where we made the decision to hike to Thousand Island Lake.

We climbed up to Gem Pass, then gradually down to the Waugh Lake/Agnew Pass junction. After a refill of water and snacks, we hiked the 2 miles to Agnew Pass.

It was 6:30pm and the light was fading, but we kept walking. No turning back now.

At 8pm we finally made it to Thousand Island Lake with our headlamps lighting the way.

We ate dinner and went to bed. Erin and Laurie again shared the Tarptent while I chose to sleep under the stars.

I don’t like critters, and I saw a few spiders and mice, but the night sky won me over.