The True Wilderness Experience…
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees”. – John Muir
Today we hiked past Tuolumne Meadows, the final touristy area out of Yosemite National Park that has a Visitor Centre, General Store and Post Office. So from now on we’ll no longer see crowds of visitors at popular spots like we did at the Cathedral Lakes area or pass ‘day hikers’ on the trail such as those we met heading for Half Dome. We’ve had our warm up; we know and follow the rules; and we’ve established our own routines. It’s now time to enter ‘true wilderness’.
Stunning sunrise reflections on Cathedral Lake.
Day 4 – Lower Cathedral Lake to Lyell Canyon (12 miles) – Monday 1st September 2014 – ‘Trail Food Blues!’
It was an early wake up call for Wayne today as he wanted to take some reflection shots and capture a time lapse sequence of sunrise over Lower Cathedral Lake. (Ever the photographer hard at work!)
Worth getting up for! Wayne captures the simplicity of sunrise on Cathedral Lake.
The calm, still waters of Cathedral lake.
It was a fairly easy 5 mile walk to Tuolumne Meadows today, our main stopping point to collect our first re-supply parcel, so we didn’t have to rush to leave camp.
The sun finally makes an appearance above the mountain ridge.
Enjoying a leisurely breakfast of porridge before leaving camp.
By the time we did set off, we were wondering whether or not the little Post Office counter at Tuolumne Meadows would even be open as it happened to be Labour Day here in the USA. (The equivalent of a Bank Holiday in the UK where public services are closed).
Beautiful ‘fall’ colours on the trail.
We spotted this cute chipmunk as we headed for Tuolumne Meadows.
More trees and mountains…
A ‘rock hop’ across the creek.
Thankfully when we arrived at the Post Office the counter window was open! The guy ‘at work’ emphasised to us that this was the only post office open today in the whole of the USA, despite it being Labour Day, just so hikers could collect their food rations. Let it be known that we’re eternally grateful!
We weren’t sure how busy Tuolumne Meadows was going to be. ‘Busy’ doesn’t do the scene justice. When we arrived it was actually heaving with day trippers, backpackers and families camping out for Labour Day weekend. Well what did we really expect on a national holiday!
We’d already decided that we would avoid the crowds and the Backpacker’s Campground here by hiking on a further 4 miles into Lyell Canyon. As Tuolumne Meadows is such a popular spot with day hikers out of Yosemite Valley, there were just too many people for us. After 4 days on the JMT, we were just getting used to and quite enjoying the solitude of being on our own.
The little Post Office at Tuolumne Meadows where we collected our first re-supply food parcel (and resisted buying hamburgers from the Tuolumne Meadows Grill!)
One box down, just two more on route to collect!
But before we could ditch the masses, we had our re-supply package to contend with. We had already realised that we’d estimated and brought way too much food! Our daily rations so far have consisted of porridge or granola for breakfast, a Clif Bar for a mid-morning snack, tortilla wraps or crackers with a filling for lunch, a different cereal/ snack bar for a late-afternoon snack, plus 4 mini chocolate bars and a bag of trail mix each to eat at various points throughout the day. That’s before we even get started on our 3-course dinner each night!
Well, even after just 3 days, we both agreed that we were already fed up with ‘trail mix’. (And this is good quality homemade trail mix consisting of raisins, cranberries, mixed nuts and chocolate M&Ms that Wayne measured out himself!) So without too much deliberation, we decided that the trail mix just had to go. We each had 3 bags left in our bear canisters, plus an additional 10 bags from our re-supply parcel. Getting rid of it would make some vital space needed in our bear canisters so that we could just about squeeze everything else in!
Wayne packaged up 50 bags of trail mix and we are already fed up of it after just 3 days!
We offered up the trail mix bags to other hikers milling about the Post Office and General Store, but we only managed to offload about 5. I can’t believe we couldn’t even give it away! Obviously, like us, they too were suffering from a serious ‘trail mix’ overload. (And we have yet even more bags of the stuff to come in our next 2 re-supply parcels!)
Anyway, after expertly repacking the bear canisters (or rather cramming everything inside that we possibly could) and resisting the urge to grab a burger at the Tuolumne Meadows Grill, we finally set off for Lyell Canyon just before 3pm.
Leaving Tuolumne Meadows and getting back on the JMT!
A perfect day for a stroll… The wonderful views along Lyell Canyon.
Stopping to enjoy the fantastic views along Lyell Canyon.
Loving the solitude of ‘the wilderness’, so far!
We had 4 miles to go before we were allowed to camp, as this is the restriction zone around Tuolumne Meadows. We’d been shown a photograph by a Ranger in the Wilderness Centre in Yosemite of a landslide along Lyell Canyon. This was our marker signalling we could camp beyond this point. It was all well and good in theory, however we struggled to identify the landslide area, which now seemed to be covered in young trees. It was definitely 4 miles on, so we assumed we had located the right spot and that we’d just been shown an old photograph.
The place where we thought the landslide had occurred.
We discovered a previously used camp spot adjacent to the river, just a little way past this, and got ourselves set up for the night.
Tonight’s camp spot along Lyell Canyon.
The sun was already setting and it immediately seemed colder, but we still made the effort to go down to the river to rinse the dust off ourselves and to filter some drinking water. We then had a proper strip wash closer to the tent. Getting on with the daily chores and keeping to a proper camp hygiene routine is a must. Some of the thru-hikers we had seen at Tuolumne Meadows just looked grimy. There’s no need to have ‘black’ feet when you’re close to a water source each day and can at least rinse them off! (Failing that, the next best thing is a wet wipe. A packet of those definitely made the final cut when deciding on what was needed in the bear canister).
Collecting water from the stream ready to filter.
Washing in the wilderness!
After feeling a lot fresher, we got stuck into dinner. Tonight’s delights were chicken noodle soup for starters, followed by spicy cous cous, mixed with salsa flavoured tuna served in tortilla wraps. (We’d saved the wraps from lunch having bought an apple, ice-cream and packet of crisps from the Tuolumne Meadows Store). And to finish off, we had our usual cup of hot chocolate – a nice, warm treat before bed.
Cooking in the ‘great outdoors’!
Tomorrow we’ll be leaving the Yosemite National Park boundary as we head over Donahue Pass into the area known as Ansell Adams Wilderness. We better get a good night’s sleep as the pass is over 11,000 feet! Find out how we got on in our next JMT diary update coming soon…