September 20th, 2018
Wilson Creek mm 965 to Tuolumne Meadows mm 942
Distance: 23 miles
0620 – 1600
I slept a bit cold overnight. It was probably a combination of being tired from the exertion the day before, being low on calories, and that it dipped into the 20’s. Taylor experienced the same. We were so glad we didn’t go a further 2 miles to camp, since it was even colder down the valley. To attest to the cold, there was a lake that had amazing ice tubules/crystals formed along the shore. They had sprouted like grass from the sand and some were a few inches long. What a natural wonder. I had never seen anything like it. Hoarfrost I guess is what it’s called.
It was a fast hike into Tuolumne. There were a few small climbs but nothing like the day before. We walked through some really nice valleys and meadows and it actually got hot. We stopped to take a break at a creek and along came Dahn (a SOBO I met in Ashland and who also walked the TA this past year). He was walking north, having flipped all the way from Dunsmuir to Tehachapi because of the smoke. He gave us some good insights on the upcoming terrain. He also told us about two 40 mile waterless stretches beyond the Sierra. What a fun thing to look forward to.
I should mention that this section and the day before usually have some notoriously difficult stream crossings. But at this time of year, they are nothing more than a trickle, or even completely dry. I have been able to skip across all of them with barely even a thought, let alone wet feet. If you’d like to read about the treacherous conditions NOBOs face in the early summer, check out Wired’s blog, Day 72. It’s quite a contrast to my experience.
We walked on past Tuolumne Falls, along the river, and through the meadow. There were many interpretive signs but I was too hungry to stop and read them thoroughly. All I wanted was a hamburger from the concession. The place also became a zoo by about 6 miles out. There were so many people. It always feels a little weird hiking around all the good-smelling, clean day hikers and weekend backpackers. I wonder what they think when we go by.
We all made it to Tuolumne by 3 pm, but then Stellar and I had to walk a mile back the way we had come to get to the ranger station. I had talked him into trying to hike Half Dome…if we could get a permit. Well, apparently there are no walk-up permits issued for day hikes anymore. You have to apply 3 days in advance for a 300 slot lottery. That or get an overnight backpacking permit and attach the hike to your itinerary. But even all the backpacking permits for the area were snagged. Some wasted miles were all we got.
I was tempted to take a day to see Yosemite Valley anyways, but the rangers mentioned that all the falls were running at bare trickles. It would be a Friday and probably crowded. I decided to save it for another time. So close but I have so many miles left to do. Being a tourist will have to wait.
We tried to hitch back to the concession but no drivers were having it. We walked and finally got our hamburgers and beer. I also got my resupply box and tried to cram everything into the bear canister. We sat outside the concession for awhile, stuffing our faces. News Feed and Dorothy decided to hike on, while Stellar and I resigned to camping at the nearby campground. I had acquired more food from the hiker box and decided it was best to stay there to eat it all. I already had too much to carry. I have 6 days worth of food again.
We set up next to a nice family that made a fire. We were invited over and had a good conversation over the flames. Ellen, Dave, and Emily had been hiking the JMT (John Muir Trail), and so were very interested in our gear and experiences. Stellar also discovered that they live about 1 mile apart from him in Cleveland. Small world.
It was so nice to enjoy a campfire for a change. Thru-hikers are always too tired to make fires or we are in areas that don’t allow them. There has been a backcountry fire ban in effect pretty much all of Oregon and California. I think this was the first campfire I enjoyed since Broken Toe’s campfire at Hart’s Pass, Day 4.
I went to bed around 10 pm, which is way later than usual. There was some noise from the large and busy campground but as is normal, none of it bothered me. I slept warm and great.