Friday, March 29, 2013

5 day loop around Yosemite

This is a little blast from the past. I don't have any interesting backpacking trips coming up so I thought I would post this, it was a unique trip! This was from October 2012:

I have been loving California. The incredible variety of backcountry options is so refreshing. I have considered Yosemite to be one of the jewels of California but have never really explored it. This year, I wanted to really have a good look at Yosemite. I was limited to 5 days (due to work constraints) and so I chose to do a semi-loop around the southeastern portion of the park.

5 day semi-loop of southwestern Yosemite

Day 1: Catheral Lakes trailhead south on the JMT. ~ 10 miles

Started at Cathedral Lakes trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows.

I hiked south for a few hours on the JMT and found a quiet little campsite near a stream.

Day 2: Campsite on the JMT to Washburn Lake. ~ 10 miles

The next day I hiked a couple more miles south and then turned East towards Merced Lake. The camp was deserted as I passed by. It felt great to be in such a popular spot without anyone else around.

Passed by an area where many trees had blown over. This bridge was damaged as well.

Saw bear #1 (sorry no picture) near the Merced ranger station. A beautiful walk to Washburn lake where, as the sun set, this incredible pink glow lit up the entire valley.

It really looked like this!

Day 3: Washburn Lake to Upper Ottoway Lake. ~ 15 miles

Continued up the Merced river the following day. Saw bear #2 in the morning just after leaving the lake.

This was the only bear I encountered that actually seemed nervous around me, all the others completely ignored me.

I continued, mostly uphill, through a mix of conifer forest and rocky subalpine terrain.

This was probably the best day of the entire trip. I was in a great mood, the hiking was strenuous but enjoyable, the weather was fine and I passed through a variety of landscapes.


Looking up towards Red Peak.

View back down the valley.

Almost at the pass.

Steep switchbacks down the other side, the trail continued past upper Ottoway Lake.
I spent the night near upper Ottoway Lake, camped next to a stand of Junipers.

Day 4: Upper Ottoway Lake to Little Yosemite Valley ~ 17 miles

Lower Ottoway Lake

I followed the Illilouette river towards the valley. This was a much lusher area with many aspen trees.

There were beautiful aspen trees rustling in the breeze

Bear #3
Bears 4, 5 and 6. (Mother with 2 cubs, cant see the cubs in this picture) I gave them lots of space.

I passed by a series of domes.

Near Nevada Falls

Sunset on the Merced

Day 5: Little Yosemite Valley back to Cathedral Lakes Trailhead. ~ 16 miles

I passed the back of half dome in the morning and hiked uphill onto the JMT.

So there I was, minding my own business. I had hiked up to the top of a small pass, just above Sunrise High Sierra camp. As I got to the top, I saw this strange white furry creature through the trees ahead of me. 

A Llama? I have seen llamas in the backcountry before but never one alone.

I have not had too many interactions with llamas and it was strange to come across one here. I called out to see if anyone was around, the llama looked like it had broken free during the night and had wandered up here. He seemed to be pretty relaxed, happily munching away on grass.

I didn't really feel like I should leave it, since I had not seen anyone for many hours on the trail up, I thought that perhaps there were some people camped at Sunrise who had lost their llama. After much thought I decided that I should take it with me in the hopes that I would run into the person looking for it. 

I had never led a llama so I wasn't sure how to do it. When I would get too close he started to get a weird look in his eye so I didn't feel too comfortable grabbing the short rope. But, I found that if I walked behind him, he would walk along the trail. 

As we went along he would get easily distracted by the tempting grasses, therefore I decided that if I really was committed to getting him somewhere, I had better take the rope. Turns out I had nothing to worry about, he was very calm.This is when I learned his name, written on his harness, "Bandido".

We walked a long ways. As I kept passing backpackers, I grew increasingly unsure of my decision as nobody had heard of a missing llama. I began to wonder if I had brought Bandido in the wrong direction. But, we continued on, it was too late to turn back and I didn't feel right leaving him alone.

Chilling with Bandido

At upper Cathedral Lake I ran into a forest service crew who had a satellite phone. They were able to call the number on the tag on Bandido's harness. I spoke with the owner and agreed to continue walking Bandido down to the trailhead where he would meet me. 

It turns out that he was missing 2 llamas and he was very happy that I found one of them.

Bandido listening intently

 And that was it, I left the park around sunset and drove home. That was a long day!

Bandido the lost Llama