Monday, July 8, 2013

Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne Loop

Man, it was a hot week in Davis. When it gets over 105 I start to melt but fortunately I had an escape plan. It was entirely coincidental but I had booked last week off from work a couple months back with the intentions of joining Jack and Brian on a High Sierra trip. But due to the unexpected but entirely welcome visit from Wendy (Lori's sister) I had to bail on that. However, I did have a couple of days to kill before Wendy arrived so I decided to do a 50 mile loop trip going through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

Please excuse the crappy map

I have wanted to do this trip for a couple of years so I was excited to see what northern Yosemite had to offer. It didn't hurt that I was leaving just as it started to heat up too.

DAY 1: ~ 10 miles

I left on Saturday morning at 5 am and was on trail with my permit by 9:30. I parked in the last spot at the trailhead at White Wolf and headed into the woods. The first couple of miles is fairly flat and at this time of year there were an abundance of flowers and butterflies.

After those first 2 miles the trail decends rapidly down towards Pate Valley. Elevation drop is about 3600 feet with many switchbacks and nice views. I had a brief look over Hetch Hetchy resevoir (the drinking water for San Francisco) as I made my way down.

Hetch Hetchy, the first backpacking trip Lori and I took in Yosemite was down there back in 2009.

The sun was strong and as I descended the air grew hotter. Still, it was nothing compared to the Central Valley and I really enjoyed the hike. After reaching Pate Valley I walked for another couple of miles to find a campsite. The water was too irresistible and I spent a lovely couple of hours resting in the shade and swimming in the river.

I found a great campsite across from the river and was ready to set up my bivy, I propped my backpack upright with my trekking pole as I walked around the site for a few minutes. When I got back to my pack a rattlesnake had decided to coil up underneath. I dont know who was more startled, me or the snake. I am sure I jumped when I heard that rattle.

After leaving the shade of my pack this one coiled up nearby

I decided I didn't want to share my site with the snake so I moved on to another spot.

No snakes here
DAY 2: ~ 15 miles

The next day was way harder than I expected. I guess I didnt pay attention to the elevation profile but I thought it was going to be fairly flat. I was way wrong, the trail climbs back up about 3600 feet to the Glen Aulin camp and my legs were feeling it. On the way I passed a number of waterfalls, which helped to keep me cool.

Despite my protesting legs, it was a nice hike and I enjoyed the day. I arrived at McGee lake in the late afternoon and set up there. The mosquitoes came out in force and I retreated to my bivy sack after a hasty dinner. I didn't leave my sack until morning and the mosquitoes buzzed all night long.

DAY 3: ~ 15 miles

Morning was a mad dash to pack up and get moving as I was swarmed by the hungry mosquitoes. I didn't even stop to eat, within 10 minutes of leaving my bivy sack I hit the trail as fast as I could. As long as I kept moving they had a hard time landing. But there was a cloud of them following me that I could feel everytime my hand swung back. It was miserable and although I wanted to enjoy the lush scenery, I really didn't. I was pushing to gain elevation, I figured they would not be as bad once I got out of the valley.

Trying to bug proof myself
I was really wishing I had a headnet, I didn't so I just kept moving and managed to make pretty good time. After about 6 miles, the trail started to move out of the super wet areas and I was able to break and eat some food in peace. The rest of the day was pretty nice with plenty of small streams to dip my hat into.

There was a brief thunderstorm that came in just as I made it to Ten Lakes. As soon as I had my tarp set up it started to rain but only for 15 minutes. Then the sun came out and it was a lovely afternoon. The mosquitoes were bad again by the lake, it was hard to really relax much but I found they bothered me less when I sat on a rock at the edge of the lake, so I spent a lot of time there.

Dinner was another quick affair and I got into my bivy pretty early.

Day 4: ~ 10 miles

I will admit, the mosquitoes really challenged me, I was definitely ready to get out of the woods after this trip. The last day was through a mix of sub alpine meadow to lush forests. I saw a few deer alongside the trail.

One of the very few mushrooms I saw
Even though it was only a few days, I was really looking forward to getting home and eating well. It was a great trip and although the mosquitoes were bad, the cooler weather and abundance of water was really refreshing. What an amazing place to visit!