The amazing thing about day 2 is that it seemed that, upon waking, the body was fully recovered from day 1. Of course more than 10 hours of sleep will help, a comfort greatly aided by my new Thermarest NeoAir. That along with the restorative power of GU recovery drink (which may be purely psychosomatic, but it seemed to work through the months of training).
We had some leftover trail snacks from the day before, and some tea, our plan had been to walk about 3 miles and have breakfast in Tuolumne Meadows where our cache awaited us, and our new plan, walking 9 miles, would delay that quite a bit, more like lunch.
The Sunrise High Sierra camp definitely gets the Sun early, which was good. We didn't have much to linger for... collecting our kit and getting ready was quick. Here is the view from our camp across the meadow, the bear boxes and the composting toilets conveniently near by.
At less than a mile out, we had intersected the part of the trail we took on our Merced Lake trip, but on that day we had done about 3000' elevation gain in 5 hours. Today we covered the ground, up and over Tuolumne Pass and down to Tuolumne Meadows, without it seeming an effort at all, it was delightful to be surprised with how quickly we made progress compared to just a month previous.
It went so well that neither I nor Stephanie took any images until we camped that night.
Our goal was to make it over Donohue Pass, and beyond.
Noon arrived and we were taking our packs off in front of the Grill. We shared a Coke, and some fresh fruit, used the bathrooms and went to collect our cache. Sitting around, sorting, packing and eating a bit more lunch we had things pretty much ready to go by 2pm, which was a little bit later than I thought we'd take.
The increased weight amounted to something between 16 and 18 lbs for each of us, and these were the heaviest the packs would be. This was a half a gallon of white gas and a full Bear Vault full of food for 7 days, and the split of today's food was the additional load for each of us. The packs were probably over 50 lbs with all the other stuff.
While I had experience carrying huge packs long distances, this was the most Stephanie had every carried. And both of us experienced the thought that these packs might just be impossible.
It was certainly a good idea not to carry that load up from Yosemite Valley!
But experience can always be counted on to dismiss any thought of suffering, experience is having had an even worse time in the past, and reminding yourself of it. Here is an image of a trip I took in 1993 when our packs were 60+ lbs (I remember 70 lbs), with a couple of weeks of food, and gear for both rock and ice climbing. That was a long day! And I had memories of it while Steph and I hiked under our huge packs. Could it have been 14 years ago?
The day was getting hot, the trail out of Tuolumne Meadows was familiar to us, and it was mostly a gently rising trail until the climb up to the Pass.
We trundled on.
Crossing the bridge at Rafferty Creek took Stephanie beyond her previous experience. It would take me to the Evelyn Lake trail junction to be in new territory. As we walked, laboriously, I was thinking of our options.
All the rangers we had talked to discussed the bear situation, and warned of "habituated" bears along the Lyell Canyon stretch. So I had wanted to go beyond if possible... but by 5pm it was clear that the Sun would set early in the canyon, and that we weren't going to make much more progress. So we stopped and found a camp site that met the requirements: 100' from water and 100' from the trail on a "durable" surface.
We happened to choose a spot across the river from the NPS trail crew. This wasn't readily apparent, aside from the contraption that looked like a solar panel ("but how could it be" I thought when I saw it). We passed three crews working on improvements, hard labor moving rock, digging out trails, and all that. Just as we were setting up camp they were heading to dinner, and the smoke from their campfire revealed a tent city hidden in behind the trees. They seemed to be living pretty large over there...
...making our dinner and cleaning up, we collapsed by 8pm, shortly after sunset. Our progress was not "on schedule", but not quite a day behind, a fact that seemed to instill some optimism.
Day 2 statistics: we hiked 15.2 miles, Tuolumne Pass was the high point at 9950' with 1610' elevation gained and -2120' lost. We camped at 8859' in Lyell Canyon; the day 2 kml file.
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