Continuing where we left off in Bench Canyon...
After completing our multi-challenge day, we were almost finished with off-trail travel. Almost back to trail walking, which was on one hand less exciting, on the other hand a bit of a relief. We were more certain Cathy would catch her plane on the other end, at least.
But first, we had plenty of great scenery ahead of us, and one big pass above Blue Lake.
As we were about to leave camp we heard voices and ran over to greet a group who was hiking down-canyon. We hadn't seen a single other person since climbing toward North Glacier Pass, and barely anyone before that. I think we were a bit excited to chat with people. They were fun, telling us a couple stories.
OK, time to walk. The pleasant morning continued with a warmup hike up to Blue Lake where we contemplated the task ahead. Roper describes this ascent as "amazingly easy". I'm not sure we went that exact way, or maybe his definition of easy is different than ours.
It started out quite lovely:
Always something to look at when we stopped to breathe:
Figuring out ways up through the rocks, with great help from John's reconnoitering, as usual.
The upper part has a lot of talus to pick your way through. Overall, not super difficult, but harder than we'd expected.
Snack break at the top! We also inspected a game camera, hello whoever is watching. I guess they use it to try to discern migration patterns over this big ridge, into and out of Yosemite park. The pass was the highest point of our journey this year, over 11,200' high.
The other side of the pass is described as steep talus, and yes, that is true. It took a while to carefully drop down. At least we had no expectation of that part being easy.
Wow, I guess we just came down that thing:
The pretty lake at the bottom:
Enjoying another great day with friends who keep making you laugh!
It was a nice cross-country walk across the outskirts of Yosemite. Here we are sitting down again:
After a gentle traverse through woods, we were looking down at Isberg Pass trail, or at least the meadow it runs through. I had the bright idea of contouring north to a small saddle instead of dropping down to the trail and climbing back up a bit. Everyone was up for it.
The plan started out well, finding the drop-off to the north and following the ridge downhill to the west. The book warned of a hard-to-find path, so when we thought we were at the saddle and didn't find it, we weren't too surprised. We spent a rather embarrassing part of an hour trying to find a faint old horse route down.
And actually found something that worked, so we started the descent. Then I discovered the actual trail, just over there. It was well-trod and completely obvious. Ah well, it's always good to remember to never take navigation skills for granted.
At the bottom of the switchbacks we came to Lyell Fork, where there were mosquitoes everywhere! We grabbed for the head nets and quickly made a plan to move upstream where we would search for a campsite. Thankfully we found a breezy open area that was mostly bug-reduced, near a little pool we could take a quick dip in, and we had a pleasant night near a bubbling creek.
Day 5 haiku:
Slabs, talus, high pass
How the heck did we do that?
Coochie, coochie, coo*
The low point of the next day happened early, when John tripped while carrying his breakfast. Some of it was salvageable, thank goodness. Happily, we'd brought plenty of food for once (we're learning!) so he didn't starve.
Back to the trail! Walking, chatting, doing basic backpacking stuff.
One highlight was a glimpse of Half Dome, awesome!
The trail dropped down to Lewis Creek and we started climbing again. Another highlight was the Florence Creek waterfall. I couldn't say that it's the "most awesome display of cascading water on the entire High Route", Mr. Roper, but it was very nice. Maybe in a higher snowpack year it would be entirely more impressive.
Near the upper end of the valley we took a minor detour off the SHR to see about camping by Bernice Lake. Preparing for the final climb of the day:
Yep, that was worth it! It's a pretty, quiet lake and we were quite pleased. John went for a walk and took a picture from higher up:
Catching Robyn and Cathy in the act of inflating their comfortable-looking sleeping pads. I might have to get me one of those...
Half Dome is majestic sight
Feel the Bern-ice Lake
Our last full day on the trail, and we were excited that it was finally a short several hours to our next camping destination. The only backpacking effort was the climb up to Vogelsang pass. Several runners on the trail reminded us we were getting closer to civilization.
As we neared the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, we were greeted by a park ranger. We were up for a chat (it was still new seeing other people around). She even checked our backpacking permit and bear cans. Excellent, that was a first for all of us; happy to dig everything out to show her.
She gave us some good beta on the lakes in the immediate area, and we set off for Townsley because it was off-trail. Good call; we had the place to ourselves.
Well, except for a marmot who was really interested in Robyn and Cathy's tent and gear. Talk about human-acclimated. There was some yelling involved and I don't believe the creature came away with anything except a good talking-to.
We were sure to carefully stash our food for our afternoon day hike. Finally a chance to walk without packs and see some higher areas around us. Yay for that!
Climbing up to a pass further up the valley:
Ireland Lake on the other side - very nice:
John went on walk-about while we ladies decided to leisurely head back to camp to relax. John was kind enough to take some pictures during his adventure.
Townsley is the further lake in the middle of the photo:
The ridge John decided to follow. Have I mentioned I married a mountain goat?
There are still a few glaciers up high in the Sierras but it's not easy to see them, much less look down on one from above:
Hanging Basket Lake, an apt name for the hidden high lake tucked above the valley:
Last night on the trail, always bittersweet.
Ranger check - all good!
Finally a play day, yay
Go away, marmot!
The final morning was an easy downhill stroll for a few miles to Tuolumne Meadows. John fittingly bookended our journey with another partially-blurry photo. At least he's in it, as he was the photographer for most of the others. Hi John!
And - hi John! Thank you Robyn for this fun picture:
And thank you ALL for a super enjoyable trip! Let's go do more adventurous journeys together.
Hiking with our friends
Walking, talking, and laughing
It was a great week!