Saturday, July 18, 2015

JMT Day 4: Before Sunrise High Sierra to Tuolumne Meadows

Day 4 on the trail was one of the happiest. I woke up with my new friends, the two women who had camped with me the night before. I had planned to hike 8.3 miles on Day 3, and 10.2 miles on Day 4. Instead, I did 6.5 miles on Day 3. That left me with a solid 12 miles to hike on Day 4. My new friends had a different itinerary than mine, but we all planned to end up in Tuolumne Meadows that evening, so we all had the same 12 miles to hike.

We set off, finishing the climb we had cut short the evening before, going up another 500 feet over about 0.7 miles before descending for 1.5 miles to Sunrise High Sierra camp.

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My new friends

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Corn Lilies
Corn lilies in bloom

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Going over a fallen tree

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Judy and Jody

Before long, we began seeing a lot of these little guys:

Belding's Ground Squirrel

Belding's Ground Squirrel

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My best guess is that they are Belding's ground squirrels.

The meadows were beautiful and covered in flowers.

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You can see in the photo above that some weather began rolling in.

At last we reached Sunrise High Sierra camp. There, we found this frog:

Frog

We also saw a fox stalk and catch something, probably one of the Belding's ground squirrels. And we saw our first marmots of the trip. Feeling great, we kept going. We had 400 more feet to go up (on Cathedral Pass) and the rest was down hill.

Judy and Jody

The weather began to look really nasty, and we heard the occasional rumble of thunder, although we did not see any lightning. Once in a while, I'd feel a drop and start thinking about putting on my rain gear. Then it would stop... only to repeat again a little bit later.

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I'd wanted to see Cathedral Lakes for a long time because they are beautiful, and now that I was there, I had to hurry past them to beat the weather. I guess I will have to go back to Yosemite and hike up to them again. At last, I put on my rain gear and sealed up my camera in a plastic bag. I took it out only for these shots:

Corn Lily
Corn lily close up

Corn Lily
Corn lily

Finally, we saw cars ahead of us. Tioga Road! We had reached the Cathedral Lakes trailhead. It was only 9.6 miles of the day's planned 12, but there was a free shuttle taking hikers from there to the post office where we all had resupply boxes waiting, and we'd hiked enough. Taking the shuttle was cheating a little, but we had two good reasons for doing it. First, the Tuolumne Meadows post office hands out resupply boxes every hour on the hour, and it closes at 5pm every day. We reached the shuttle stop at 3:05pm, so we were cutting it close. We could not know it then, but the post office arbitrarily closed at 4pm, so we were lucky to get that shuttle and get our boxes. Second, the moment we reached the shuttle stop, the sky opened up with hail.

Hail

Hail

My new friends and I could not imagine setting up tents in the freezing cold weather. After getting some food from the grill and our resupply boxes from the post office, we all hopped the shuttle again to go to the Lodge. We each had a plan. I wanted to take a shower, and they wanted to see if there were any rooms available for the night.

It turned out that they don't sell showers, and only paying guests can take showers at the lodge. However, with the bad weather, someone canceled their reservation, and we became paying guests. We all took showers and did laundry. We did not know it yet, but about 9.6 miles away, at the Lyell Forks Bridge, a group of JMT hikers were spending a freezing cold, wet, miserable night in that weather. All of them had hoped to go over Donahue Pass that day or the next day, and they camped there to wait out the storm. The next morning, when we woke up in our warm beds, they woke up in snow.

Day 4 miles hiked: 9.6
Day 4 elevation gain: 900 ft
Total distance hiked overall to date: 28.3 mi
Total JMT distance hiked to date: 21.2 mi

All of my JMT photos can be seen here.

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