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Donohue Day Hike

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Donohue Day Hike

Postby Hobbes » Mon Jun 22, 2015 6:57 am

We just got back from a perfect weekend of weather car camping in Yosemite. Every year I drive up wondering if it's really as nice as I remember, and every year it delivers. As is our custom these days, we forgo the Valley and stick to Tuolumne. Even so, the line at the east entrance was backed up almost to Tioga lake. There aren't any secrets anymore, and with perfect weather forecast, everyone had the same idea.

On these kinds of family trips, I usually get to squeeze in one pseudo-backcountry hike; on this occasion I decided to day hike 12.5 miles up to Donohue pass on Friday (6/19). I had toyed with just hiking on through to Agnew meadow, but the logistics of returning via shuttle from Mammoth would have added a few more hours. Since my brother was driving up from the Bay area to visit, and I had general camp chore obligations, I needed to be back by 3pm. I figured 10-11 hours total would be a good time budget to allow for lunch, etc, so I took off @ 4am.

The first 3 hours (2 with headlamp) were a nice, quiet, peaceful walk through Lyell canyon. I kept my down jacket on without breaking a sweat, and carried my trekking poles in one hand while keeping the other warm in my coat pocket. I was really hoping to see some wildlife, but alas the bears, deer and cougars were off somewhere else (or quietly watching me pass by). The trail begins to climb @ mile 9 around Kuna creek and the real hike starts - off came the jacket, fleece & windshirt, and now the huffing, puffing and sweating began.

But of course there's a point to all this, and here is the first impression after crossing the bridge and walking by the small tarn:

Image

I briefly chatted with two bedecked climbers that were going to hit Lyell, and recalled my brother soloing it back in the 80s in typical young dude dvmbass fashion ie no equipment. Speaking of dumbasses, there were 3 guys camping with a dog a little further in - each of them looked like they could have been cast as Shaggy from Scooby Doo. I figured they had hiked in from the south, and had wanted to get off the pass.

Anyway, nearing the pass, the view of Lyell just gets more impressive:

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After reaching the pass, I ate my lunch while chatting with a PCTer and two JMTers who showed up a little bit later. I had passed some PCTers along the way while hiking, but because it had been pretty early, and they were so close to Tuolumne, many were still sleeping. It's been said many times before, but the contrast between the two types of hikers is extreme. After 800+ miles, the PCTers look sort of like the weathered, emaciated White walkers from Game of Thrones, whereas the JMTers (who are just getting started) look like they are plump & fresh from REI.

The ability to quickly distinguish who is who came into play as I was descending the pass. From around 200 yards below I spied a 20-something walking towards me ie southbound, who was bearded, skinny and moving uphill fast. An early season SOBO PCTer? As we neared each other, I jokingly said "hey, you're going the wrong way", to which he quickly replied, "nah, I'm just flipping Tuolumne to Reds". (In PCT parlance, flipping means doing a section of the trail in opposite order.)

The next reaction between the two of us was a classic trail experience - we each recognized the other from Kearsarge pass 3 weeks previous. At the time, he was re-entering the PCT after re-supplying in Bishop, while I had hiked up to help get acclimated for Whitney (viewtopic.php?f=14&t=12829). At that time, we had chatted a bit about the mountaineers route (he had done it last summer), the JMT, weather options, etc.

So, when we re-introduced ourselves (his trail name is Par 3), we settled into a nice little bit of catchup with this as our mountain backdrop:

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Turns out his crew had quite a time crossing the major passes during the last series of storms to finally arrive in Mammoth. Since one more storm was forecast, and he had some business to take care of, he bailed off the trail for 7 days and headed to SF. After getting a ride back to the Sierra, he got dropped off @ Tuolumne where he began SOBO to Reds where he had gotten off. He had a shuttle arranged that would take him back to TM and thus resume his regular NOBO PCT hike.

With smiles on our faces, we each bid adieu and continued on our merry ways. After once again reaching the meadow in Lyell canyon, I looked back to get this shot to remember yet another perfect day in the Sierra:

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Re: Donohue Day Hike

Postby Jimr » Mon Jun 22, 2015 9:01 am

Nice TR Hobbes :D
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Re: Donohue Day Hike

Postby Hobbes » Mon Jun 22, 2015 10:14 am

To follow up on the "Tres Shaggies", I had planned on meeting my wife @ the Vogelsang/Ireland/Evelyn junction on my return trip. It's a little under 6 miles from the TM campground, and has a run of ramps where the Lyell fork of the Tuolumne river flows, making it a natural water park. She likes this kind of arrangement, because if I'm tired enough I don't ride her tail (or charge ahead) once we're hiking together again. Since she knew my ETA and her own pace, she set off @ 10 in order to hit the meet-up around noon.

Mission accomplished, we sat down to soak by the water, eat lunch (my 2nd) and lollygag. We've hiked the trail a couple of times together, and on occasion have seen golden, healthy coyotes. So, when she saw this retriever with a pack coming towards her not far from TM, she was initially uncertain what she was seeing, until she then registered the Tres Shaggies. Her next thought/reaction was "do they allow service dogs on the trail'? As they passed, it was clear that not only was the dog not a service dog, but the three amigos had not a clue regarding park regulations.

I had to laugh - unless they ran into a ranger that close to the TH, they would have pulled off a classic clueless move and gotten off scot-free to boot. Perhaps the next level would be for someone to ride an MTB - nah, that would incur a reaction, whereas the dog was in the uncertain zone unless you knew the rules. So, I guess the old saying is that it's better to be lucky than smart still holds true. LOL
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Re: Donohue Day Hike

Postby rlown » Mon Jun 22, 2015 10:22 am

NIce TR! One of my favorite places, sans dog.
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Re: Donohue Day Hike

Postby Hobbes » Mon Jun 22, 2015 12:07 pm

Yeah, it truly is spectacular. It's so very rare for places that are hyped to not only live up to expectations, but to exceed them. Coming through the Wawona tunnel where the Valley opens up full frontal, coming over Echo summit to glimpse Tahoe, driving around the bend from Olancha towards Lone Pine to see the front range suddenly stretching away all fit in the same category. I guess that's why we keep going back to the same places year after year.

OK, one more funny story (why do I have so many?): As my wife and I were returning around 2:30 @ the PCT/JMT junction, a group of 6 clean cut college kids in fresh clothes (shorts/t-shirts, but no packs, water, etc) were studying a small map. One of them asked politely if it was the right direction to Elizabeth lake (a popular day hike from TM). Just as I was going to tell him they needed to go west from the junction, he quickly corrected himself and said "Ireland lake".

Without missing a beat, I asked them if they were planning on spending the night. (I was in a tired enough state to initially think that possibly they were trying to make it to the Vogelsang HSC.) After they said no, I inquired if they knew the distance - it's around 8+ miles from the PCT/JMT junction, with a 2k climb thrown in for good measure. The one holding the small map said something to the effect that it didn't look too far, so I pulled out my 7.5 topo to show them the true distance and conditions.

After the initial disappointment of discovering their plans were maybe a tad too ambitious - at least for a late start and with no food, water or extra clothing, I gently suggested they do themselves - and search team - a favor by simply hiking down the PCT until 4pm, at which point they could merely turn around and walk back. It's an easy, beautiful trail that follows the Lyell fork the entire distance. They all happily agreed to this plan and were off, while I chuckled to my wife that I think I had just saved them from an uncomfortable (but not life threatening) night of sleeping in just their clothes while people were out looking for them. :D
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Re: Donohue Day Hike

Postby maverick » Mon Jun 22, 2015 1:01 pm

Thanks Hobbes for the TR and pictures, love that area. I would have approached them diplomatically, let them know that they would be fined if a ranger was to come by, because it is against regulations to bring a dog into the backcountry, maybe they had no clue of the dog restrictions, maybe.
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Re: Donohue Day Hike

Postby Hobbes » Mon Jun 22, 2015 3:24 pm

maverick wrote:Thanks Hobbes for the TR and pictures, love that area. I would have approached them diplomatically, let them know that they would be fined if a ranger was to come by, because it is against regulations to bring a dog into the backcountry, maybe they had no clue of the dog restrictions, maybe.


Agreed. When I saw them early in the am breaking camp a bit off trail, I figured they would soon be heading back south. It was less than a mile from the pass, and was a natural place to get out of the cold wind if you had miscalculated your return. With that kind of story, they might have even caught a break if a ranger had happened by. But continuing north? No clue - I mean, what would a ranger say further up? Turn around? Continue your hike and get off the trail @ TM? Would they have even had ID or overnight permit? Envision Shaggy (no, make that 3 of them) all going "duh" while scratching their heads. ](*,)
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Re: Donohue Day Hike

Postby The Other Tom » Mon Jun 22, 2015 6:33 pm

Thanks for turning the college kids around. You definitely saved their bacon and avoided a SAR.
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Re: Donohue Day Hike

Postby Hobbes » Mon Nov 02, 2015 10:48 am

Par 3 (Connor Homan) - the hiker I met below Donohue - finished the PCT for 2015:

http://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/ ... iler-list/
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