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TR: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, 8/15

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TR: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, 8/15

Postby mursey » Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:26 pm

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Late Summer 2015, I had finally convinced my friends, most of whom had demanding jobs and more demanding families, that 5 days in the woods would do us all some good. I had planned out a route starting at Road's end and heading up Bubb's creek before turning South towards Reflection. Unfortunately, the Rough Fire had other plans..
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Looking for backups the last minute was hard. As designated trip planner, I didn't have much leeway. I needed a route with 8-12 miles daily, not there and back, with no huge crowds but had to have High Sierra scenery. That's what I promised anyways. East side routes were out because one of our group had to make it back to Fresno "International" early. Asthma in another member meant we had to stay far from the smoke. That pretty much left the Northern half of Yosemite.

Just a few weeks out, most of the trailheads were booked, so I settled for White Wolf, hiking down to the Grand Canyon of the Toulumne and out via the Meadows. I would connect our trip to the start with the backpacker's shuttle (RIP :crybaby: )


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Day One: Minus 4254'
Wow-- White Wolf to Pate Heading down into the Valley was a rough start on the old knees. I have been heckling my buddies to get trekking poles for several years and I hope the ones that don't were finally convinced by the descent. The weather was perfect in White Wold, but by mid-August in Pate Valley was a little hot. Minimal mosquitos bothered us only when we stopped. Just a couple of wildflowers left around the peripheries of streams. The Grand Canyon did not dissapoint, looking up and down we were impressed by the views. We camped that night on the South side of the river, in a big clearing under some big pines. There were a couple of other groups around but we had plenty of solitude considering.

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Day 2: Pate Valley to Waterwheel: Lots of swimming holes!
We woke up early and had a quick breakfast. I had packed a bunch of instant oatmeal which I fortified with some sugar, nuts, berries and protein powder. Nevertheless, I had a pretty hard time getting everything down. I don't know why I try and eat this stuff, I only do camping and I never like it. This year I'm just going to pack a couple extra bars and forget it.

The hike up the canyon was steady and aside from ascent right before Muir Gorge, pretty easy. We stopped along the way to swim every couple hours, including at at beneath the bridge near our site. The water was frigid yet invigorating.

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We camped north of the footbridge in a clearing of Manzanitas, which was nice and warm compared to how frigid I imagine it got at the illegal campsites by the river.

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Day Three: Waterwheel Falls to Young Lake
Woke up early and broke camp as we had a long day ahead. Waterwheel and LeConte falls were pretty, if a little subdued in August after a dry season. We stopped for a quick Lunch and some civilization (pit toilet!) at Glen Aulin, and said a sad goodbye to the Canyon and hello to the high country. One of the things I love about the Sierra is the amazing diversity in the topographies one can encounter in a single day. It was nice to have an open view in all directions, and to be able to start seeing high peaks in the distance.
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The trails are amazing at the top of the canyon, my back hurts just contemplating the effort that must have gone into making them. You might note the white tint to my friend's face here, not a camera artifact. That's non nano zinc sunscreen. This stuff usually goes on pretty opaque, but for some reason when it hit John's face it was completely white. The effect was about one iota short of looking like a mime-- he got plenty of funny looks on the trail, but wasn't ever burned. We made camp just north of the beautiful, windswept Young Lakes. Lots of people there, but the camping was dispersed we felt alone, which was enough.

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Day Four: Mt Conness Summit
We left our gear in place for a quick summit up the Western approach to Mt Conness. The route was a little challenging, more in route-finding than exertion. When we reached the ridge directly below the summit we were rewarded with a massive view in all directions just as a half-dozen marmots scampered for cover.
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We got to the top and could see the whole of Tuolumne and even some smokey haze from various fires to the South.
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Day Five: Shuttle back to White Wolf
Another early start, we had barely enough time to book it to where I thought the correct shuttle stop was, only I was mistaken! When we arrived at the lodge we realized we were at the wrong stop to get to White Wolf! Some quick jogging on tired legs and we barely made the backpackers shuttle, back to White Wolf. The ride back was bittersweet. Watching other backpackers start off trips down the JMT was painful, but I knew I'd be back for more.
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mursey
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Re: TR: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, 8/15

Postby maverick » Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:43 pm

Thanks for the enjoyable TR and pictures Mursey! Gotta love all those swimming holes in the GCT. No bears in Pate?
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Re: TR: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, 8/15

Postby mursey » Tue Jun 14, 2016 2:52 pm

Just some bear poop, but no site of the creatures themselves!
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Re: TR: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, 8/15

Postby gary c. » Tue Jun 14, 2016 4:40 pm

This hike is still on my list to do. Thanks for posting.
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