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Picking Elderberries in Guano Gulch: Yosemite 2008

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Picking Elderberries in Guano Gulch: Yosemite 2008

Postby MooseTracks » Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:01 am

Yosemite Valley over Columbus Day weekend is a family tradition of mine, dating back over 20 years. Pop reserves the campsite in Upper Pines, where we've settled on #125, which is really the best site in there (beginning of the loop, near the bathroom, etc). While I am still starting to explore the High Country of Yosemite, going into the Valley is like coming home to me. The added bonus now is that I can spend some QT with the 'rents, since driving to Bishop isn't nearly as easy to get to as LA.

My patient schedule got a bit light again last week, so I was able to also secure Friday off and head up for a hike before descending to the campsite. The forecast gave me added impetus to get moving Friday morning and get across Tioga Pass before, or if, they were to close it. After a light night of sleep (up cooking and baking, of course!), I was on the road again by 0830 Friday morning. Winds whipped across 395, barrelling into the side of the TOF as I headed north to Mammoth and Lee Vining, and Mammoth Mountain was engulfed by low clouds. Tioga was clear at the moment, but definitely frosty, and I began to think about the three Dick's starting their adventure that night, not envying them one bit. When I got out of the TOF at the May Lake trailhead , my thermometer read 30 degrees, and dropping.

The ranger at Tioga Pass had asked about any hiking I was planning on my way in, and expressed a bit of concern when I said I was headed for May Lake and maybe Tuolumne Peak, saying that May Lake (1.2 miles from the TH) was a half-day hike. So I will admit that I took off at a solid clip from the TOF after bundling up, reaching the lake in 20 minutes. Yeah... So then I checked out the route to Mt. Hoffman, the ridge that Rick Kent had scrambled over Labor Day, and headed north on the trail towards Tuolumne. Within another 20 minutes, my wandering gene got the better of me, and I cut NW up the slabs beneath the ridge, admiring a beautiful spire and trying to decipher the cracks and flakes to find a route to the top. Just as quickly, I thought out loud about how crazy that was, and what on earth was I thinking about that for? I'm not a climber! (yet...) Darkening clouds were surrounding the area and building, and the wind had picked up a frosty tongue that lapped at the flaps of my hat, chilling my ears and nose. But the sun stayed overhead, creating a zone of calm while I could see snow falling in the distance behind Cathedral Peak .

Upon reaching the ridge (and my goal of getting to 10K, the streak is alive!!), I looked straight down the north face at a lovely little tarn , emerald green against the pewter skies and white snow on granite. A short scramble would have brought me to the shores, and I spotted my route across the base of the ridge and up the south slopes of Tuolumne Peak, perhaps 45 minutes distant to the summit. But the late hour (1330 or so), and the ever increasing flurries reminded me of the drive down to the Valley, setting up camp, and building a fire so my folks would be warm upon their arrival at Happy Hour. I waved goodbye to Tuolumne Peak and the grandeur of the rest of the High Country, and beelined it along the sloping slabs back to May Lake. I did toss in the line a few times, hoping for a surf and turf dinner, but even the fish recognized the chill and would have nothing to do with me. In fact, all I caught was a sodden pine cone and lost a brand new set of hooks. By the time I drove by the parking area for the Tuolumne Grove, there was a ranger escort and Tioga Pass Road was closed. My window of sunshine had closed, and just after lighting the fire and my parents arrival, huge, downy flakes quietly floated to the Valley floor, the kids in the next site and myself squealing in glee even though they didn't stick.

Steve C and Dave (wagga) arrived sometime after 2100, knocking on the window of the TOF to see if I was still awake (I was). Saturday morning, as we know, dawned COLD, and Steve laughed when I finally rousted him out of his sleeping bag around 0740. "0700, yeah right!" he said, although I had been up since 0630. The race to make coffee was on, Dave busting out his Coleman camp stove as well. We had, well, about 30 pounds of coffee cakes : 2 from Schatt's, mom made one, Rod (DocRodneyDog) brought another when he and his wife visited later that morning, and Steve brought fresh fruit from Fresno State. A steak and egg scramble and sausage soon followed, and somewhere around 1100 or so we finally got ourselves organized to go . Why the slow start? Tioga Road was closed; Glacier Point Road was closed; so we had to do something out of the Valley. The three of us decided on Liberty Cap , which stands above Nevada Falls. Between the Piotrowski Start, slow going up the Mist Trail (where I had to overcome camera envy early on), and pretty much plain laziness, Steve and I finally headed up to Nevada Falls while Dave waited back at the top of Vernal, happy to peer at the climbers up on Half Dome's Snake Dike route. We cut off the trail beneath the west face of Liberty Cap, following a good use trail back north to a gulley between LC and Mt. Broderick, which Steve had said that Kashcraft had explored with his kids. All I knew is that is smelled like a toilet: the strong scent of urine permeated the air, and it was all I could do to not comment (much) on the stink. After rounding a corner, we came upon a huge brown pile of what looked like dirt, but 1" PVC pipes protruded from the mound. Steve withdrew a wand and read, "Bat Guano Project #1". ACK! We quickly beat a path up the moraine and into the gulley to escape the giant accumulation of feces. Eww...

The gulley wound around the base of LC, easily climbing between moraine and slab , and leading to the narrow space between the two domes. Lots of photo ops here, looking back to Nevada Falls and towards Illilouette Canyon, and Steve proclaimed he's not used to having a lot of pics taken ("I'm not very photogenic"... ummm... Steve... you're hikin' with the wrong person then, my dear!). Willows choked part of the stream bed, and a few untouched elderberry bushes hung heavy with fruit provided a delicious snack . We re-entered the trees, a few aspen standing near dense pine, the ground littered with pinecones. I looked up to see the nice slab route up the backside of LC, saying to Steve, "It's just...right...there..." but we knew Dave was waiting and it was still a bit of a trudge back down the mist trail, dodging people and dashing ahead when we could walk on rocks. Back in camp in time for happy hour once again and a great dinner of Irish Stew, BBQ chicken and corn, apple pie for dessert.

The weather cleared on Sunday, and we could already tell it was warming as I drove with my parents back to the Bay Area and home so I could meet my now 6-month old nephew Milo . My sis and boy-child had flown in from Portland for the week, and he was definitely the hit of the party. His doting Auntie Moosie got him him first football , and even showed him how to hold an ice axe ! He's a tremendously happy kid... well, as long as he's got a clean diaper on... eww...

A few other moments from the weekend:







Rest of the pics are here .

From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb Hard, Be Safe.

-L :cool:
"Why do I climb? Quite simply because the mountains and I had to meet." - Colette Richard


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Re: Picking Elderberries in Guano Gulch: Yosemite 2008

Postby Skibum » Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:40 am

What a great family tradition. Very cool. Great TR as usuall. :thumbsup:

Your TRs always make me hungry. :D
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