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My summer ramblings - Yosemite

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My summer ramblings - Yosemite

Postby markskor » Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:48 pm

Just pondering my 2011 High Sierra summer so far…maybe a trail report of sorts warranted – Pardon my rambling ways.

This season’s adventures started June 24th, maybe a bit early for some (due to lingering heavy seasonal snow), but always try to attempt to catch the Valley’s “High Water” mark each year, plus, being an artist, also try to follow the Yosemite Art Institute calendar page - http://yosemiteart.blogspot.com/. (If ever there in the Valley studio, stop in and say high to Aline!) If anyone’s interested, great watercolor artists come into the Valley all season long and give 4-hour lessons for $5/day. Coinciding with high water, also caught 2 days of Robert Dvorak’s class while staying over BP camp…also wanted to experience the Mist Trail (and above) in all its rage…both pretty cool - 4 nights.
reds meadow 01.jpg

July 2nd…our Ozark Flip invited me to join him to celebrate the recent passing of SierraMel (a Sierra legend) at Crowley…called it Llama-polozza! Once in Escalon, the plan was to haul his tricked-out aluminum outboard over the pass and fish/troll Saddlebag as well as cruise Crowley too. His wife immediately put the kibosh on him using her truck – tires and brake issues, (just as well as her passenger-side window does not go down), so hooked the boat up to my old Jeep Wagoneer and took off regardless.
reds meadow 001.jpg
FYI, my Jeep is just like me…old, slow, and overheats easily, but always makes it to camp – eventually. BTW, Flip makes fine company for any grand adventure.

Spent 2 hours waiting in line just getting into the park…road was packed (120 entrance), but once we hit the Tioga road cut-off, everybody else it seemed was headed for the Valley, so clear sailing the rest of the way over the pass. Saddlebag road was still closed/ chained off, so maybe we thought we would stop again on the way back…(closed then too – sigh!). Still lots of snow patches in Tuolumne too, but far side was dry, all the way past Mammoth.

At the gathering, maybe 40 friends showed up – big crowd…all camping on John’s ample front lawn property, overlooking the lake. Got a chance to put faces to familiar HST names…Met JerBear, Obi1Canoli, and was especially pleased to finally meet up with our Snow Nymph, (she sure is tiny).
reds meadow 002.jpg
Three nights were spent here socializing with lots of great food (Dutch oven feasts); plenty of libations, tons of laughs, and even experienced the Fourth of July fireworks bursting majestically over the lake…surprisingly a great show too, considering the isolated location.

As planned and while visiting the east side, Flip and I decided to try our hand at Crowley…cost us $20 just to put the boat in the water – (they also wanted an additional $25 to stay over and catch the firework show – declined), and we spent an unproductive day trolling/ plowing through the algae blooms, looking for the big browns. Surprised by how fast the algae grows at that altitude…water was murky green with white specks – no visibility – no fish either.
reds meadow 013.jpg
BTW – also learned that our man Flip is a country singer – of sorts – guess you had to be there in the boat to understand.

Next few nights found us at Reds Meadows (Flip, JerBear, Canoli, and I), deciding to see what the conditions were like and just re-experiencing the snowy Minaret area.
reds meadow 020.jpg
As just turned 62 a few weeks before, one of the perks of being “ancient” (but not as old as our OldRanger) is the ability to purchase a Yosemite Senior pass for $10…good forever it appears too. Pass enables me to get free-for-life access to Yosemite as well as half off all campground fees in the area. Finding a great site just a few steps below the RM showers, (showers were closed but the hot tub was working just fine),
reds meadow 074.jpg

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the camp manager soon enough came around collecting fees - asking $20/night. JerBear pulled out his Golden Buckeye Card? – (Got the rolling stink-eye from the camp host) - but with my senior pass, we only paid $10/night. Interesting to relate here that the Milkshake/burger/ chips (what, no fries?) combination at RM was now $19.

Fished one afternoon with Flip at Sotcher…got dinner too.
reds meadow 016.jpg
Second day while the others went to see Rainbow Falls – been there – went back to Sotcher again. Fun day again but was a bit puzzled as watched all these float tubers (maybe 6 guys), all with expensive suits/tubes/ etc; all geared up, they "finned" over and surrounded the fresh trout plant…(Truck had just pulled in while fishing backside). Not much impressed when these type “fishermen” resorted to tubing amid/over the stockers. Where is the sport guys? BTW, the bait dunkers turned out to be the hottest ticket here that day – Go figure…Silver Powerbait works on stockers. - 6 nights.
reds meadow 017.jpg

Returned Sacramento 2 nights – business crapola, just in time to take my son and his Starbuck’s Barista girlfriend back to Yosemite, essentially just to drop me off again…still had to find my legs. Two nights Valley BP, (them rafting/ me more art).
reds meadow 068.jpg
Soon enough found me thumbing on 120 outside the Crane Flat gas station, and that’s where the backpacking part finally began. (Interesting that when thumbing with a backpack, Germans and Australians were the friendliest). First plan was Porcupine Flats to the arch and North Dome…nice trip but almost solid suncups/ no trail seen. Was initially going to do the Snow Creek switchbacks down but talking with a few others having just come up that trail, decided Yosemite Falls trail a better option. (Glad eschewed making a firm trip-plan spreadsheet…sorry Rogue) - 4 nights.

On a side note here, this season now carried my “mandated” camera along for this summer, but stowed it away in my bear can – not a good idea it seems. Cracked the viewing screen…Maybe there is a better place to stow it…like at home. Screw carrying a camera.

One night in the Valley and experiencing a major zoo/ as crowded as it ever gets
reds meadow 065.jpg
…Found me next day on the early Yarts bus to Mammoth. (Shuttle bus driver told me that before this year, the most cars in the Valley in one day ever recorded, was ~9,500. He said last two weekends, reported 11,000+ cars each day). Agnew Meadows – High trail – 1000 Island - Donahue and Tuolumne…alas, still a week too early for this particular hike, especially if fishing the objective. Miles of suncups, big lake still frozen over, but happily no bugs at all higher up. Snowline was still just below the green tarn coming off Donahue/ Tuolumne side. (Did find my legs though near Island Pass…must have left them there and forgot.) – 5 nights.

On another side note, do not know how the PCT thru-hikers did it. Mile after mile of snow, real chitty snow too. Really takes the fun out of a great adventure by having to constantly watch your feet every second – sucked big-time. Also, wondering why the PCTers do not have to carry bear cans for the obligatory JMT section…thought YNP required them. Maybe one in five had a can… (Met twenty or thirty while hanging out in front of Tuolumne Store/ partied with them…saw all the gear.) Later, asked a Ranger about this and she said they always checked for compliance, (doubtful); if the rangers really wanted to check, all they really had to do was walk out to the picnic table in front of the Tuolumne Store, where all the resupply/ unpacking happens, and find out differently. Two sets of rules it appears?

Tuolumne Wilderness office a few days later found me standing in front of another HST member…a Ranger too – Ranger Jen.
reds meadow 042.jpg
(Even with a broken camera, managed to attempt a shot of her…Did not know if it turned out until got home). This time the permit plan was Cathedrals, Sunrise Lakes, Matthes, and eventually, down to the Valley.
reds meadow 039.jpg
At Lower Cathedral ran into another HST regular, ChinMusic, another photographer…nice guy, and his absolutely gorgeous daughter (at least I hope it was his daughter…lol - stunning). Found her tanning/basking / black bikini…thanks for that image, April! Wind came up that afternoon and was blown off the lake – fishing sucked. Lots of standing water and large patches of snow holding on in the north-facing canyons ~9,000…lots of downed trees too across most trails. Caught a few Upper Cathedral, some skinny ‘bows at Matthes, and a few keepers at middle Sunrise…alas, no bugs/no rise…guess still a tad too early. BTW, everything caught was either on red Z-rays or gold PM’s. Spent one night atop Clouds Rest – always amazing, and another at LYV – not so much - 6 nights.

Time for one last trip adventure before meeting Rlown (our own troublemaker Russ, and our 5-slam planned trip), this time hopping on the late 5:00 Yosemite Valley bus to Tuolumne ($8) and eventually, making my way up to the backside of Saddlebag. Stood just outside of the Tioga entrance (Free Tuolumne hiker bus goes that far), armed only with my backpack, my Tilley, a smile, and my Saddlebag sign…took all of 5 minutes to get a ride from some local climbers…drove me all the way to the dam too…much thanks!
reds meadow 057.JPG

Saddlebag was a dream…backside area…no bugs at all and great fishing. Four nights here and caught enough fish to bring the yearly fishing license cost down to 40¢ a fish. Of all the Sierra places visited, am convinced that the night sky (no moon at this time - lucky) at Saddlebag is the most majestic of all Sierra places ever encountered. Here is the only place where the purple and gold streaks are clearly defined in the heavens as they intermingle with the Milky Way…fricking amazing!

Sunday afternoon, the last ferry departed at 4:30, taking all the day-hikers back to the dam. Looking around and soon discovered that nobody else was at my end of the lake…had it all to myself now…glass conditions too. Fishing and fatties, a little Willie on the IPod, no wind and Alpenglow
reds meadow 052.jpg
… life was perfect. Noticed what looked like a Bald Eagle circling above…soaring effortlessly, my only companion visible. Snagged a small ‘bow, killed it, and threw it out just to see if the eagle would take it. Circling back, the bird did a power-dive and snatched the offered fish off the surface, maybe 30 feet in front of me…powerful image…talons fully extended. Even though a rather mangy looking bird (hard winter?), that bird, when it spotted dinner, knew what it was doing. When talking with a Ranger later, all he could muster (laughing) was, “Do not feed the eagles”. – 4 nights.

Had to walk the 2 ½ miles back down to 120 – nobody coming down Saddlebag that morning, and then had to hitch back to Tuolumne… (As had to call Russ and check in, someplace that had cell reception). At the 120/Saddlebag junction, obviously a stocker truck had just come through…Maybe 30 people stood mingling about with lines tangled in the water…again many “geared-up” clowns there too – a real cluster-fock; doubt if any had a fishing license. Honestly, a bit appalled by the spectacle presented.

Took me 2 hours to get that ride back to Tuolumne…Lots of empty pickup trucks with only a driver…nobody stopped. Finally, two friendly Australians on holiday stopped and picked me up…(guess Americans are too scared to give rides anymore to someone with a backpack); the Aussies had a great attitude too…rented Mustang convertible. I gladly pulled out my Senior Pass and saved them the $20 entrance fee – immediate payback for kindness rendered.

Called Russ from Tuolumne, just to see if our intended trip was still on…scheduled to start July 30th. Had my legs now; was backpacking ready. Unfortunately, he offered up some lame excuse for not being able to go – Think it was something about having to wash his hamster, or a toothache, or his hamster had a toothache – (forget which exactly.) Whatever the reason, the Yosemite 5-slam will await another year - sigh. Lastly, while in Tuolumne BP on the last night, met another HST member – Caroline (one of Sierra MacLure’s star minions intending on scouting ahead for one of their upcoming REI backpacking trips). Fine lady, real and funny, and obviously competent…though a bit salty…Liked her immediately.

Next day, took the Yarts bus back to the Valley, and then the train/bus Amtrak back to Sacramento - $40. Total, with stays in both Valley and Tuolumne BP camps, 35 Sierra nights…had no plans to start out, other than to wander my Sierra…saw 20 minutes of rain total at Crowley…Maybe 130 miles hiked. Great summer so far.
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Re: My summer ramblings

Postby gary c. » Sun Aug 07, 2011 11:10 pm

Mark, sounds like an awesome way to spend your summer. I really enjoyed the way you added you artwork to the report.
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
-- Lionel Terray
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Re: My summer ramblings

Postby rlown » Sun Aug 07, 2011 11:10 pm

\:D/ Nice Report! You forgot to mention you said our first target lake on the Yose-Slam was still frozen when you called me from TM, so no dice.. and yes.. the tooth is still bothering me. I'm an advil fan now.
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Re: My summer ramblings - Yosemite

Postby Ozark Flip » Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:18 pm

Nice write up Mark. Like Gary C, I also enjoy how you incorporate your artwork into your reports. A side note, Mark draws these awesome pictures while out on the respective trip. It is very interesting watching him sketch, well, not as interesting as watching him beat up a dead tree for its pine knots, but interesting nonetheless. :eek:

It was a fun reunion in memory of Melanie. A ton a folks showed up. She indeed was a Sierra legend and backcountry fishing authority. It was great hanging with Jerry, Mike and Mark for all those days following the reunion. I finally got to try Mark’s renowned tin foil trout. I wish we could have done “Plan A” but the snow and dangerous stream crossing did more than just get our attention. There is always next year and “Plan B” was cool except that Saddlebag was still closed.

Mark, congrats on making it to the age of being afforded the $10 lifetime Yosemite pass. It pales in comparison to the Golden Buckeye card but… :D

We’ll take the boat out this winter for the big trout. :drool:
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Re: My summer ramblings - Yosemite

Postby sparky » Mon Aug 08, 2011 4:03 pm

Wish I still had time

Do you have a green osprey (aether 70?) Pack?
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Re: My summer ramblings - Yosemite

Postby ericZ » Mon Aug 08, 2011 9:55 pm

“Do not feed the eagles”


great post, wonderful trip.

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Re: My summer ramblings - Yosemite

Postby Shawn » Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:21 pm

Man, I really enjoyed reading your TR Mark, great stuff. Can't wait for ChinMusic to chime in too.
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Re: My summer ramblings - Yosemite

Postby Snow Nymph » Tue Aug 09, 2011 7:12 am

Loved reading your report! And the first thing that I was going to mention was the drawings in your report, beautiful! It was nice meeting you and the others at the memorial. I've got to get a Yosemite Pass this week, but mine will cost a lot more! :( Feeding eagles! :D

My photos from ReUnionPalooza: http://snownymph.smugmug.com/Sierra-Nev ... 66_Ff2GX8h
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison

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Re: My summer ramblings - Yosemite

Postby ERIC » Wed Aug 10, 2011 1:07 pm

Excellent report, Mark! I'll also pile on and say that your artwork really is a nice touch in trip reports. :)
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Re: My summer ramblings - Yosemite

Postby BSquared » Wed Aug 17, 2011 6:59 am

Nice, Mark! You didn't mention that we invited you to meet us in the meadow for cocktails at Tuolumne and then ditched you, but that's probably just as well. :D I *do* plan to get a TR put up about our SE Yosemite hike, but I need my friend's photos, and he hasn't come through yet. Ah, well...
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