Of all the 101 goals, I was looking forward to this one as much as any. I picked up Bryan from Santa Cruz on Thursday, and we went on a mad tour of San Francisco's "outdoorsy" type of stores. We needed small cups, hot chocolate, and ever more beef jerky. We got the cups and the jerky, but sadly, no hot chocolate.
Dad flew into SFO later that night. Bryan and I were there early, and had spent the last few hours getting dinner ready for the Papa. Starved and teased by the proximity to food without release, we spent the time waiting in a heated debate about whether we should combine our total cash value of $4 to indulge in a box of french fries. Deciding that $4 is too much to pay, regardless of the quality of the fried goodiness, we pouted our way back to the waiting area. Dad came through with his Hawaiian shirt and shorts, and we headed off.
We had a "last supper" of hamburgers, fries, and mountain dew at the Yosemite Grill before heading off into the wilderness. We made sure to take pictures of everybody prior to loading the packs in order to ensure respectable levels of good cheer and heartiness. Hefting our packs, we swayed and considered the fact that there was still time to back out. There was some trouble finding the trail...all while the paved road was still visible. True mountain men, us.
The first day of hiking was fairly uneventful. The trail was clearly marked and covered flat terrain. 5-6 miles from the Toulomne Meadows entrance, we stopped for the night.
As we did not have a permit, we decided to go without a fire the first night, with the goal being to avoid any attention of a overly competent wilderness ranger. Dad had mentioned that whiskey would have been a good thing to bring a few times, and Bryan and I were able to present his gift. A pewter flask full of Jameson Irish Whiskey, engraved with "High Sierra Hiking Trip, 2009, To Dad, from Martin and Bryan." He liked it.
We went to bed when the sun went down and saw some shooting stars. The sky was lit up like a Christmas tree with all of the stars, and it was really a beautiful thing. Bryan and Dad fell asleep first, leaving me to the tender mercies of mountain lines, chortling mountain men, and monsters. I considered this for a while before starting to drift off to dreamland myself. A crash of a large creature through the trees and into our camp roused me. Confident that it was a monster, I screamed girlishly to my family, "Guys, there's something out there!" Fumbling for our weapons, pants, head lamps and glasses, we turned the lights towards the pitch black of the far edge of camp. Two yellow eyes gleamed back at us. Hefting our flimsy pocket knives, Bryan and I inched forward. Hefting his massive Rambo knife, Dad inched forward as well. I picked up a large stick by which to club the beast.
We found the massive, gigantic, colossal beast attempting to use blunt force to open our bear-safe canister. Grasping onto our previously rehearsed plan of how to deal with such creatures, we gave a tentative yell, and I smashed my stick against the nearest tree. My "club" broke off at the handle, and the bear looked up at the mild noise disturbance. With a roar that sounded much like a sexually frustrated cow, the bear took one last whiff of the pungent goodies hidden in the canister, and ambled off, grumbling about "tourists" all the while.
After the encounter, Bryan and Dad went back to sleep. I stayed up and thought about massive fangs, blood-stained claws, and a sneak attack by which the bear climbed the tree above me before jumping off and descending upon us in a kamikaze fashion.
The next morning over breakfast, we came to the conclusion that the bear was slightly bigger than a cub, and it was actually "kinda cute." Bryan pointed out that I had bear drool on my backpack. Sweet.
We had a leisurely breakfast in bed, consisting of beef jerky, power bars and water, and then strolled back onto the trail around 10am. Feeling proud of our early start, we started heading uphill for what would be the hardest day (physically) of the trip. Climbing nearly 2000 feet in elevation in just under 3 miles was like being held captive by a sadistic stair master. We took lots of breaks.
We hit the highest mountain pass of the journey in the early afternoon, and the views from above the timberline were worth the struggle.
We found an awesome mountain lake somewhere around 9600 feet up in the high country, and it allowed for a nice, fresh water shower. The water was cold enough to wring a few shrieks from all parties involved.
After a few hours of lolling about in the sun, we retrieved our backpacks without a whole lot of enthusiasm, and trudged on. Our campsite the second night was amazing. With access to a free-flowing stream, a nice meadow to rest our heads, and a large stone table for a fire pit, we felt like we should pay someone. More whiskey was drunk, more stories were told, and Bryan managed to beat me at Jin Rummy for the first time in, well, ever. At some point, a spirited debate rose about whether flies aim for people's ears, or if they just get in there randomly. Those vicious bastards do it on purpose, and this website proves it. Bryan, I win.
The night passed without attacks by bears, mountain lions, or marmots. The third day took us by several more lakes, mountains, the Vogelsang high camp, and groups of cowboys leading their pack horses on high, rocky terrain. We camped the last night in a dry riverbed, which is most likely illegal.
It was at this point that we had all decided that we hoped to never even SEE another piece of beef jerky again, and started discussing what kind of food sounded best. After hours of debate, we came to a consensus of chili dogs, hot dogs with ketchup and relish and onions, and sushi. Bryan and I stayed up a bit later that night, talking about his upcoming trip to Thailand and life in general. More than anything, we all just sat and stared into the fire. Hoping to make it through the night without being disturbed by giant predators, we stored the food several hundred feet away from our camp. It worked, although it didnt keep me from imaging a million deaths by creature through the night. If possible, the night sky was even more clear than before on the last night, and we counted meteorites and satellites whizzing by above us.
We woke up the next morning and drank some tea. The thought of eating any more jerky, trail mix or power bars nearly brought us to tears, so we headed down the home stretch with empty stomachs. Dad set the lead like a rock star, and we made really good time over the last 4 miles of the journey. There was one no-so-funny stretch where we thought we missed the trail, but we regained our bearings due to Bryan's superior map-reading skills.
We stumbled into camp looking tired, beat-up, dirty, and relieved. (We could not quite summon "triumphant.") Heading directly to a restaurant, we each had both a chili dog and a regular hot dog with fixin's, and a beer.
And just like that, the trip was done almost as quickly as it started.