Day 50: Tuolumne Meadows

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Mile 933.0 to Spiller Creek mile 957.3 (24.3 miles, 39.1km)

What a way to start the day. Perfectly flat for the 9 miles or so to Tuolumne Meadows. I can’t remember such a long stretch of flat, if there had been one at all. No high passes to climb up and over, no hills at all really and being in Yosemite and so close to a major car camping area, the trail was in tip-top shape.

It was a bit fresh. Frost on the ground. The tranquil river, slowly meandering through the centre of the meadows, giving off steam as the sun peaked over the hills and hit the ground.

Quite a few day hikers and weekend warriors headed south bound. You can pick them from a ways off with their bright, fresh clothes, not dirty and stained like the thru hiking crowd. They will be either carrying a small day pack with a camera around their necks or a massive pack with every accessory strapped to the outside or bulging out the top. Plus the obligatory Nalgene bottle. And let’s not forget their scent. When they walk past and greeting are given, the perfumes, deodorants and even fabric softener smells fill the air. Imagine what they think when a bunch of thru hikers wafts by. No deodorant for close to 50 days.

I got into Tuolumne Meadows right on 10am. The place was pumping. Mainly with the many tourists the Yosemite park attracts. The thru hikers had taken over the tables and benches in the shade, many going through their resupply boxes just picked up at the store/post office, trying to cram all that food they had sent themselves into bear canisters. I have enough food to get through to Kennedy Meadows North around 4 days away.

I thought there was just a store but it turns out there is a small ‘cafe’ still serving breakfast. Of course I went in, ordering a bacon, egg & cheese muffin and an iced coffee as a second breakfast. Joining everyone else back in the shade image my surprise when I met Dutchie. We had been in contact via Facebook before even leaving home, one of the few Australians I connected with in the planning stages of this trip to share information and advice with. We connected early on because she was living in the Dandenong Ranges where I spent quite a bit of my youth. She left in April so I thought she was weeks ahead of me. Such a small world.

I was torn with my next decision but think I made the right move. Most hikers tend to go from the Tuolumne Meadows store down into the Yosemite Valley to have a look around for a day before getting back on trail. Through work I had an excellent contact in the Chief Fire and Aviation officer of Yosemite who could put me up for the night so that was no issue. But I decided to skip it.

Having just had a day off I didn’t need another and I just don’t think one or two quick, fly by the seat of your pants days would have done Yosemite justice. So I pressed on vowing to return and dedicate more quality time to look around the park. I’m in the US to hike the PCT and not on a general tour. It would be easy to get side tracked by all the nice stuff just off trail but it would take me until the end of the year to reach Canada. I’ll come back with Jacinta on a MTB and national parks tour for sure.

Decision made, I moved on.

Bears are a major problem in the popular areas of Yosemite with all the touristy food scraps about. PCT hikers were advised to try to camp at least 15 miles from Tuolumne Meadows, so that what I planned to do.

Just a mile in I reached Soda Springs, a natural spring pumping up carbonated water from the depths below. Surprising cold and not too bad tasting. Bubbles were nice.

The trail then followed the Tuolumne River. Quiet waters slowly moving down slope before crashing down in a series of massive waterfalls a few miles along.

The rest of the day was just as nice. Great trail and beautiful weather, sunny with a slight breeze. Mozzies were a huge issue in the afternoon, particularly through a long narrow meadow with a small creek and many isolated pools of water.

About a mile before reaching camp there was the McCabe Creek to cross. Two big branches actually. I was with a guy from Denmark and a girl from Spain. Determined not to get wet feet at the end of the day for the first branch we scouted up stream finding a complicated pattern of rock hops and finally grabbing onto a small tree to pull yourself up bank.

The second branch was a bit trickier. Looking around both up stream and down there were not any rocks to jump across. Downstream I spied a dodgy looking dead tree that spanned the water. The problem was it was over deep water, leaning across on an uphill angle, with the narrowest part perched on rocks. I gave it a shot. Pack straps undone just in case. The first part was easy but as the tree narrowed and I had to move uphill there was quite a bit of movement. Slowly, slowly. I was half expecting the tree to slip off the rocks above or to snap under weight but I made it across as did the other two.

Long one today. I’ll leave it at that.

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