Cousin Eddie goes to Disney
"Shitter was full"
- Cousin Eddie, Christmas Vacation
Sometimes we are dead on our feet, delerious. I overshoot. I think the kids have another few miles in them. Sometimes I think, "Maybe Monica won't mind walking in the dark tonight." (I'm not sure why I ever still think that.)
We stumbled up out of Sonora Pass with newly heavy packs filled with heavy bear canisters filled with five heavy days of food (we eat a lot more than we used to). We looked over our shoulders with a mix of emotion. Happy to have had such a time with our friends Dax, Dustin, and Grandy. Sad for "there is so much left to do before we see home again". I guess I should acknowledge a little excitement about the challenge and reward of the walk to come.
Even in my world of foolish optimism, we were starting out just a few hours behind where I'd expected to be. This wasn't a "what's a day more or less" section where my tyrannical pushing is senseless. On the other end of the section this time was our time sensitive resupply. Ann, the wonderful Ann, would be waiting. Originally, we had planned for her to drive to Mammoth Lakes on Friday to pick up our packages of shoes that Creigh had assembled and our food we had mailed General Delivery from S Lake Tahoe. She would meet us Saturday in Red's Meadow, but had to be driving away before 4pm. Unfortunately, the FedEx employees assurances that they could deliver to general delivery were incorrect, so Ann had to do a shocking amount of extra driving to make it work. She and Creigh untangled the web of a mess I'd made. I'm not sure of all the particulars, but... Thank you... and... Sorry.
The General rule of thumb in the Sierras is that you drop your mileage by about 5 miles a day. That puts us at somewhere between 20 and 22.
Looking at 111 miles to get to Red's Meadow, looking up the mountain, the realization hit me that one of the days would have to be a good bit longer than that to make it to Ann on time.
We texted over the next day or two with a "we will see how it plays out" before exploring other contingencies. That night we didn't make our miles. We were underdressed for the exposed pass, too cold to stop and unpack, repack, and walk again. So we walked as far as we could go, and crashed at 10,400 feet behind a scraggly bush to get a little cover from the cold wind, 3 miles short of where I had expected.
The next day we walked a respectable and reasonably comfortable 21 miles, with a beautiful 2 hour lunch stop near a trout stream. Are you familiar with the phrase "shooting fish in a barrel"? It was exactly like that. But one of the days still had to be bigger.
Thankfully, looking at the elevation in the tent one night, it looked like the next day would not be bad. We just had to pop over a pass and then (mostly) make hay the rest of the day for 26 miles into Tuolomne Meadows where we could camp at the backpacker's section of the Tuolomne Campground.
As life would have it we stumbled on another epic trout stream, and we lost our timekeeper Georgie to the joys of Tenkara fishing. I, also, cannot be trusted to be telling the truth when I say, "one last cast.". Lunch ran long, and at 6 o'clock that evening it became apparent that a night hike would be inevitable. This time Monica agreed, and we walked into the dark. She was hurting though, and I glanced at the app to see that Someone or Other's cabin would leave us just shy of our goal. A nice reprieve that would keep alive a possibility of making our goal to meet Ann on time.
Whenever you see Someone or Other's cabin on the PCT it is a back country ski hut or an explorer/settler's cabin or cabin location. You can camp there. You may not always be able to camp inside, but you can camp outside.
This Yosemite is, however, the land of the hall monitor. You better watch your step. Pack out your used toilet paper. Sleep 700 feet from trail or water. Put everything that ever smelled of anything that a bear could confuse with food into a bear canister. Monica had a ranger reach into her bag to tap her bear canister top. Then, not being satisfied, she reached down further to tap the side. "We have people just carry the tops and try to get away with it." Monica doesn't look the type to me, but... Yes, they do have hordes of people coming through, so the human footprint would be unmistakeably large if they didn't muzzle us a bit, but do they have to be so joyfully self-righteous in the enforcement.
So there we were at Someone or Other's cabin and it was a little trafficked. Wisely, we moved on a few hundred yards, spotted a nice tree, and completely spent, we dropped our bags and set up camp.
Not 45 minutes later, having eaten and settled into that wonderful moment when you lay back and close your eyes. "YOU ARE CAMPED ILLEGALLY!"
"We are sorry, we ran out of gas."
"YOU CAN'T STAY HERE! "
"Sorry, we didn't intend to..."
"YOU ARE WITHIN 100 FT OF WATER... YOU ARE ON VEGETATION... 100,000 VISITORS COME TO THIS SPOT EACH YEAR... YOU ARE... YOU ARE... YOU ARE.."
"Ma'am. If I might have a word.... Thank you. We are leaving. Where might we camp nearby with our exhausted 11 year old?" (I know, foul).
"THERE IS NOWHERE WITHIN 4 MILES, but you might try the backpacker's campground. The campground is closed for the season, but they might not give you trouble."
"Yes, but is it legal?"
I just thought that last part, wishing I'd said it. Aiden was seething in anger. We were all miserable and feeling hard done by. We packed our gear and began to walk.
Within 150 feet, our feet touched a stream, not a big stream, but kind of a big deal stream. Apparently, if you are checking off a list of things to see in Yosemite. Among the top items would be the cold water seltzer springs, unique in all the world, called Soda Springs. It took till morning, but it finally hit me. If cousin Eddie had pulled into a parking lot with heavy eyelids on a cross country jaunt, found a nice out of the way spot, let's say right in front of Disney's ticket counter, and thought, "This is a nice out of the way place," and proceeded to unload his waste tank, the only difference between that and our faux pas would be the waste expulsion.
I still can stand the hall monitor, and I told Aiden that I will never be back to see Soda Springs, not even if the car is parked in the parking lot less than 200 yards away. But in fairness to this annoying hall monitor, in this one instance, she had a point.
Oh and we met Ann, right on time.