Tuolumne Meadows Backpacker Camp(166.8)-Cascade Lake(179.3)
Campsite Elevation: 10,315ft
Brrr! It was our coldest morning yet at 35F when we left at 6am this morning. I know I wasn’t stoked to spend the night in Tuolumne Meadows, but I have to give it credit. The backpacker camp was filled up last night, and it was shockingly quiet overnight. Plus, there were plenty of other hikers packing up and heading out early like us. That’s great to see.
I mentioned this a bit yesterday, but there is restricted camping that could have impacted our miles today. Roper (guidebook author) is very reliable when he describes how strenuous specific tasks may be. He warns that there is limited camping until 12.5mi north of Tuolumne Meadows, and that doing the 12.5mi (much of it off trail) in one day could be a “horrendously long day.” Well, we decided to see what we could do and set off to give it a try.
The day started off with the only paved road on the whole SHR. The SHR crosses Tioga Pass Rd on the way to Gaylor Lakes. If you are hiking early season, there is a dangerous crossing, and hikers are advised to walk Tioga Rd for ~3mi parallel to the trail to avoid the crossing. I was very happy that we walked the road and did not cross a dangerous deep ford in 35 degree temps. Good call. The morning hiking after the road walk started out uneventful with some wooded hiking on trail to Gaylor Lakes. We then went off trail a bit in a marshy area and mosquitoes were the worst they’ve been. We used our bug head nets on and off throughout the day, but there was a breeze, so they mostly weren’t an issue.
We soon came to an area where we needed to traverse high above a meadow before dropping to a lake around the corner. It’s tough to tell from the photo, but the steep snow traverse was one that, I in particular, felt was not worth the risk. We ended up hiking down to the meadow and back up to the lake, but I’m glad we made that choice for safety reasons. We’ve done a lot of sketchy things because of the snow in early season, but on this one, there was a safe (but possibly more time consuming) way around it that we were able to take.
We were quite happy with our morning progress, but still had some time consuming cross country to do to make our goal. We were feeling good and tackled quite a bit of uphill to top out in an area near Mt Conness.
Once on top, we could see our destination for the evening and our next major pass for tomorrow morning, Sky Pilot Col. A cool thing that’s visible on this photo is how there’s a dividing line of granite on the west and red shale on the east. Pretty cool to see such different compositions right next to each other.
We made it to our legal camp spot at Cascade Lake by 5:10pm, wahoo! We rocked it out today and it didn’t feel like a horrendous day. We know this guidebook was written over 30yrs ago when gear and technology was less developed, but we were all still proud of pulling out the day so well and without exhausting ourselves. Especially Why Not and myself with how much we’ve developed over the hike. We’ve come a long way to do this terrain more swiftly. We only have two more days left and it’s pretty surreal that we may actually complete the Sierra High Route. Something we both thought was out of our league just a couple years ago. Pretty cool!
Man, these campsites out here are pretty awesome, and we get them all to ourselves. We saw two other people today. Not on our route, but each on a trail in the distance doing something else. As long as tomorrow goes well, we are on schedule to have LoveNote (I hiked with on the PCT & CDT) pick us up at the end of the hike! I’m really happy about that!
We finished so early tonight that I get to watch a full episode of a show. I didn’t expect to get so much watched on this trip, so I have already watched what I have on my phone of OITNB and UnReal. I need to put the rest on the phone when I get to town, but now I’m going to try the premiere episode of Bloodline, which I’ve heard is really good. Not sure if it’s something I’ll like, but Kyle Chandler always does good stuff, so I’m giving it a try.