Thursday, June 21, 2012

An expedition through the High Sierra

Two weeks ago my sister Emily, Marathon Matt, and I left our homes, families, and jobs to explore the wild forests and dizzy mountains near Yosemite for five days and four nights.

Some of you know that bears are my deepest, oldest, and most probably irrational (at least in California but don't ever take me to Montana or Alaska) fear.  In Yosemite, backpackers who don't want to stay at the bear- and people-infested campgrounds where there are built-in lockers are required to carry these approximately 3-lb, stool-sized (giggle) cylinders to put their food in.  We each had one.  I was fully prepared to see a bear sometime on this trip.  I was especially alert when it was dark out.

We didn't see any bears.  We saw tracks though.  Also a young rattlesnake, deer, and the probably famous much-too-friendly coyote of Cloud's Rest. 

There were several days on which we saw more deer than people.  This was probably because we saw no people, except ourselves for about 48 hours.  I think Yosemite is the most visited national park ever or something. (It should be.  The only other ones it might be have man-eating bears or unpleasant daytime weather.)  You would never know it off-trail in the high country.  

So we had a couple of adventures.  The first one was Vogelsang Peak, which at 11000 something feet was enough to give us some altitude sickness.  Nevertheless, I signed my first summit register, and we all butt slid down a nice north-facing snow slope.  Winter school techniques came in handy.

Vogelsang ended up being the elevational high point of the trip, as our foray up a taller nearby mountain was stopped short by a realistic assessment of the conditions, our abilities, and lack of technical gear.  That adventure involved a rather longer snow slope descent, but no photos were taken.  

After scrambling down from our campsite 400 feet above the trail to get water the last night, Emily and I ran into a herd of confused and tired boy scout leaders and their boy scouts.  We told them where the water was and where to camp.  We felt seasoned.  

John Muir, in his unbounded joy over spending his first summer in the Yosemite, called the Sierra Nevada the range of light.  We saw a lot of beautiful places.  I'm going to put pictures on Facebook, so I won't overwhelm you here, but I will leave you with this, which is of our campsite the last night, where we slept on an isolated ridge with a perfect view of the sunset and the sunrise before hiking down to the valley.

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