High Sierra Camps, Part 2


   Sunset above May Lake High Sierra Camp


Arising before the sun at Glen Aulin Camp, I quickly dressed in the very chilly tent cabin, then set about lighting a fire in our wood burning stove. Surprisingly enough, the fire took on the first try, though I made sure it was well engaged before shutting the stove door, then exited the tent, leaving Cork and his family still asleep in their beds. Grabbing my camera, I walked out to where we had viewed the sunset the night before. 

Now the sun would be coming up from behind me. As the first rays of morning light rose above the mountain behind me, mountain tops to the South and to the West began to brighten with a golden glow. Far to the North those high peaks also grabbed the sunlight and brightened as the sun rose higher in the sky. Now as the sun ascended, the pines too, were bathed in that pleasant, serene golden light. As the sky grew brighter, the light draping down over the mountains and over the trees, the shadows of night were pushed down, down, down into the deep valleys.

Though brisk in that early morning High Sierra atmosphere, I was wrapped in layers with a stocking cap to keep me warm. Still, it was approaching the time for the gong to sound and rally the campers for hot drinks at 7 a.m., so I was ready to head back and get into the (hopefully) toasty tent. My tent mates were then up and about and thanked me for warming it up for them. I'm sure they could dress more leisurely than I did. 

So, warm drinks, coffee, tea, hot cocoa were being served when I got back to camp and much mingling amongst ourselves, commenting on the chilly night, rest from the previous day's hike, and talk of this day's journey. A hearty breakfast beginning with hot oatmeal, followed by fruit, eggs, bacon or sausage, pancakes, potatoes were the standard morning meal. This proved to me ample sustenance for the morning hikes each day. After breakfast we picked up our sack lunches, typically a turkey, PB&J, or veggie sandwich were offered, but included were a pear, apple or orange, packaged cookies, trail mix or animal crackers for a snack. 


Well fortified, we tried to leave camps by 8:30, but most often got started after 9 a.m. As Jana would tell us, the later we start, the less play time we'd have at the end of each day's trail. While we were assembling, repacking our backpacks, stuffing in our sack lunches and milling around before setting foot on the trail, Sean, our pack mule wrangler was busy packing the accessory items of the backpackers upon his two mules. As I mentioned, he would usually leave after us but overtook us and arrived in camps ahead of us.

The second day on the trail was a tough one, for me. Especially, I remember the last grueling miles before entering May Lake Camp. But before that, we had some pleasant rests, time to adjust packs and care for hot spots on our feet, but most exceptionally, we stopped for lunch at Raisan Lake, a small, but delightful little gem, where many of us took the opportunity to splash in for an awakening, refreshing swim. Then to lie up the massive granite rocks to dry and savor our lunches.


Ahh, and then came a particularly steep hike. One that seemed to never end. I stayed in the company of Jeannie and Cynthia for a good part of that trek, but finally had to halt to catch my breath and rest a bit. The ladies, encouraged me, but continued onward, seemingly unaffected by the altitude or the steep grade. After a brief respite, I trudged on, alone, finally reaching the summit and then was able to amble along through a meadow and on level ground. In time I saw May Lake off to the right, a pleasant vision that beckoned me to dive into it's clear waters.

Yes, after dumping my stuff in the tent, I headed to the lake and, once again, savored the brisk bathing. Chilled, yet refreshed, I met my tent mates, Dennis and Anne by the lake, where we chatted and got acquainted. This also gave me an opportunity to chat with others in our group, as we bonded daily over the week of hiking.

The night in May Lake Camp was the least restful of the week. Others, too, complained of having a difficult time sleeping or other physical ailments the same night. I had taken some extra strength Advil and Tylenol, gift of another hiker, Dan, from Nova Scotia, to counteract some soreness, stiffness and aches during that day's hike. That medication may have hampered my slumber, or it could have been elevation change, who knows. At this camp, during my restless night, I started to give serious thought of throwing in the towel and just end the agony. Thoughts of more of the same lying ahead each day, in my troubled sleep, only intensified these misgivings. 


And yet, I was still responsible for myself, which meant, I'd have to wander back out, on my own. Now it wouldn't take a genius to realize, going back would only present the same hard hikes, and I would be without any support from the rest of the group. It's not in my nature to give up so quickly, though I felt on the very edge upon waking the next morning. When I heard others, too, had some nighttime complaints, I somehow felt relief. What I heard from a couple of the others seemed to pale in comparison to any aches and pains I may have experienced. And so, after breakfast and another delayed start, I flipped that pack on my back, buckled it securely, strapped on my camera bag and water bottle, and set one foot in front of the other as we made our way almost continuously downward to cross Tioga Road, pass near Tenaya Lake and then to climb upward to Sunrise Camp.

Usual routine, as in all camps, was to drop the backpack, outside, go inside to announce arrival, get your tent cabin number, place the next day's lunch order, then grab your pack and go to the tent. While in the lodges, I would find with whom I shared lodging each night. On a couple of occasions, I was solo in my tent. If we had a lake, and we so desired, we could take a dip, go for a hot shower (in the camps where they were available), rest up, or otherwise recoup a bit before hot drinks were announced at 6 pm. Dinner bell, gong, horn or sea shell were used at camps to announce the hot drinks and meals. Dinners began at 6:30 pm.

There was no electricity in our tents but we did receive a solar powered lantern to use. Most of us had a flashlight or headlight to use in the dark when needed. I felt lucky, most nights, that nature did not call during my sleep, otherwise, it meant dressing, putting on sandals, shoes or other footwear, donning a light and heading for the facilities. I can't speak for the ladies, but for men (at least me), I took the opportunity to hydrate vegetation near the tent. Then quickly, stripped down and jumped back into my still warm bed. I think that my marking my territory also kept away any nosy bears, as I don't think any were ever spotted in any of our camps

This is a recap of the camps we visited, with distances between and elevation changes. 

Day 1, Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin, 8 miles/ 8775' to 7800' (-975'),                                                                                                      Day 2, Glen Aulin to May Lake, 8.5 miles/ 7800' to 9250', (+1450'),                                                                                                                  Day 3, May Lake to Sunrise, 8,25 miles / 9250' to 9400', (+130')                                                                                                                                       Day 4 & 5, Sunrise to Merced, 9.5 miles / 9400' to 7250', (-1150')                                                                                                                                      Day 6, Merced Lake to Vogelsang, 7.8 miles /7250' to 10,130', (+2880')                                                                                                                            Day 7, Vogelsang to Tuolumne Meadows, 6.8 miles / 10,130' to 8775', (-1355')

More photos on the way to May Lake Camp:   






kdonald940@cox.net © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments