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City: Santa Barbara
Begins: Apr 23, 2011
Date: Mon, Jul 4th, 2011
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Pacific Crest Trail Map
After lunching we slogged up Donahue Pass, a snow-covered but gentle incline to the top; it was slushy and slippery, but postholing wasn't an issue. From the top, there is a beautiful view down into Lyell Canyon -- with the creek snaking through the green meadow, it looks like the promised land! Fortunately, it drops down quickly enough to the valley floor; after crossing the creek on a dry footbridge, the snow becomes patchy and the trail is easy to navigate. Upon reaching the meadow, the trail is essentially snow free. However, it is very wet -- please be thoughtful about walking in the sensitive meadow, and consider saying on the established trail despite the standing or running water, as your feet are already wet!
We camped after a wet but not sketchy creek crossing, at the trail junction toward the Vogalsang High Sierra Camp; there is an established campsite on dry ground just above the PCT that wasn't as buggy as along the trail through the meadow. This meant we had hiked about 20 miles, and set us up very nicely to get into Tuolumne Meadows to try to hitch or take the shuttle to the Valley. On the hike out we passed five southbound JMT hikers who looked so fresh and clean! We noted they also looked dry -- the bridges over the Lyell Fork and Dana Fork of the Tuolumne were both dry and well above the water level, perfectly safe.
We hitched relatively easily to the valley -- one ride to the gas station, and a second to the valley floor. Lots of people in the park for the holiday, but we had no problem setting up in the backpackers' campground behind the North Pines CG. $ 5/person/night and quieter than expected. Ate at the Curry Village breakfast buffet this morning and will resupply at the Village store, which is well stocked. This afternoon we will pick up a loaded GPS, and get back up to Tuolumne to continue our hike through to Sonora. We are feeling confident as a group that hiking continuously is still reasonable and safe this year; we are carrying extra food and a large map on top of our GPS and halfmile maps, in case we do feel we should turn around or try to bail out. The rumor mill/fear vortex persists up here, but several people are feeling the same as us -- let's go see it for ourselves.
Hopefully the next post will be from Sonora Pass (I will try to update sooner if I have reception).
Elaborating on the reasons we are getting a GPS... Each of us within our group are pretty good at navigating with our paper maps and compass, especially when we consult the maps as a group. Yet as we have hiked north, it is very obvious to us that the snow line is dropping -- specifically, below treeline. We expect to walk through treed, snow-covered areas more frequently, and without good landmarks to navigate from, finding trail simply becomes time-consuming. We are proficient at spotting signs of trail, and follow tracks when available (taken with a grain of salt, so to speak); but again, as less people push on before us, we expect tracks to become less available to us. Within a few hours, tracks can melt significantly anyway, even when we absolutely know we are following someone. So this is less about not getting lost, and mostly about us saving time and the mental energy of constantly seeking trail.
Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/elisabitch
General blog at http://elisabitch.com