Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tuolumne High

Judy and I have just returned from two weeks tent camping, making our base camp in Tuolumne Meadows Yosemite (Almost 10000 ft.), making daily hikes into the higher country around...

Here are 3 notes I wrote at different times during the week


1.  I wake early each morning warm in my sleeping bag.
Sunlight images of pine branches form on our tent wall about 6:20
Its time to get up.
In the coolness of the morning I make coffee.
The scene outside our "front door"
As a youthful mountaineer I scorned propane stoves – they seemed 'unnecessary'... But now I enjoy an instant hot flame – and coffee within minutes
Judy prepares ham and eggs wrapped in a tortilla- its quick and easy and so good!

Off we go for our adventure of the day
Tuolumne – so many peaks and lakes, new trails to explore, wonders to discover.
Our blood and our lungs are still attuned to the low lands – More breathing is required here to get the oxygen we require.  But day by day we build more red cells in our blood and are soon comfortable at high elevations.
Glacial ice freezes onto chunks of rock, and as the rocks and ice move forward, they carved away this basin.
Lunch, after hiking 3-4 miles; we rest tired muscles by a stream or lake.

Trail lunch: Fruit, Avocado, Goat cheese, Trail Rusks, Crackers, Water
This old dog can learn a new trick
I have discovered the pleasure of reaching a beautiful location and taking time to “be with it”.   To just sit in the presence of the place
After a stiff morning we take a little time to sit and read or write or just observe sometimes talking, sometimes in silence.
Judy contemplating the beauty of it all
Back to camp by late afternoon
If we planned ahead there are cold beers waiting in the cooler
Then we cook together and eat our main meal of the day
(Judy planned incredible meals.)
Late evening shadows

An evening fire when the chill of evening comes on us
The yellow flame is hypnotic
This firewood has trapped within it the sunlight energy of many mountain days and years.
As the wood burns, that same energy is released into the blackness of space.
The stars that are hidden from us in the city are brilliant here in the night sky
The sound of the river is close to our campsite and sounds in my ears all during the night.
We sleep long and well.

2.  Today our trail requires us to rise a thousand feet.
our bodies  must take deep slow breaths to reach the high peaks
The land shaped by ice
We are walking over loose uneven shale that shifts with each step. 
I can hear the voice of my Uncle John telling me to always step from high point to high point through a field of larger rocks.  He was correct.

Frozen at least 10 months a year -there is almost no visible plant growth - over 11000ft.
Our laboring muscles require oxygen – and there is not enough
Finally we reach the heights – the pocket meadows of August, it is as if the glaciers left yesterday – leaving scattered erratic rocks – some as large as a bus, all sizes
In this land, some rocks bear the fresh markings of glacerial shaping, 
Some rocks have been polished by ice and sand; some have been scoured and sculpted.
But there are spaces for summer grass and a multitude of flowers
Walt Whitman said that on such a day he liked to “lean and loaf and observe a blade of summer grass”.
I have a special attraction for there high lands - the vast spaces - the unbroken vistas - it is a place of fascinating plants, geological events, and surprises.
I understand
Here I must consider the multitude of wonders before me
Here I can linger and become one with this land of rock and ice, of flowing water and tender growth
This land is frozen under ice for 10 months or more each year
In this brief time of summer it becomes a gentle wilderness
It inspires awe.
Late afternoon clouds
High mountain weather in August usually begins with  a clear blue sky in the morning
As we get out on the trail, white cumulus clouds come in by mid morning and grow in intensity, usually evaporating back to clear skies by evening.
Tonight was different
The clouds had grown into great thick dark masses by night.
We were snuggled in our warm sleeping bags when we heard distant thunder – which grew rapidly closer.
In walls of our yellow tent blazed with each lightning blast – first distant then it appeared that they came from all directions – even overhead.
Our yellow tent...
The blasts came more frequently...
We were camped close to Lambert Dome – which appeared to attract many of the lightning bolts – with no time passing between the flash and the bang!
Then rain beat against out rent, and then hail... but only briefly
I had visions of rivers of water flooding into our tent from higher lands above us
In the morning – the sun had once more returned
The storm forgotten
And out tent kept us high and dry

(to be continued next week)

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