PCT 2019: Day 126, Tentsite at Mile 951.1 to Tuolumne Meadows

I just can't make no connection

You don't have to spend much time in Yosemite to recognize that mighty geologic forces shaped the landscape. They can be described in two words, volcanoes and glaciers, though admittedly, that is over-simplified.

Volcanoes pushed up molten rock that became granite. Then glaciers moved in to carve and polish the rock.

While these actions occurred thousands of years ago, their results were on gorgeous display today.

DateMonday, September 9, 2019
WeatherMostly clear sky; near freezing in the morning, warming to the upper 50s
Trail ConditionsAlternating between smooth path and rocks, easy gradient the whole way
Today's Miles8.6
Trip Miles1881.4

This geology wasn't only to be seen, however. I also felt it. Our campsite was located on a knob of granite scraped bare by a glacier. This wasn't a good spot to set up my tent, so I ended up sleeping on a slant. Because of that, I didn't sleep well.

At least I stayed warm. The overnight temperature was chilly again but didn't quite dip to freezing.

With the lower morning temperatures of the last couple of days, I realized my thin gloves would not be warm enough. I sent Kim a message through my Garmin InReach and asked her to mail my insulted mittens to Independence. I figured that would be the soonest I could get them, though that would be at least 10 days from now. Although she had already mailed a box of food there, she said she'd sent the mittens in a separate box.

Today was a nero day, with the added benefit of an easy trail for the whole distance to Tuolumne Meadows.

I chose to take a little extra time to leave camp because I had it. With only four hours of hiking, there would be plenty of time remaining for my few chores of the day. Bluejay and I were picking up packages at the post office, so shopping was not one of those chores.

The trail continued through Cold Canyon, a U-shaped valley carved by a glacier. More evidence of glacial action could be seen in large, bare outcroppings of granite rock. They had been scraped and polished by the flow of ice.

A shallow creek ran through the lower part of the canyon. When I stopped to collect some water, I met a hiker named Pathfinder. He was looking at fish swimming in the stream and wished he had a fly rod with him. Pathfinder told me he was hiking a long section of the PCT through the Sierra.

At the end of the canyon, the trail crossed a bridge over the Tuolumne River.

After the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906, a prolonged fight began to dam this river and supply water for the city. A law to override the protected status of the land was passed in Congress and signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. That opened the way for a dam to be constructed downstream from here in Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Public outrage lingered after the bill's passage, which helped to propel the establishment of the National Park Service three years later.

After crossing the river, the trail continued another four-tenths of a mile to a beautiful waterfall with two drops. The lower falls fell into a shallow pool.

I stopped there several minutes to take photos, then climbed a set of stone steps to the upper falls. A trail crew was repairing some of the stone steps.

The cascade of the upper falls dropped about 50 feet.

The trail continued to follow the river for another two miles after leaving the waterfall. This was a beautiful section of trail.

The mountains that came into view were volcanic peaks with intriguing names like Unicorn Peak and Cockscomb.

When a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey named Cockscomb in 1919, he wrote, "The writer does not claim to be a connoisseur in poultry; nevertheless, he believes that the likeness to a lobate cockscomb is fairly close."

For the next four miles, the trail's terrain varied between patches of forest, wide-open slabs of granite, and grassy meadows. Along the way, it climbed a barely-noticeable 175 feet.

More mountains with unique formations came into view, including Cathedral Peak, the mountain Bluejay and I saw from our campsite last night.

As the trail got closer to Tuolumne Meadows, I began to see more and more day hikers. The trail became a wide gravel road.

Straight ahead was Lembert Dome, an imposing, rounded block of granite standing 800 feet above the meadow.

After making the turn from the trail onto Tioga Pass Road, I walked another three-tenths of a mile past the campground entrance to a large white tent.

Although this was not a permanent structure and had no windows, it contained a small store, a lunch counter, and a post office. It didn't look like much, but it provided what hikers and tourists need.

I arrived there at 11:45 a.m. My first task was food, so I ordered a double bacon cheeseburger, which contained 1,250-calories. That was the most calories of any item on the menu and I would never think of ordering that much under normal circumstances. In the Sierra, I needed every calorie I could get.

After lunch, I picked up the box of food Kim had sent to the post office. I asked the postal clerk to "return to sender" the microspikes she sent in a separate box. Because some northbound hikers told me two days ago they were unnecessary, I was glad I wouldn't need to carry them.

I plugged my backup battery into a power strip the store provided for hikers to recharge their electronics, then walked over to the campground.

If Bluejay and I had thought more beforehand, we might have considered returning to the trail after collecting our resupply boxes. Nevertheless, we paid for a campsite. There were no showers or laundry facilities here, so there wasn't much reason to stay longer. Still, I was able to wash out my shirt in a restroom sink and clean up a little myself.

After sorting my resupply food, I patched some more holes I discovered in the walls of my tent, then rested.

When Bluejay and I walked back to eat dinner at Toulumne Meadows Grill, I also checked on my battery at the store. Someone must have bumped the plug after I left because it wasn't plugged in and wasn’t charged. I plugged it back in and checked the time the store closed so I could retrieve the battery before that.

For dinner, I ate a sausage sandwich with onions and peppers. The grill wouldn't open tomorrow until 8 a.m. Bluejay and I decided that would be too late for us, so I bought a few breakfast items for tomorrow morning. I also decided to buy another fuel canister, just to be sure I had enough fuel for the next long sections.

All of the employees here were friendly and helpful, and it seemed like everyone enjoyed their job. This was a pleasant contrast to what I saw at Crater Lake National Park.

I had time to kill after dinner, so I walked back to the campsite to get ready for our departure tomorrow, then walked back to the store to pick up my battery.

Again, it had come unplugged from the power strip. At this point, I had to take it with me because the store was about to close and I didn't want to wait for it to open at 8 a.m. This was frustrating because I was unsure there would be another opportunity to recharge the battery and my phone again for the next 150 miles. The only thing I could do was conserve how I use my devices.

I know, considering how people managed just fine for thousands of years without phones, cameras, and satellite communication devices, this seems I'm dependent on them. I probably am, but I'll get by.

Today was the first time I was able to receive phone text messages since leaving Sonora Pass. One message I received was from Sunkist. She wanted to apologize for not saying goodbye after deciding to hike on her own.

"I truly enjoyed hiking with you," she said. "It was just time to get back to my solo journey. I wish you all the best in a successful completion of the PCT. Maybe our paths will cross again."

I was glad to hear from her and I told her I felt the same way. To be sure, the hiking community is small and close-knit. There's always a possibility I will see Sunkist again. I hope so.

Tomorrow, Bluejay and I will begin a trek through some of the most rugged and most beautiful terrain on the PCT. Conserving the batteries in my camera will be a challenge in this section.

I just can't make no connection
And all I want to do
Is to get back to you

From "Connection" by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (Rolling Stones)


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.