Day 2: In Which We Meet Up with Chris and Camp Above Echo Creek Trail

Daily: 9.4 miles
Trip: 14.7 miles
Camp: Above the Echo Creek trail junction

The circus started coming through at 2:30am. Loud talking voices zig-zagging through the black night air as hikers climbed the switchbacks around our campsite on their way to the Half Dome trail. 2:45am. 3:15am. I didn’t wake up with every hiker, I’m sure, but certainly enough of them. Have I mentioned one of the most delightful parts of backpacking is the first few nights of sleep? Did I mention the sleep habits of my one and four-year-old children? I sometimes get 12 hours of sleep the first night as my body and mind collapse into quiet oblivion. A bear could eat my face and I wouldn’t wake up. Hmmm. Wrong camp site.

The side trail up Help Dome is supposedly pretty cool. It’s a really vertical hike where you hold onto cables all the way. But it’s also crowded as all hell. I read about the crush before the trip and, as we hiked away from it, we could see the hikers, like a distant line of ants, on their way up the granite face. We skipped it.

G.O., Erin, and I took our time breaking camp. The sun hit early and started boosting the temperature quickly through the 70’s and into the 80’s. Luckily we were well above the valley already and destined to soon cross the 8000′ elevation which will become for floor for the remainder of the trip. It’s lots cooler up there – temperatures drop about 3+ degrees per 1000 ft of elevation. Goodbye 103°!

This part of Yosemite National Park is awesome. The lack of undergrowth makes for great lines of sight. The big pines dominate and their thick brown barks of various hues & patterns set off the green needles, white rocks, and blue, blue sky. I think Yosemite is the most continuously beautiful park I’ve visited.

So we wandered on through an often dusty, occasionally burned landscape. The lush flowers and grasses around the creeks attracted our attention and we spent some time exploring when the mosquitoes were quiet. Speaking of mosquitoes, we were well aware they had the ability to blow the trip up. I’ve experienced them in Yellowstone, in the Washington Cascades, even in Massachusetts on the Appalachian Trail where they sucked the fun out of trips. When they ignore 100% DEET and force donning of headnets. Even where they drive you into the tent in the middle of the afternoon. They’re rumored to be nasty on the JMT. Especially early in the hiking season, like June and July. Like now. Here’s hoping the little bastards have something better to do for the next three weeks!

It was an uphill day. 6300′ to 9700′ over seven miles. The final climbs were 1000′ per mile. Hard, dry, sunny and hot. They took the starch out of Erin & me. Green One seems strong however. Might be the fact that my brother weighs about 35 lbs less than me. As we climbed, I started looking for Chris. I thought he might have come down the trail a bit to meet us. But as the climb got harder, I started acknowledging his intelligence in not meeting us. Then I started cursing him a bit for not having to endure the pain. Finally we summited and I picked out the rock where I thought he’d be sitting. But it was empty.

We enjoyed the slight downhill and finally found Chris waiting for us at the Sunrise High Sierra Camp. Turns out he had hiked a bit towards us but he’s way too smart to climb down a steep hill unless he has to! Great to see he’d survived his solo start and first night backpacking alone. If only he’d provided the cold fruit smoothie I was craving after that climb! He had time to make that happen, didn’t he?

We hiked another mile or two and are now camped about 100′ above the Echo Creek trail junction. The temps are down to 60° at bedtime and I’m looking forward to that first night of undisturbed sleep!

Day 3: In Which We Hike Back to Civilization and Squish Gets Angry at Tuolumne Meadows