July 28, 2015
11 miles today, 34 miles total
Tuolumne Meadows to Lyell Canyon
Courtney and I were awake at 6 but lingered around the campsite until 8 talking to Sean and Cassidy. I was having a bit of a stomach ache, so I was glad today was supposed to be an easy, flat day.
We crossed over into the meadow where the Tuolumne river was flowing through. The next ten miles were flat through the Lyell Canyon, following the river on the way to Donohue Pass, which led out of Yosemite and into the wild parts of the JMT.
Courtney and I cruised at a good speed, and without the constant elevation to fight, I was feeling stronger under my newly heavy pack. We were alone for most of the morning, which was a trend from the last few days. People talked about the JMT being a “highway” of hikers, but after a few days of hiking we had only seen a few other people. Courtney and I joked, “where are these 45 people per day who got permits?!”
The afternoon grew warm very quickly, so we stopped by the river to take a dip in the cold water at lunchtime. As we moved on we ran into several packer mule trains, and a band of teenage kids from a local high school practicing for their cross-country meet. Being this close to the National Park makes the trail feel much more touristy. I remembered coming through here two years ago on the PCT, and the noise and scents of civilization were a shock to my senses after being out in the wilderness for two months.
Later in the afternoon we finally met one person who was hiking south on the JMT. His name was Cole, and he had a loping stride that kept up with ours. We chatted on and off for a bit, and together we climbed the steadily rising elevation to Donohue Pass. It was extremely hot out, but I was feeling better in the altitude, so there was something to be said for that.
Halfway up the climb Courtney and I found a lovely campsite beside the river. It was only 2:00pm, so we considered continuing on further, but we knew the trail went up to 11,000 feet in another mile or two, and we weren’t sure what campsites were like near the pass. We also didn’t want to camp that high and risk another icy tent in the morning. We were currently at 9,700 feet and that was good enough, so we stopped early.
Cole stopped with us, but he disappeared around the corner looking for a campsite and we didn’t see him again for several hours, so we assumed he must have hiked on. For a while it was lonely. Courtney and I rinsed our clothes out in the river and set up camp, but after that there wasn’t much to do. We enjoyed the view and played a few games of farkle with the dice I had brought, but I kept looking around the bend waiting for more hikers to join us. I hoped the whole JMT wasn’t this lonely; I was looking forward to meeting people.
Early in the evening, Cole suddenly returned, saying he had found a campsite and had been hanging out there for a while. Then Sean and Cassidy appeared around 5:00pm and decided to stop with us, too. Their plan was to finish the whole trail in 17 days (five days earlier than our plan) but they're taking it a little slower in the beginning. Then, right before bed, two more people showed up – two girls named Heather and Jennifer. It was nice to finally have new friends around, though we only chatted for a little bit before the mosquitoes drove us into our tents at 6:30pm.