Friday July 11, I drove straight from work to Tone’s house. We had a tasty dinner of egg burritos and started driving north on the 101 at around 5:20. Pretty soon we encountered some very slow traffic, which lasted until we finally passed an accident a little north of the tunnel. We arrived at Millerton recreational area a little before 11pm. Tone had called earlier that week and been told that getting a camp site wouldn’t be a problem. When we got there the place was completely full and the ranger suggested we try another campsite about an hour west. Instead we headed north, getting closer to Yosemite and camped out at Chilkoot campground by Bass Lake. I’d stayed there before and guessed it might have space left because it doesn’t have any services besides pit toilets. There were several spaces left when we got there at around midnight.
We got up and left before anybody came to collect money, and entered the park at around 8:30am. A short while later I got my first view of El Capitan, and was very impressed. It is one large piece of rock. We didn’t go to the Valley though, and drove on to Tuolomne Meadows, stopping to buy some of the most expensive gas I’ve ever bought. At the ranger station we signed in for our chosen itinerary. Luckily the quota for the trails we’d selected hadn’t been reached yet. After the customary repacking and last minute fiddling with our packs, we started walking around noon.
The first leg of our trip would take us south along the John Muir Trail and then turning off for Vogelsang campground. While walking we decided to go to Ireland Lake instead because we thought there might be fewer people there. Until the turn off the trail followed a wide valley and there was very little up. At all times we were within a hundred yards of water. A little bit before the turn off we reached an area where the water was spread thinly over a large rock formation. We took a break there to soak our feet, filter some water, and eat food. We also saw a small group of fish swimming, in the middle of the “waterfall” in maybe 3 inches of water. It was quite impressive. When Tone went up close to take a picture they swam off.
At the turn off we were half way, except that we hadn’t gained any elevation yet. The climb up to Ireland Lake was quite taxing, especially given that neither of us were acclimated to the altitude yet. I was feeling slightly miserable, while Tone did a lot better but was still affected. On the way up, the mosquitoes were getting progressively worse. Going up through the forest there weren’t too many, but once we got to somewhat more open areas they swarmed around us in large numbers. At the turn off to Ireland Lake I wanted to take a break, but was quickly forced to keep walking just to keep the mosquitoes away. The last 3 miles were very beautiful as we went up a green meadow with many little creeks running down it. Ahead, and on either side of us there were mountains. We also encountered the first snow here. It was just a small patch and we didn’t have to walk through it, but there it was.
Despite the beauty of the place, when we got to Ireland Lake we almost immediately put up the tent. Between a minor headache, fatigue and the mosquitoes I really didn’t feel like stopping to admire the scenery. Once pitched we retreated into our tent to hide from the mosquitoes. I dozed for quite a while, occasionally trying to eat something but my stomach didn’t want to. When the sun went down Tone went outside to enjoy the scenery and filter water. Shortly after that the full moon rose over the mountains, reflecting off the lake. It provided enough light that you didn’t need a flash light to get around. It was gorgeous. At around 2am I woke up and felt a lot better. I got out of the tent to walk around a little, and also felt good enough to eat some food.
The next morning we made hot chocolate for breakfast, and quickly broke camp before the mosquitoes had completely woken up. We hiked back through the beautiful meadow, and then over to Vogelsang campground. We met some people at Evelyn Lake who had stayed there the previous night, and said the mosquitoes were miserable. Vogelsang was just as bad. After a short break there we decided to head down, since on Saturday there hadn’t been any mosquitoes at lower elevations.
A little bit after noon we found a place along Rafferty Creek that looked promising. Again we were in a valley meadow, alongside a creek. We lounged about for the afternoon. At one point Tone spotted a deer. I tried to get close enough for a good shot, but didn’t get closer than 30 yards. I need a longer lens. When it went off grazing it was pretty tame though and would let me get much closer. Later in the afternoon I decided to climb one side of the valley, hoping to use Tone’s cell phone to call Danielle. The hike up wasn’t too bad, but once I got to the top the cell phone would only work one way. I could hear Danielle, but she couldn’t hear me. Still, the view from up there was pretty good.
As it started to cool down, mosquitoes came to visit us. We sat in the tent for a while until the sun set, and then stubbornly decided to cook dinner. While I was cooking my mac ‘n cheese ‘n broccoli I killed about 25 mosquitoes. (Not that it made any difference.) After dinner we went to bed. We slept better that night because it wasn’t as cold as at Ireland Lake (we didn’t bring the rain fly). We got up early and made our hot chocolate before the mosquitoes came. We quickly packed up, but not quite quick enough. While Tone was doing the last of his packing the mosquitoes were out in full force.
We started walking, and made it to the parking lot at around 10am. Since it was still early we decided to visit Tuolomne Grove. Seeing the massive trees was nice, but walking 1.5 miles/1000 ft one way didn’t seem worth it. This is also where I discovered that I’d lost 2 of my compact flash cards. I remember exactly where it happened, too. I noticed them fall out, then decided to get my shirt wet, and completely forgot to pick them up. After searching the car, we drove back to Tuolomne Meadows and checked with the ranger stations there. I filled out a lost and found report, and then we hiked back to the spot I remember dropping the cards, about 2.5 miles in. We met somebody who said he’d seen the cards there early in the morning but when we got to the spot they were definitely gone.
We finally made it out of the park after 5pm. We stopped briefly in Fresno for dinner, but other than that drove home in a hurry. I made it home just before midnight, which was better than I’d been hoping for.
Lessons Learned: I packed way too much food. Hard boiled eggs last forever and are a tasty snack. Vons Deluxe Mac and Cheese is good, but when you only use half the macaroni, only use half the cheese sauce. Adding broccoli to that worked very well. Mosquito nets for your head are cheap, light, and really useful.