Garnet Lake on the last morning of the trip with Banner Peak in center - cloud covered
Bob just starting out - 44 lb pack
On the way to Little Yosemite Valley, looking back down the canyon
First lake on way to Foerster Peak/Blue Lake Pass - no longer on trail
Meadows were covered with flowers at 10,000 to 11,000 foot elevation
This is Blue Lake Pass below Foerster Peak. I was hoping to continue cross country over this, but decided it was too risky. On my very first backpacking trip in 1969, I and two others had come across and down Blue Lake Pass coming from the other direction. I was hoping to backtrack along that route. I have no idea how we successfully came down that rocky incline.
This campsite near the edge of a cliff had a beautiful view at sunrise.
As I crossed Vogelsang Pass, the temperature dropped, there was thunder, and a substantial hail storm hit. The path quickly covered in ice. The third photo shows Vogelsang Lake.
First view of Vogelsang Trail Camp. When I got there, employees told me all tent cabins were full, but for $100 cash, I could have a cot with mattress in an employee tent cabin with a woodburning stove. I had $90 cash, which was acceptable. Cajun and Bry helped get the tent in order. Kevin, on the right, had also gotten a bed. Kevin is moving to Sonoma, near where we live, so I hope to see him again.
Evelyn Lake, on the way down from Vogelsang Camp to Lyell Canyon, on way to Donohue Pass
This small lake is on the way up to Donohue Pass. Using the stepping stones was tricky. Someone camped there said others had waded it, barefoot. I made it over the stones. In the second picture, I am on the wrong track. Fortunately, the two guys below, JC and Martin showed me the right way.
Just after crossing Donohue Pass. Magnificent scenery and meadows covered in flowers.
Thousand Island Lake, the last large lake before Garnet Lake.
Garnet Lake campsite with Banner Peak in background in morning. An hour later I took the photo at the top of this webpage. What a difference! Then I spent a couple of hours hiking along Garnet Lake looking for a long lost camera, before packing up and heading out.
The last of the hike. An insane, vertical, slim "staircase", followed by a wet and cold day of hiking, including getting lost. Fortunately, 3 German astrophysicists were backpacking out, ran into me, and kindly led me to safety. They took this last photo of me (the battery in the camera was going dead) - soaked and shivering, then they even gave me a ride to Mammoth Lakes, where I stayed at a Motel 6 and took the longest, hottest shower I have ever had. All in all, this trip was a wonderful, wonderful trip.
Click on map locations to see photos of that location, some not shown above, e.g., Blue Lake Pass has several more photos.
Elevations Along Trail (Underestimates distance)
Videos from the trip
A squirrel was working on a pine cone about as large as he was. He was not about to give up on it because of me. So he dragged it from place to place, between munching on it, as I took the video:
I found the photos were not capturing just how beautiful the flowers were in the high altitude meadows. So I tried to do it with video:
I get the last wilderness permit of the day: I left Santa Rosa around 5AM on Sunday and got to the entrance of Yosemite around 10:30, thinking I had to get to Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center by 11 to get a permit for Monday. But they were issuing permits at the entrance and there was still one unclaimed permit for Sunday, which I got.
I needed some baccitracin or similar antibiotic ointment, but had forgotten to pack it. At the Little Yosemite campground, the bear box I used had a bag of medical supplies that someone had left behind. And it included antibiotic ointment. Yes!
At the Lyell Fork on the trail to Foerster Creek, I could see no safe way to cross the river. This was on the part of the trail where I saw only a couple of people the entire day. I was just about to give up and turn back, when I saw a couple, who must have just crossed, heading up the trail. I ran and caught up. They were a French couple who kindly told me that if I went up-river from the path about 150 yards, the river split. There were crossable logs at both parts of the split.
I walked across the first jumble of logs, then sat and straddled the long log, pulling myself across.
I found out the YARTS bus, that I was depending on to get me from Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite Valley, had stopped running during the weekdays that week. So I figured I would hitchhike. I stood on the road near a McDonald's for about a half hour (the previous night I had hitchhiked without luck for an hour). Then, another backpacker walked by and asked if I knew where he could pick up the Eastern Sierra bus - in 10 minutes - going from Mammoth to Reno, with a stop at Lee Vining. He had heard it was at the McDonald's lot. Lee Vining is about 30 miles north of Mammoth Lakes. It is at the point where 120 highway cuts across the Sierras to Yosemite Valley and might be an easy hitchhike, unlike at Mammoth Lakes, where I was having no luck. We went over behind McDonald's and, sure enough, in ten minutes the bus arrived and took me to Lee Vining.
I quickly got 4 different rides taking me from Lee Vining to my parking space in Yosemite Valley. The last guy to pick me had been a race car driver ("3 levels below Nascar"). I had never heard of a Crazy 8 race course, where the objective is not to get hit as you crossed the center of the eight. Jerry, the former race car driver, told me that now they have train Crazy 8 races, where your car pulls two cars behind you, increasing the collison chance at the center of the 8. A type of demolition derby. The things you learn!
Most memorable events:
Late in the afternoon as I was getting near the top of Vogelsand Pass - just under 11,000 foot elevation - the temperature dropped, thunder started, and an intense hail storm hit. It quickly covered the path with ice. But I got over the pass ok and down to Vogelsang Camp. There some employees told me all tent cabins were booked, but if I had $100 cash, they could arrange for me to stay in an employee tent cabin with bed, mattress, and wood burning stove. I had $90 cash in my wallet, which turned out to be acceptable. I love entrepreneurship!
I had hoped to get off trail and go over Blue Lake Pass, just below Foerster Peak. I had come over Blue Lake Pass from the other side 42 years ago on my very first backpacking trip. I at least hoped to get to the Pass. But when I was within view of it, I could not believe I had ever come down it, and I saw no way to go up it from this side. Nevertheless, the off-trail route through the meadows below Foerster Peak was beautiful, flowers covering the fields. At one point, a loud chorus of barking began and lasted for several minutes. I could not figure out what it was. Much louder than prairie dogs I have heard elsewhere, nor did they sound quite like coyotes. Perhaps there were pikas or marmots. Whatever they were, they were so far across the meadows I could not see them.
Although most of the trip was beautiful weather, the last day was wet and cold. I was trying to get down from Garnet Lake to a road trail-head. The trail I was following did not match what the topo map I had was showing. Also, the trail kept disappearing. After going a couple of miles, I gave up and turned back, figuring I would have to take a completely different route that would take another day or two. Not really a high point of the trip. Then I ran into 3 young Germans, all of them astrophysicists, two of them post-docs, while the third was just about to get her doctorate, all here in the US. They too were leaving, and had a better map. They agreed to let me accompany them down to a different trail-head. The time went by really fast because the conversation about physics, dark energy, dark matter, Chilean telescopes, etc. was simply fascinating. What a wonderful way to end the trip. Then they gave me a ride down to Mammoth Lakes, on the east side of the Sierras. I stayed at a Motel 6 and had the longest, hottest, shower I can ever remember having. Luxury!
Food, Nutrition, Results:
On this trip, I carefully weighed all the foods I carried with me before and after the trip. So I knew after the trip exactly how much I had eaten of each type of food. I then used the information provided on nutritiondata.com and/or on the food packaging to calculate how much of each nutrient (calories, vitamins, minerals, fat, and protein) I had eaten over the course of the 8 days on which I backpacked.
I also measured my own weight and % body fat (my scale tells me both) before and after.
My food consisted of dried fruit, nuts and seeds, cheese, salmon, brewers yeast, Triscuits, and a packet which included vitamin C and some other vitamins. (see detailed chart here) None of this requires cooking, so I did not have to carry a stove. The food by itself weighed almost 14 lbs at the beginning of the trip and could barely be crammed into the bear canister.
I also included the two bananas and basket of fresh black figs I had the day I drove up to Yosemite, since that was also my first day of backpacking and I wanted to include all food eaten over the 8 backpacking days.
I ate an average of 2,424 calories a day, compared to my normal consumption of 1,850 calories, a 31% increase in calories.
My diet was 39% fat, compared to a normal 19%.
I ate 94g of protein a day, compared to a normal 70g.
Of the 21 vitamins and minerals I tracked, I was low in recommended amounts of the following 5:
B5 (Pantothenic Acid): 42% of recommended amount
If I had not consumed the 1 packet of "Supplement-Emergen-C, Raspberry flavored,9.4g" - which was awful, even mixed with water (and I normally avoid all supplements), I would also have been deficient in:
I was surprised at first at how little Vitamin C one gets from dried fruit, of which I ate a lot.
My weight did not change, but my % body fat dropped from its usual 17% or so to 15% and below. This low a body fat measure on this scale is very low for me. Looks like hiking 9 miles a day with a 40 lb pack and, on average, ascending 2,400 ft per day and descending 1,860 ft per day burns fat and builds muscle.
A couple of days after I got back, I jogged (as fast as I could) 3 miles. I was hoping for a faster time than usual, which I got, but the pace only dropped from 8:57 a mile to 8:52 a mile. I'm 64 years old, 5'7" and currently weigh between 139 and 140 lb.
As far as water goes: For 10 years my family has used the First Need Water Purification system on our backpacking trips. I highly recommend it. To test it before you start on a trip, you are supposed to put in a couple of droplets of red dye in some water, then use the filter, which is supposed to give back pure water. In fact, we find it more fun to take a glass of red wine and run that through. It turns the wine into water. It is easy to use. I used it throughout the trip and found myself filling a quart bottle 3 to 4 times a day, so I was drinking just under a gallon a day of water.
Some Wild Animals
If I am right, these are photos of a gopher, pika, and a marmot.
Rubber Boa. Identified for me by Gary Nafis of Californiaherps.com. The second photo shows it was springtime at 10,000 ft - tadpoles in abundance. This is a tiny section of a pond that was filled with them in the meadows below Foerster peak.
This year alone several people have died in Yosemite being swept over falls. I am sure in each case these people thought everything looked safe. There are fences and warning signs. Given the publicity about these deaths, I was surprised how many people had gone around the fences, ignored the signs, and were enjoying being right next to or in the water. It looked pretty safe to me, too, but also pretty foolish. These photos are from Nevada Falls, but the same was going on at Vernal. I was surprised at Nevada Falls that rangers were leaning against the protective fence, not interfering with those beyond. Perhaps it was safe that day:
Where the water begins to churn, the Falls begin. Note that the rocks in the churn in the second photo match the picture in the danger sign.
By The Author:
Bob Phillips [phillips bob 27 at yahoo dot com - no spaces]
Santa Rosa, CA