Start – Thousand Island Lake, Mile 923, 6:50 am
End – Tuolumne Meadows. Mile 943, 5:30 pm
Miles – 20
I got up around 1am for a bathroom break, and I haven’t spent that much time looking at the night sky since I’m usually in bed by 8:30, but tonight the moon was exceptionally bright and cast against the backdrop of the mountains and the lake, it was pretty impressive.
As I expected, sleeping above the lake led to some pretty soggy ground in the morning, so my tent and ground cloth were pretty soaked. But I got going and then encountered the other reason that the area around the lake is problematic.
It’s not just one lake in the area, though Thousand Island is the biggest. The shore area is comprised of hundreds of little ponds, streams, and bigger lakes, and most of the snow around here is melted. Also there are s lot of meadows where the flow is slow, which is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos.
I’ve already mentioned my hatred of these little buggers and challenge anyone to show me any benefit that they bring, so I wasn’t thrilled when I started to get swarmed while hiking. In the past my irritation with them has been limited to points where I have stopped for a break, but today they were keeping pace with me from the start.
Since I had camped only a mile from Island Pass, the first of today’s two passes, I figured I’d get it done quickly before spending more time and energy going over Donohue Pass, which marks the southern border of Yosemite.
I had no idea how quickly I’d dispose of Island Pass however, as I didn’t even notice when I went over it. I’m still not convinced it’s a real pass. The trail was level for a while and then started to go down so I checked my gps and found that I was already a few tenths if s Mile past. So that was easy.
Donohue was more of a traditional pass but had hardly any snow and wasn’t as hard of a climb as some of the others have been, although it did top out just over 11,000 feet. On the approach I was getting so bothered by mosquitos that I put on my headnet to hike, which is the first time I’ve done that. Usually I just use it for breaks or while at camp and just pull my buff up over my face if bugs are bothering me while walking, but today that wasn’t working so the headnet went on and stayed on for a few hours.
When I got to the top of Donahue I took a short break to look out into Yosemite. This entry point isn’t as stunning as coming in through the valley, but I could see the beginnings of Lyell Fork Meadow off in the distance. I also hung out with one of the most confident marmots that I’ve met yet, who didn’t scurry away when I approached.
After dropping down the ridge for a few miles I came to Lyell Fork and followed it across even terrain for much of the rest of the day. I even ran into a group of folks I know and leapfrogged them throughout the afternoon.
Yosemite has some extra resources from the other park. Immediately upon entering you could see that the trail is better maintained, with rick steps at ever elevation gain, no tree falls that hadn’t been cleared, and real bridges across the big rivers.
I also encountered my first park ranger within an hour or so of entering. He just asked where I camped (whether it was in the park or before it) and checked my bear can to make sure I had one. He asked if I had a permit but didn’t check it, but within another hour I was stopped for my first permit check by a couple of NPS volunteers, and of course I had left it in the bottom of my pack today, so I had to take everything out to find it. I don’t mind the diligence, it’s just a different experience than anywhere else along the trail so far.
While dealing with the permit check I actually ran into the guy that met going up Kearsage Pass who gave me a ride into Independence almost two weeks ago. After his climbing trip to Kings Canyon he’s now in a hike heading south through Yosemite, so I got to talk to him for a minute and thank him for the advice he gave me about the passes.
After that I just pushed through to get to Tuolumne. There’s a store and a cafe there, and I needed to pick up my resupply box from the post office. I also wanted to check in at the ranger station to see about day hikes around here so that I done just rush through Yosemite.
I got to Tuolumne after 5, so no chance to visit the ranger, but I was able to get a meal and the guys working the post office even let me pick up my package after hours. It helps that the post office is attached to the camp store and they were still hanging out with their door open by the beer section.
The other hikers that I bumped into on the trail: cool runnings, photon, driver, and jellybones and I all made it over to the backpacker campsite and set up shop around 7. It’s nice that they keep some space available for backpackers because all the campgrounds up here fill up months in advance. But if you’re walking in you can camp without a reservation in Yosemite in the summer on a weekend- at least in Tuolumne. The valley is probably a different story.
Tomorrow I’m still going to investigate a day hike to maximize my time in Yosemite. Maybe a hike up Clouds Rest, or the end of the JMT down into the valley. Half dome would be fun but probably impossible. After that it’s on to Sonora.