SHR Day 4 — July 6
Tuolumne Meadows to Shelf above Merced Lake
Vegan Big Mac Camp to Mosquito Sunset Camp
Passes: Vogelsang Pass (trail)
The SHR so far has been about as hard as I expected. Most other hiking objectives end up being a little easier than I expect. So with that frame of reference, just by virtue of actually being as hard as I expected it to be, the SHR has actually been harder than expected. I’m not sure if that makes any sense. Pretty much, I’m trying to say that the SHR is hard like I thought it would be, and that is both surprising and awesome. It feels good to get my ass kicked.
Today was hard in a more traditional, on-trail thru-hike sense. The entirety of today was spent on trail as SpiceRack and I cut through the heart of Yosemite. We pounded out the miles, and the shear distance covered left us feeling a little stumpy. So far the steep ups and downs of the SHR has worked our muscles, both big and small, very hard. Today we were reminded of how the repetitive motions of on-trail travel punish the body in entirely different ways. Insidious ways. Off-trail is hard. On-trail is hard too.
We spent a warm night in Tuolumne and I awoke dehydrated and puffy feeling from eating a salt bomb last night and sweating it out in my quilt during the night. Stifled in the tent, I felt much better in the relatively cool outside air. Spice and I packed up and returned to the glorious benches outside the Tuolumne Grill. We finished up our town food for breakfast (coffee soy milk and chana masala) and dropped some extra food in the hiker box, while hanging out with some dirty PCT hikers.
At 8:40am it was time to hit the trail. The world was quiet and calm along the Tuolumne River. A peaceful start to the section. We turned up the Rafferty Creek trail to Vogelsang and put it in cruise control. I was a little too full to be comfortable and the chana was kicking my gas production to epic proportions, but the walking and conversation were easy. By 11:15am we were already 7 miles in, at Vogelsang High Sierra Camp.
The day was heating up, so we dunked our shirts in the nearby creek for a little A/C on the climb up to Vogelsang Pass. The beauty was nuts. Rounded granite mountains filled in the widening foreground, the backside of Half Dome and the high peaks of the Conness group bounded the land against a cloudless blue sky. To keep juices flowing, I sucked individual Skittles until I caught up with Spice at the pass. The views south were equally impressive. More granite ahead, and the multicolored peaks of the Clark Range spread to the west.
From the top we bumbled down a rugged trail to, then along Lewis Creek. I hadn’t given much thought to this portion of the route after a glance at the map, and was amazed by the abundant granite and cascading creek. I guess I should have expected that just about every part of Yosemite is beautiful. We discussed what it means to be vulnerable as we descended and the day warmed. Losing steam despite the easy trail, we pulled up for a break to dunk our shirts and soak our feet in the rushing water.
We carried damp shirts and pleasant memories up the Isberg Pass Trail, gaining back all the elevation we had just lost. The effort was large, but it was worth it to gain a fresh breeze and views. My legs were gassed by the time the trail flattened out in a forest of widely spaced trees dispersed across sandy dirt. To push through the part of the day where our legs and feet feel like tree stumps, Spice regaled me with the plot to Coyote Ugly, and I tried to explain Lord of the Rings to her. Either her stumps finally grounded their roots or because she really hates LOTR, we stopped the trail grinding at a granite bench with a stupendous view across the Merced River drainage to the mighty Clark Range. Big mountains, including Half Dome sit perched on our dashboard.
We managed to stretch and eat dinner before the mosquitos multiplied to plague-like proportions. After a golden sunset, we retreated to our tent to listen to the constant buzzing of the swarm. Tired from the day as I was, watching the pests diligently probe every inch of our fortress for weakness was all I had the energy for anyway. With luck, they will have given up by tomorrow. However, based on reports from other hikers, that is wishful thinking. I’m excited for the next section after reading the guidebook. It’s gonna be hard. It’s gonna be amazing.