Monthly Archives: August 2015

YOSEMITE SUMMER: Knowing One’s Limits

This and several upcoming blog posts are about my recent month long visit to California and experiences in Yosemite National Park, where I served as a park volunteer.

Friday, June 26

I worked at the Visitors Center today. Before leaving the campground, I met a Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hiker taking a break from the PCT. He was concerned about a group member who had not caught up with his group. He said the man had had a hard time with the Half Dome hike (as would most mortals). He planned to contact a ranger for help.

That sparked a conversation about understanding one’s limits. It ended up being the theme of the day. I told him I limit my hikes to day hikes. He said, “Yeah, I could tell by your Holiday Inn tent.”


My “Holiday Inn” tent

I had never heard that one before. I’m camping in an REI Kingdom 4 tent that has over six feet of headroom. No claustrophobia for me.

The Visitors Center day consisted mainly of visitors who had only a few hours to see “all the sights.” That won’t work for a 1200 square mile park, but most seemed happy with the options of Tuolumne Meadows, Dog Lake, Tuolumne Grove, or Tenaya Lake.

On another occasion, my high school French allowed me to stumble through directions to several French guests. They were very polite and appreciated my efforts.

A Junior Ranger – nine years old – proudly told me about his title. He hoped to get his parents in line – do a little hiking and demonstrate an appreciation of Yosemite – a true National Park Service acolyte.

Around 2 p.m., a very exhausted backpacker, Arturo, trudged up the hill to my booth and asked me about the bus to Yosemite Valley. His 65-pound pack was much too heavy for his adventure, which had begun at Glacier Point two days earlier. He was ready to go home and his spirits deflated further when I told him the next bus for the valley would not arrive until 7pm.He had just missed the 1:15.

He thought about taking the shuttle bus to the store one mile away but decided instead to sit and rest. After closing my station at 4pm, I gave him a ride to “Downtown Tuolumne,” a canvas and steel frame structure that houses a small general store, a post office, and a fast-food concession. Arturo bought a beverage to restore his electrolytes. I bought a cup of soft-serve ice cream to satisfy my sweet tooth.

We sat down for 45 minutes and talked about family. He was born in Colombia, but now lives in Ventura County, California. He has a son and a daughter, both now adults. I smiled when he told me his daughter’s name is Vanessa. I told him my daughter shares the same name. Ah, the coincidences of life.

Arturo reiterated that he had taken on too much, but said he has many great photographs. Whether he will backpack again, I’m not sure, but he made the great effort.

Like me, he is in his 60’s. Each day we learn that age poses its limitations, but we will have made the great effort, knowing that failure to do so would leave us thinking “What if?” the remainder of our lives. I could remain home with my feet propped up, watching TV and waiting for life’s end in relative comfort. But, like Arturo, I have stepped out my front door and have seen many wonders of the world, taking day-long hikes to see nature’s beauty unavailable to those who do not step out on the trail. I have no regrets.

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YOSEMITE SUMMER: Three Great Hikes

This and several upcoming blog posts are about my recent month long visit to California and experiences in Yosemite National Park, where I served as a park volunteer.

Mono Pass Trail

Mono Pass Trail

Monday, June 22

With confidence comes great hiking. The greatest reward for volunteering is the ability to explore this park on an extended basis. So, over a three-day period, I planned three of my favorite hikes: Mono Pass, Dog Lake, and Gaylor Lakes. The first is an 8-mile hike to an ancient trading route used by the tribes on either side of the Sierra Nevada. My blisters still required frequent attention to the moleskin, but I enjoyed the pleasant weather and cobalt blue skies. I took many photos along the way and passed a half dozen other hikers. I engaged in a friendly chat with two hikers from San Francisco. One hiker from Santa Barbara told me he had tired out the day before but his wife had told him to spend at least another day on the trails before returning home. What’s up with that?

I made the return hike to my car with pretty good speed, ready for a hot shower before another cold night. The moleskin held up well, but I decided to limit my next day’s hike to a short one.

Tuesday, June 23

Me at Dog Lake

Me at Dog Lake

I slept until 8:00, not easy to do when dawn breaks at 5:30. I took my time preparing for the day, but reached the Lembert Dome parking lot by 10:00. Then it was up the trail to Dog Lake. This is just a three-hour hike, but the “up” was longer than I remembered. I’d say it accounted for 70% of the trail. But the effort was well worth it, to an often-disregarded lake blessed with dragon flies (and, apparently for that reason, a welcome dearth of mosquitoes). Subalpine forest surrounds much of the lake but mountains of red metamorphic rock beckon to the east.

Dog Lake Vista

Dog Lake Vista

Two San Diego women had already reached the lake when I arrived. We talked about sports (the Chargers’ quarterback, NC State alum Philip Rivers) and books. They seemed excited to discuss my two historical novels. Hopefully, they will explore them on line. I took their photo on their smart phone and they returned the favor with my photo on my iPhone. We went our separate ways as I explored the shoreline. I ran into them again as we somehow reached the parking lot around the same time. We exchanged waves as I returned to camp to gather a change of clothes for a shower. I lazed around the rest of the day.

Wednesday, June 24

Cyndi agreed to join me on one of my favorite hikes, Gaylor Lakes. All of the work is in the first section of the hike. The hike begins at the Tioga Pass eastern entrance with a half-mile, 500-foot elevation gain ascent. That will certainly clear out your lungs. The view from the ridge is well worth the effort. Dana Meadows, Mount Dana, and Mount Gibbs spread out before you to the south. The Cathedral Range lies to the west. Two alpine lakes lie on the north side of the ridge only a quarter mile descent away. The hiking along the lakes is easy, with very little up and down.


Gaylor Lakes (from earlier year)

We did not begin the hike until about 11am, but there was absolutely no reason to hurry. Cyndi reached the ridge effortlessly while I huffed and puffed behind her. We took our time circumnavigating the crystal-clear alpine lakes and occasionally were rewarded with glimpses of trout. We then proceeded up several stretches of granite until we reached an outcropping that overlooked Tioga and Ellery Lakes, among others, as well as Tioga Road. We ate lunch and relaxed before making the return trip. My only regret is that I left my iPhone in the car. That just means that if I want pictures, I’ll have to return with my phone sometime in the next three weeks. It’s well worth a second effort.

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YOSEMITE SUMMER: First Days Off – Books, Blisters & Such

This and several upcoming blog posts are about my recent month long visit to California and experiences in Yosemite National Park, where I served as a park volunteer.

Tuesday, June 16

iPhone pictures 102

Lower Yosemite Falls

I wanted to go where it was warm and there were more people. So I thought. I headed to the Valley Tuesday morning. I planned to go to the Museum Library to research the Park Service Rangers. I received an assignment before I left. I could pick up the Delaware North Corp. (DNC) discount cards, good, supposedly, for a 50% discount at the Tuolumne Grill and a 10% discount at the general store. Otherwise, everyone had to wait until Friday for the cards.

I got to the valley around 10am and parked in Day Use Parking. Upon arrival, I received a phone call from Suzy (YC). She said she would send the paperwork for the DNC cards to the Valley field office, and then I needed to take the paperwork to the DNC office near the Village Store. I had not anticipated this, but said “sure” and headed for the library.

There, I met the librarian, who is Adrienne’s daughter-in-law. Small world. She pulled a number of books and treatises. I began reviewing the treatises. A short time later the librarian informed me she was closing the library for lunch and would return in one hour. Not a problem, I thought, as the resources seemed pretty light. I walked to Lower Yosemite Falls. The water flow was weak but the people watching was fun. Hundreds of people, mostly children, were scrambling among the talus at the base of the falls. It’s amazing there are so few trips or falls, but that blessing goes along with being a child.

I returned to the library, completed my research, and checked out one book. I then called the YC office as I watched my cell phone battery charge deplete to under 30%. I don’t think it helped that one of my fellow volunteers kept sending me the same nature photo over and over again. Although I acknowledged receipt of the photo, she never received the acknowledgment due to poor cell phone reception. Very late in the afternoon (around 4:00), the Valley YC volunteer informed me she had received the required paperwork for the DNC discount cards. I took the packed shuttle bus to Yosemite Lodge. She met me there and kindly drove me to the DNC office, where the employee initially said it would take several days to issue the cards. The YC volunteer charmed her past that obfuscation, and I soon left the premises with the cards (and a more fully charged phone, done while I waited).

Back to the campground – a two-hour drive due to road construction. I need to go on a hike.

Wednesday, June 17

Both Cyndi and I are off today, so we agreed to hike to May Lake. It’s a light hike, about three miles, but can be supplemented by hiking around the lake. This will be a good test for my hiking boots.


May Lake

We drove past Olmsted Point to the May Lake entrance. I drove two miles down a paved road to the trailhead. Several years ago I made the same hike, but the paved road was closed, which added four miles to the effort. Early on, I realized my boots were rubbing my heels. Not a good sign. I stopped after about two miles of hiking and bandaged the heels. Unfortunately, I had not packed moleskin. I soldiered on, and Cyndi and I had lunch at the east end of the lake, a rocky outcropping that affords beautiful views of the lake. After our repast, we trudged to the west shore, then hiked up the trail toward Mount Hoffman, stopping where we had great views of the entire park. Hoffman is located at the geographical center of the park, thus affording great vistas.

My blisters could handle no more, so we headed back to the car. Along the way, we stopped to observe a marmot feasting on horse dung. Cyndi noted that the dung is mainly grass because of a horse’s digestive track. Nonetheless, my opinion of the marmot has dropped a notch or two. It’s still dung.

May Lake

May Lake

Thursday, June 18

I decided to mend today. Nothing meaningful to report.

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