Although there were no mountain passes today, Quoi and I still hiked quite a bit of elevation change as we set ourselves up for Benson Pass tomorrow.
I left camp around 7:30, actually ready to go a little before of Quoi for once. The mosquitoes were unfortunately also awake and buzzing around me, though not in great numbers.
Having not refilled my water bladder at last night’s campsite, I stopped after about half a mile at a creek crossing the trail to filter water for the day’s hike. During the short hike from the campsite, for whatever reason, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” got stuck in my head, and over the course of the half mile, slowly morphed into “I’m Dreaming of No Bear Can”. I was writing the lyrics down when Quoi caught up.
For roughly the next mile and a half, the trail followed the Tuolumne River downhill, passing alongside some nice waterfalls. At the bottom, the trail passed the bridge to the Glen Aulin Sierra Camp, where we had been considering staying last night. The bridge, damaged from last year’s high water levels, had since been removed; only the supports on either shore remained.
It was relatively warm out today, which especially made the first uphill of the day, which was mostly exposed, a little slow and uncomfortable. After three miles of climbing, though, the trail flattened out and went through a meadow., I took a snack break in the meadow. With all the mosquitoes swarming around, though, It was a pretty short break.
The major creek crossings of the day were McCabe and Return creeks. Both creeks, located within two tenths of a mile of each other, were somewhat fast flowing, deep, and had waterfalls near the trail crossing. I crossed McCabe, getting in a bit deeper than I had expected, and hiked as fas as I could to Return Creek because my feet felt like they were on fire from the cold water. I only made it about halfway before I felt compelled to dry off my feet. This turned into a snack break; i figured that if I had another tricky stream crossing, I should at least not be hungry for it.
Return Creek was wider, and also deeper at places, but it flowed slower, and with some work, I was able to find a path through that didn’t get me too deep. I did have to backtrack at one place to take a different route, and I was probably in the water longer than I had been in any other stream crossing so far.
Naturally, on the other side, I had to take another break to dry off my feet again, and with the quite abundant source of water, used the opportunity to cook dinner. While I was there, Quoi caught up, and hung out with me while I ate.
After the creeks, the trail began another uphill, which was somewhat moderate until it reached Spiller Creek, which was wide and fast-flowing. At first, it looked like there was a large downed tree upstream that we could cross on, but the log only covered half of the creek. Not really wanting to get my feet wet right before a steep uphill, I switched to my Crocs and crossed the stream. The mosquitoes on the other side were pretty pesky as I was putting my shoes and socks back on.
Quoi went ahead while I was doing that, and I caught up with her near the top. We took a short break at Miller Lake (as did a couple other small groups of hikers).
After the lake, a long, steep downhill brought us to a meadow and Matterhorn Creek. Mostly forested, a scenic viewpoint along the way gave a nice view of the surrounding mountains
The fast-flowing creek, which was waist-high for Quoi last year, was somewhat lower for us now, but I still got the bottom of my shorts wet during the crossing. Somewhat like Return Creek, Matterhorn Creek started off fairly shallow, and then quickly became deep towards the far shore: I practically had to climb out of the creek onto the shore to get out of the water.
After we crossed the creek, we saw two fires going, and wandered over to one of them, hoping to be able to hang out around the fire and dry our clothes out. (And also sit somewhere where there weren’t mosquitoes.) We set up our tents, and joined Kareem, Harrison, Brit, and Brittney by the fire, where we were able to (mostly) dry our socks, shoes, pants, and underwear. Two members of that group had been particularly unlucky: they had gotten all their gear for a few days hike the day before, and didn’t have much to actually keep their gear dry. A water mishap resulted in all of their gear getting soaked, so they were drying everything out: sleeping bags, pillows, and all of their clothes.
While we were sitting at the fire, we noticed that there were several deer hanging around our tents. Fortunately, they didn’t do anything while they were there, though I was slightly concerned they might try to use my trekking poles as salt licks.
There were also a surprising number of mosquitoes that were not deterred by the (somewhat large) fire and continued to buzz around us the whole time we were there. (Fortunately, they couldn’t get at my legs through my rain paints, which I put on so I could dry out my hiking pants at the fire.)
We were up late at the fire (until sometime after 9 pm), so we’re going to “sleep in” a bit tomorrow. We will cross Benson Pass, but with a lot of elevation gain possible tomorrow, with sparse campsites, we might wind up with a short day to set up for Seavey Pass afterwards.