29 June 2006, 11:15am. Ellery Lake Campground (USFS). Day 2.
     Just east of Tioga Pass, just below the turnoff for Saddlebag Lake. Wanted to camp at Tuolumne, but the campground is closed -- not yet open for the season -- as is the visitor center, the lodge, the general store, the post office, and the grill. The backcountry station and the gas station appear to be the only things open. The road back up to Saddlebag is closed as well.
     Lots of snow on the north faces; patches everywhere else, even here in camp on flat ground.
     Drove up 395 yesterday from Idyllwild. Too long in getting ready to move out. Everything packed into storage. Even with all the time since graduation, some things left undone. Just impossible to clear everything -- the to-do list is asymptotic to zero. Stopped in to say Hello to Sarah and Neil in Bishop -- good to see them again. Corporate sales through Sarah?
     I'll stay here about a week, then head across to SF for the 4th. Visit, pick up books, do some work on the website. Here, I'll try to get in shape for Shasta and Ranier. Gaylor Lakes basin XC this afternoon.

The Gaylor Lakes Basin, early season

Reflections in the edge of the ice

30 June 2006, 9:30pm. Ellery.
     Long hike today to Cloud's Rest. About 15.5 miles RT. Heavy mosquitoes at the beginning and a serious water crossing. Mid-thigh deep but slow-moving so OK, if a bit chilly. Need to start bringing sandals again, at least when backpacking, for the crossings. Potentially sketchy otherwise. Saw a handful of people on the trail, but not too many. Still early season here, despite the date. Huge amounts of snow above Sawmill. I've never seen so much water coming through Tuolumne Meadows. Not flood stage, but a solid third of the meadow is river or de-facto marsh. Some impressionistic pictures of tree shadows in the river that I think might be solid.
     Shot at Tenaya Lake from 6:30 to 7:30, then up to Tuolumne. The afternoon clouds had burned off entirely, so no grand scenics.
     Went up to the Gaylor Lakes Basin yesterday and up onto the shoulder of White Peak after settling in. The lakes were ninety percent ice. Snow and muskeg terrain. Saw a group of five deer and, later, what looked like a wolf crossing the snowfield. Probably just a large coyote, but the markings were unfamiliar -- uniform tan, and just a different build. Fresh tracks in the snow showed a pawprint about 1.5" across. The tracks were uneven through the suncups, so there wasn't a sense of width or spacing.
     Disjointed thoughts. (As obvious from entry) Just trying to clear my head. The hard hikes help.

Tenaya Lake in late afternoon light

Refelctions of tree silhouettes in the Tuolumne River

1 July. Ellery. 10:15am.
     Camp chores this morning. Washing dishes, washing up. Warming water over a coleman stove for a water-bottle shampoo. Organizing food (not re-organizing, organizing). Luxurious breakfast of granola, yoghurt, and OJ -- but good yoghurt and orange juice.
     Aside from occasional road noise and the infrequent burp of generators, this is a blissful camp. The new Sierra Designs tent, designed for three people, is palatial for one. Plenty of room to store food. Light breeze -- the constant feathering of jostled willow leaves. Seventy-five degrees at 9600 feet.
     I'm going to try to get into the Young Lakes this afternoon -- fifteen miles or so in a loop, about a thousand foot gain. At least I'm getting acclimated.
     Should say a bit more about Cloud's Rest from yesterday. Possibly the best view in the park. It unites the Valley and the high country. Mount Clark, Cathedral Peak, and Tuolumne Peak form the skyline from the SE all the way around to the North. Had the summit to myself for a good half-hour. My own private Yosemite...
     Met a couple, Jason and Luda, who quit their jobs and are section-backpacking the West. Very cool. They've already done in two months what many people would take five years to do. I've got to get out more. So hard to balance love and responsibility, or at least normal ideas of responsibility.

Tioga Lake shoreline

Tioga Lake and Mammoth Peak in alpenglow

2 July. Ellery. 9:30pm.
     Another late morning. Did a trail run up Lyell canyon to the junction for Ireland Lake and back. Very wet, sloppy, and muddy. Soaked feet and shoes by the end. Reminiscent of Divide, Montana, I washed up -- briefly! -- in the creek. Damn cold. Then again, some of the source snowfields are less than a mile away...
     Eleven miles in two hours. Not fast. I'm satisfied, considering the conditions and the altitude. Began with a belted water bottle pack but stashed it shortly. Can't stand the jostling and there's just something so blissful, so elemental about running metaphorically naked. With nothing to get in the way. Primal. I need to work some solution out to carry water on long adventure runs in the future, though.
     Hiked yesterday from Lembert Dome past Dog Lake to the first Young Lake (beyond Ragged Peak), out a different route past Soda Springs. 15 miles? Sore feet by the end. Need new boots. In a common refrain, much more snow than I would expect this time of year, especially on the north side of the peaks -- Young Lakes sixty percent covered in ice at 9800 feet.
     Photographed at Tioga Lake last evening, the area below Mammoth Peak this evening. Also some of what I think of as "Charlie's Trees" at Dana Meadow. Potentially good light in reflections on the Dana Fork; some nice S-curves. Looking for reflections, now, with no clouds.
     Will try Mount Dana tomorrow. Mammoth Peak, by the way, is not the same this as Mammoth Mountain, the ski mountain farther south.
     Avocado, half with lunch, half with dinner. A small luxury but wonderful nonetheless. And the last of Lauren's long-ago gift of cinnamon-tinted hot chocolate.
     Moonshadows. And brilliant stars. Saw a shooting star not five minutes after lying down the first night out, outside of Mammoth Lakes -- that must be a good omen, yes?

"Charlie's Trees" on the edge of Dana Meadows.
These trees (and my treatment of them) remind me of the work of Charles Cramer, whom I took a class from in the summer of 2005.

Below Mammoth Peak

3 July. Ellery. Day 6.
     Leaving tomorrow. Packed some today; cleaned out and reorganized the car. Tried to get together things I'll need in SF.
     Did Mount Dana today. Thirteen-two? Almost flawless as a climb. Didn't pick up the right trail at the start -- it leaves from the entrance station, not the first pond -- but otherwise great. I felt acclimated, so the altitude wasn't bad. Great hike/climb, beautiful views in a 360-degree circle including Mono Lake, Ritter and Banner, Cathedral Peak, and Mount Conness. Miniature thickets of polemonium above 12,5 or so -- the greatest common name for a wildflower, "sky pilot", because it only grows at very high elevations. And butterflies! Swarms of butterflies!
     Well, okay, not exactly swarms. But lots of them. Why so high?
     Met a dad and son from Denmark on the way up and at the summit. Evidently a cycling fan; we talked of the Tour. Did it start yesterday? Hincapie in first after the prologue (after the first stage, actually). Landis in third, despite a six-second mechanical delay; Zabriske in the top ten. Basso and Ullrich out? If so, it's open for a third, new, American...
     It's been good here. A good start. Tomorrow, across the central valley. Will try to put together some more logistics for the trip and pick up some materials to start thinking about education, visit Amy.
     2:30 up Dana today and 1:30 down. Better than 1000' per hour, and some amazingly fun boot-skiing on the descent.

The Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River (after sunset)

Reflections in a small lake (after sunset)


Sabbatical notes
Other Writings

Text and images at this site and the pages herein are © copyright 1997 to 2007 by Mark A. Hespenheide.
To contact, email the following address (no spaces):