After the LovedOne tweaked a disc in her cervical spine our ability to do multi-day backpacks pretty much came to an end (this was before we discovered ME-2 Packs). I despaired at ever being able to share with her the High Sierra – where I had spent almost all of the 1980s backpacking and climbing. Then it dawned on me (duh!) that the Yosemite High Sierra Camps offered us another chance. With these, you carry just your personal gear – which I can do for both of us – and the camps supply tents and food. There are a total of five camps and the ideal trip is to hike them in a continuous loop. But access is limited by a lottery (which this year had 3900 applications for 900 spaces), so we weren’t able to score a loop but did score the highest (Vogelsang), lowest (Merced Lake), and most remote (both) of the five camps.
So we made it in to a combined backpack and road trip,
by first visiting the old mining town of Bodie, California (now Bodie State Historic Park),
then doing an acclimatization hike to Fern Lake above the June Lake Valley,
and then wandering out to the see the tufa columns at the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve.
Finally, we entered Yosemite National Park at its Tioga Pass entrance,
where we did another little warm-up hike to the 12,900’ level on Mount Dana,
with views of Mono Lake to the east (smoke from wildfires in Nevada obscured any distant views),
and the northern Sierra and Yosemite to the west. The pointy peak on the left horizon is Cathedral Peak, which I climbed back in the mid-1980s.
We spent our first night in the Park at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge,
so we could practice not sleeping on the ground. These canvas cabins are taken down each winter and stored. Their continued use harkens back to the founding of the High Sierra Camps in 1916 – they beat the heck out of sleeping on a thin pad in a cramped tent!
Next morning, we were off to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp (HSC) on the John Muir Trail,
across the Tuolumne River,
up Rafferty Creek toward Fletcher Peak,
and on to the camp at its base,
where, after a hearty dinner (cooked by someone else and cleaned-up after by someone else), we settled in for the night.
we headed toward the Merced Lake HSC via Vogelsang Pass and Lewis Creek.
Halfway down to Merced Lake, we passed where Florence Creek cascades down over bare granite in a style so typical of the Sierras.
Further down, we started seeing Half Dome in the distance, with Merced Lake in the foreground.
And then, hot, dusty, and a little tired, we arrived in the Merced Lake HSC.
We spent two indolent nights here, just hanging out and enjoying the Sierras at this, the most remote, of the HSCs. We did get motivated to visit Merced Lake,
but, after that, inertia won out and we just read and waited for dinner and moonrise.
After two days of slacking, we had to get back up to Vogelsang HSC – now 7.5 miles and 3,000 feet above us.
To make a partial loop out of our hike back, and for a change of scenery, we returned via Fletcher Creek, which is bordered by huge granite domes and cliffs,
with the creek running down a long series of granite stairsteps.
One of the most amazing features of this trail is Emeric Meadow, which stretches level for about a mile at 9,300 feet.
We reached Vogelsang HSC in time to enjoy a cold (hence brief) dip in Fletcher Lake,
a passing thunderstorm, another great dinner, and the close of the day.
we very reluctantly bid farewell to Vogelsang HSC, Fletcher Peak, and the High Sierra Camps,
and headed home.
In 2015, we would finally win the five-camp loop lottery and be able to visit all of the camps (with another two days of indolence at Merced Lake) with Wayne and Diane, our oldest and most excellent fiends.