We won the lottery!!! Well sort of. Actually a friend of Betsey's cousin Kathleen won a coveted Hi-Sierra 6-day mule trip back in 2005 and through various twists and turns we were able to hitch along. The anticipation in 2005 was dashed when (for only the second time since 1916) the camps did not open due to high snow depths (15+ feet) and dangerous water levels. The last time was in 1996 due to wet El Nino year. We waited patiently for the summer of 2006 to approach. Plans were made then changed as the snow did not melt soon enough for our first booking, but we persevered and were able to get a slot at the start of August.
We started with a night at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and then it was up and at'em in the morning to meet our mules and head for the first camp, Glen Aulin. The day started under clear skies that later squeezed out a few minutes of Sierra rain drops and then quickly returned to warm and pleasant.
All in a Line
The first day ride was short, about 5 miles, and ended up at a beautiful spot nestled at the foot of a waterfall and the gateway to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River. The camp is at the confluence of 4 trails and I took a curious look at the path that I would be coming down in just 7 weeks on my yearly backpacking trip. We were treated to a turkey dinner after an impromptu serenade by the staff with whatever they could cobble together for musical instruments. The night was peaceful and the moon shimmered on the water and in the misty veil of the rushing waterfall.
Glen Aulin Falls
The next day we arose to blue skies, a huge breakfast and our mules awaiting to take us onwards. May Lake was our destination in about 8 miles, and in the shadow of Mt. Hoffman, the geographic center of Yosemite. The trail rose up from Glen Aulin eventually ascending to a lunch stop with views that seemed to go on forever. The high ridges and peaks stood in all their splendor and guarded the domain before us. May Lake camp was hidden along the shore and nestled in between towering Lodgepole pines. At over 9000' the temperature was quite cool even in the middle of the summer, but the staff was well prepared to keep us warm and well fed. That night as the dark descended we watched the light of day turn to amber glow and carpet the panorama.
Bets n Mark
This was our departure point from the mule trip as the altitude was having an affect and we decided to drop down lower and spend the rest of the week in the valley. The Camp Manager Brian and our guide Sheridan were just wonderful to help us through this event and showed a real backcountry spirit. We descended with the group to a point at which we were able to walk out to H120 and get back to the stables and our car. I leave you with some parting shots of our camp and Mt. Hoffman in the quiet still of the new morning.