June 26, 2015
Tentsite near Glen Aulin Sierra Camp (948.9) to Tentsite before Benson Lake (971.0)
22.1 PCT miles today
1015.5 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 5,081 ft, – 4,868 ft
We are finally getting our hiking legs back after our zero. Today’s miles went by much faster than the last couple days and we got to camp by 5pm, tired but completely content. We even had time to bathe in the nearby creek before starting in on dinner and our books.
Today’s hike was completely within Yosemite National Park, and the scenery was as beautiful and unique as its popularity suggests. Huge granite mountains stole the show, but the bright green foliage and pink, orange, and red wildflowers made us feel like we were in a fairy tale for much of the day. It wasn’t an easy day – we climbed up and over 3 steep mountains and ended the day with some serious downhill – but we didn’t complain once since the reward was so tangible.
We did meet our 3rd Park Ranger in 2 days today. The first ranger we saw after all this time on the PCT was posted up in Lyell Canyon Meadow, just north of yesterday’s Donahue Pass. His name was Wayne and he actually did ask us for permits and to see our bear kegs. He was super friendly about it, and we were more than happy to comply. It was nice to know that someone was holding people accountable and that there were actually consequences for not helping out with either the bear problem, or the over-use of the trail system. We didn’t know then that Wayne would only be our first of several visits with Rangers. We saw another woman yesterday afternoon, just north of Tuolumne Meadows, but when we told her we’d just talked to Wayne, she said we were free to go…she didn’t need to see that we had everything a second time. Then today, about halfway into our hike, we crossed paths with Ranger Lisa. Lisa was a pleasure to talk to and we got lots of our questions answered. Much to our amazement, Lisa told us that we were the 19th and 20th PCT hikers she had crossed paths with TODAY. We couldn’t believe it. We had been going on all morning about all the solitude we had now that we were off the JMT. We only saw 2 PCT hikers all day, and if we hadn’t met Lisa, we would have continued believing that we basically had the trail to ourselves. It is only because we’re all going the same direction that we don’t meet the hundreds of other hikers around us, many of whom may be just within a mile or two.
We also talked to Lisa about the bear kegs, because she was giddy with joy that after meeting us she was 20 for 20 with bear keg compliance. Yesterday she had to write a number of tickets for hikers who didn’t have kegs with them, which is, understandably, the least favorite part of her job. Often, it only takes one incident involving human food for a bear to be put down, so for the sake of those beautiful creatures, we are more than happy to carry a little extra weight and protect our food while we sleep.
It is actually surprising just how clean and well-maintained the PCT has been considering its high level of use. This year, Tuolumne Meadows post office received 3,000 PCT re-ration packages…3 times last year’s number, according to our ranger friend. I can’t help but think that the trail’s cleanliness is due in large part to the Park Rangers’ dutiful service in helping to teach leave no trace principles and hold hikers accountable to the rules. Let’s all do our part and not only respect the Rangers that we meet throughout our hikes, but also act as custodians of the wilderness areas where we recreate.