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PCT North 2014: Yosemite to Tahoe

150.4 miles, 19,600' elevation gain
Aug 18-24, 2014
Dave Sholer, solo-hike

This was almost entirely a new section of PCT for me. The only section I had done before was the last 10 miles from the Tahoe Rim Trail junction near Meiss Cabin to Echo Summit.

Daily Journal
Aug 18, 2014
I took a bus/train to Merced, the YARTS bus to Yosemite Valley, got my wilderness permit, killed time, and eventually took the once-a-day YARTS bus to Tuolumne Meadows. I stayed at the backpackers' camp to stage for leaving the next morning.

Aug 19, 2014 (28.5 miles)
I accidentally slept in until 6:15am and was upset with myself. I got packed up in record time, filled my water in the bathroom, and was down on Highway 120 by 7am. I had brought a pair of throw-away clothes that I wore the day before so that I could start with fresh clothes today. Unfortunately, the trailhead of the PCT along Highway 120 is poorly marked, so I lost almost 30 minutes trying to find the right trail of the many trails through and around Tuolumne Meadows. Although I saw a lot of deer during the entire trip, the best ones were during the first few miles from Tuolumne Meadows, where I saw a whole lot of bucks with full racks. I got to Glen Aulin camp by 9:30am, McCabe Creek by 1pm, and up Benson Pass by 5:15pm. It rained softly for about 15 minutes as I was hiking up towards the pass, but otherwise the weather was great all day: sunny with some cloud cover and low 70s. At 6:10pm, I made couscous for dinner at Smedberg Lake and was hiking again by 6:50pm. I found a small area to camp along the descent between Smedberg Lake and Benson Lake and set-up camp around 7:40pm, just before sunset, to give me some time to wash my feet and change socks. I got in my shelter around 8:20pm. I was camping about 10 feet away from the edge of a cliff, near mile marker 971.

Aug 20, 2014 (28.0 miles)

I woke up around 5:40am and was happy to be hiking by 6:15am, which was just as the sun was to be rising. Today was a challenging day with lots of elevation. First, it was up and over Seavey Pass, which seemed to have about 4 false passes before the real one was revealed. Then, after Kerrick Canyon, it was up and over the actually somewhat-steeper pass around mile marker 982, then up and over another pass around marker 985.5. Lastly, I ascended the 7 miles of extremely gentle rise up to Dorothy Pass, the border of Yosemite National Park and the Toiyabe National Forest. Water was scarce in all but the farthest east portion of Kerrick Canyon, but was plentiful northbound after mile marker 982. I kept hiking until 7:35pm, set-up my shelter just on the other side of the lake past Dorothy Pass (near mile marker 999), and made couscous a safe distance away from where I’d be sleeping. While I’m normally opposed to cooking at the campsite, and even staying near water, I found that I didn’t have enough light during the day to be doing the accelerated pace I desired. It lightly rained for about 15 minutes again today, but otherwise the weather was great and in the low 70s again. I finished dinner around 8:30pm, then got into my shelter. There was wind and I was at about 9,500ft, so I planned for a cold night.

Aug 21, 2014 (28.5 miles)
I got up at 5:40am to 38°F outside, but I had stayed warm inside my shelter during the night. I was hiking by 6:20am. I got to the end of Kennedy Canyon around 10:30am, was sure to fill my water containers to the brim at the last stream, then headed into the 10.5 mile waterless stretch of mostly ridge walking that ending at Sonora Pass. I much liked hiking this section since I was able to see the long winding trail ahead and better keep an eye on my pace. Additionally, the weather was great (actually a bit chilling up on the 10,500’ ridges), the wind was tame, and the trail of this section is well-graded. I arrived at Sonora Pass just before 3pm. Just before reaching the road, I found a group of 3 hikers waiting to resupply the 3 guys I had actually seen camping before I’d reached Dorothy Pass the previous night. I chatted with them for a few minutes, then headed to the rest stop near the road. I wasn’t able to get cell reception anywhere down there, so I retraced back up to where the 3 hikers had been successfully using their cell phones and got a solid 4G connection. After the 30-minute break, I headed back to the road and up and over the other side of the pass. Once I reached the canyon containing the Carson River, I found very little camping and only 1 other hiker, who was camping after heading the opposite direction. I hiked until 7:45pm, set-up my shelter in the best place I could find, around mile marker 1027.5. Then again, much to my dismay, was forced to make couscous near my camp. I was in my shelter by 8:45pm. The weather had been great all day, without any rain.

Aug 22, 2014 (27.5 miles)

I woke up at 5:40am and was hiking just before sunrise, at around 6:15am. I saw another hiker that was just getting up from his tent, then only 2 groups of dayhikers closer to Highway 4 in addition to a couple of thru-hikers later on. I washed my feet at Wolf Creek, which is always nice. I passed through many places where cattle were grazing and I actually was herding cattle along the trail for quite a while, since they were scared and kept going in the same direction I was. There was so much wind between mile markers 1044 and 1049, especially at the narrow pass around 1045 that acted as a wind tunnel. The wind almost knocked me over 3 times, and once, at the wind-tunnel pass, I got blown into the barbed wire fence, fortunately catching a fence post without injury. I saw a lone coyote near Noble Lake, then got to Highway 4 around 5pm and, as expected, found no cell reception. It was mostly sunny all day without any cloud cover, and the high was around 65°F. I kept hiking past Highway 4 and made camp at Eagle Creek, near mile marker 1055, at around 7:30pm. I again made couscous after sunset, then got in my shelter around 8:20pm.

Aug 23, 2014 (29.0 miles)
I got up around 5:30am and was hiking before 6:15am. I saw so many people, mostly dayhikers and many also on horseback, between Blue Lakes and Blue Lakes Road, at which I arrived by noon. I got to Highway 88 just before 5pm and as expected, there was no cell reception. I was hiking again by 5:15pm and got to Showers Lake at 7:15pm. I got my shelter set-up near the lake, washed my feet (which had unfortunately sprung a couple of blisters during the last push of the day), then made some couscous. The lake was pretty crowded with weekend hikers, since it’s not too far from several trailheads, so I wasn’t too concerned about cooking near my campsite this night. I got in my shelter around 8:30pm.

Aug 24, 2014 (8.9 miles)
I got up around 5:40am and was hiking by 6:15am, before I’d heard any motion from any of the many nearby campers. I got some water from the outlet of the lake, then hiked mostly downhill from the 8,600’ lake to the 7,200’ terminus of my section hike. I arrived at Highway 50 at 9:45am and got picked up just after 2pm. Sidenote: AT&T cell phone reception is fairly hit or miss at the Highway 50 trailhead.