Day 61 mile 970.6 – 990
Elevation: ascent 4,408 ft, descent 4,810 ft
We knew today was going to have a lot more climbing again so the alarm stayed set at 6:00. The temps last night being down in the forest were much warmer, which allowed us just to sleep under the quilt without an extra down jacket (even Double Down). Getting up a bit earlier also helped as the temperature was on the cool side allowing us to break down camp without being swarmed by mosquitoes!!
We left camp a little before 7:00 and were heading downhill towards Benson Lake. It was only about 2 miles but the uneven trail made for slow going. This became a theme for the day. Since Yosemite is granite carved out by glaciers the canyon walls tend to be very steep. This results in trails being very steep as well and trail crews using the cut out granite pieces to make very steep staircases as well. This then gets covered by loose dirt, pine needles and rocks. Imagine going out to a very steep driveway that is 100 yards long. Throw gravel on there, add some sand, don’t forget the softball size round rocks and have some steps that are at least 24” high. Now walk down and then back up that driveway. That is what we did for the 19.5 miles today 😫. This makes hiking very draining as you constantly have to be in focus of not slipping, tripping or turning and ankle. We never were able to cruise down a trail looking around and taking in the surroundings. This is my favorite part of hiking as it is almost like meditation to me. None of that happened today. Here are some pictures of trail that we walked on today.
We reached the valley floor by Benson Lake in about an hour and from there we had our first climb of the day. This was our longest and most elevation gain of the day but was probably our easiest. We reached a small lake near the top and Seavey Pass. Here we had our breakfast and I was very tempted to go for a swim. I probably would have had it not been for the mosquitoes hanging around us. Right after breakfast we went over the Pass without even realizing it. How can that be a Pass if you don’t even have good views!!
Since we are moving north once we went over the Pass it meant another steep descent to the next valley floor. Now for our second climb of the day which was our shortest. This however, turned out to be probably our hardest as we gained 793 feet in a little over a mile. This was a whopping 683 feet per mile. If you remember back to Pinchot Pass we said anything over 500 greatly slowed us down. So this climb took its toll on us. Once at the top we weren’t even rewarded with any outstanding views or a Pass to say we went over. It was just a tall mountain of granite.
We still had one more climb for the day. This one again was about 2.5 miles and was well over 580 feet per mile. Once on the other side we definitely noticed an increase in the mosquito population. As we descended past small lakes we added to the swarm of mosquitoes following us. We ran into two thru hikers we hadn’t met yet, Finesse and Shortcut. They had stopped to put on bug nets and down jackets even though it was in the mid 60’s. We chatted briefly and then Double Down and I took off towards Wilma lake.
We arrived at Wilma lake at about 4:30 and this is when HELL unleashed on us. We had read a report from Rabbit that “the mosquitoes were worse than in the jungles of Peru” when he had visited there. Double Down and I had one really bad experience with the mosquito hatch while in the Sierra of 2014. We fondly refer to that one as The Sunrise Trip. Well today rivaled that. Once at the lake we each had 50 mosquitoes descend upon us. We could only muster a few quick pictures and then we had to MOVE!! I kid you not that the cloud of mosquitoes following Double Down blurred my view of her. If I got to close many of them would sense me and turn in full attack mode. Minutes after leaving Wilma Lake we came upon Falls Creek which was about 20 yards wide, and we had to cross it. We took ten seconds to look for a down tree to cross on while flailing our arms in hope of keeping the tiny beasts at bay. No sign so we didn’t even hesitate as we walked straight into the creek to cross it, wet feet and all. I have been up here in the Sierras for over 12 years of backpacking and today was the first day I had to hike in a bug net 😳.
We got to camp at 5:30 and erected the tent as fast as we could, so we could find some protection from these blood thirsty demons. I cooked dinner outside the tent with as much clothing on as possible to prevent from getting bit. As I finish up this blog there are at least 70 mosquitoes hanging out on our tent just waiting to pounce once we leave this cocoon of safety.
Double Down and I have very found memories of Yosemite from the years of backpacking here. However we both agree these past two days have been our least favorite on the trail. The PCT north of Glen Aulin hasn’t provided us with much in terms of views or the high alpine lakes we are use to. This is strange as I think we both were excited about this section before this trip started. We hear things should improve tomorrow. Until then we will need a good nights rest to recharge our bodies and minds.
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