PCT 2020 Day 15: Off the PCT

Resting in the Clouds

Beginning Elevation = 9,350 (off-PCT)

Ending Elevation = 6,100

Elevation Range = 6,100 – ?

Weather: Sunny with some clouds, super nice once again!

“But all this was out there, huge landscapes to stare out into and scratch my chin and scribble notes on paper, the mountains and desert canyons that made my heart drop in my chest, and the creeks bouncing morning light around the rocks in their beds, and maybe I should do it while I can. Because if you could live anywhere, wouldn’t you want to live everywhere? For as long as you could?” – Brendan Leonard (The New American Road Trip Mixtape)

The day greeted us with a beautiful sunrise!

Our plan was to take a side trip from our side trip and climb to Clouds Rest. Make sense? Basically, rather than stay on the John Muir Trail on our way to the valley, we thought we’d take another detour in hopes of some views. We originally tried to get permits to summit Half Dome, but when that didn’t pan out, this seemed a very worthy backup plan. Honestly, we were just pumped to be hiking through any part of Yosemite and today’s trek ended up being so much more than any of us anticipated!

Getting started in the morning we climbed upwards. After a bit we took a nice break at one of the Sunrise Lakes to fill up water and try to enjoy a nice snack.

Calzone wasn’t really feeling the monotonous flavoring of her Clif bars at this point in the journey…

Once going again, I thought it would be an appropriate time to teach my comrades a trick I’d picked up in my travels that works to prevent bear attacks. The concept is simple enough, but practice is essential to mastering… First, you stab a pine cone with your trekking pole until it’s stuck on the point. Next, you fling it with premium speed and accuracy towards your target, a.k.a. the charging bear. The intent is to hit it on its nose at which point the bear becomes befuddled and realizing it’s no match for you, becomes deterred.

While demonstrating and practicing my technique with pure heart and with the honest goal of protecting our team from future harm, the girls seemed to think I was attacking them instead. Pine cones started flying, defenses were put up, and a split seemed to develop among the group. The division spread until all civility was lost and an all-out pine cone throwing war was fought. To this day, the squabble hasn’t entirely been resolved. At the time, a tentative truce was made I suppose, enough so that we continued on towards Clouds Rest.

Things began to open up…

Within a short time span it seemed we were making the final exposed push towards the top. The climb was slow going and tough with our packs on, but the expansive wide-open views were exhilarating!

Believe it or not, we made it! There were others up there with us, as well as some raven-like birds. We each took some solo time wandering about the top, taking photos, and soaking it in. And of course, got a team Clouds Rest summit photo!

Getting down was even more steep. The first bit was even a bit sketchy we might have said, but after a bit things became more gradual as we started making our way closer towards Half Dome.

From this point on, it would pretty much be downhill for us until we reached Yosemite Valley the next day. We eventually found our way back into the tall tall forests and camped at the Little Yosemite Valley camp. This is sort of the “base camp” for folks hoping to summit Half Dome, so we had plenty of neighbors around us. It was pretty silly how many folks were tenting there actually, but we enjoyed our stay nonetheless and even went for a swim in the Merced River!

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