Last night we slept at Wilma Lake. It was swarming with mosquitoes. Everywhere seems to be swarming with mosquitoes lately. I put the rain fly on the tent last night to provide an extra barrier from their entry. This morning I can see a couple still hanging out on the top of the tent. I assume they had a cold night and are probably looking forward to a warm meal.
We set the alarm for 5:00 am this morning. We don’t usually set alarms, but today we wanted to be sure to get an early start. We’re aiming for a 20 mile day, and to do so comfortably, we’ll need more hours. When the alarm goes off, there are already birds singing, and starting their day. I hit snooze twice and we get up at 5:30 am.
I crawl from the tent, looking to see if the coast is clear. I see no mosquitoes buzzing around, just the lethargic few on top of the tent. They fly off as I pack up the rain fly. Probably heading home to their families. They’re probably worried they didn’t come home last night. Out late drinking.
We skip breakfast, opting to have it further up trail. Immediately the trail is beautiful. We skirt around the edge of Wilma Lake. Streams flow in, and the ground is muddy. I’m pleased the mosquitoes have yet to awake. We snake through the woods and then come to a river. There’s no clear way across, without fording. It’s luckily a shallow and easy looking ford, but it’s still early, and fairly cold for such shenanigans. Lupine pops off her shoes and puts on her sandals, then wades into the water. “How is it?” I ask.
“Actually, not too bad” she says.
She quickly makes it to the other side, and I step barefoot into the stream. It’s cold but not too bad at first. Then half way across my feet are frozen. I hustle to finish the ford then sit next to Lupine on a log. We dry our feet and put on our shoes.
In the first half of the day we’ll climb to Dorothy Lake, and over Dorothy Lake Pass at 9,528 ft. The climb is less than 2,000 ft and very gradual, so our legs don’t complain too much.
We stop for breakfast atop a giant granite slab, in the sun. As we prepare our coffee and muesli the mosquitoes begin to awake and discover our presence. We eat with bug nets over our heads, lifting them above our mouths to scoop muesli and drink coffee. A cloud of mosquitoes hover around Lupine’s head. A cloud hovers around mine too. Exasperated we finish our food, our sense of morning peace fades with the buzz of tiny wings.
We hike as the trail weaves through beautiful meadows we can’t afford to stop and admire. Everywhere we stop, mosquitoes descend upon us. We must walk on. As we walk through a pristine green meadow, I can hear the mosquitoes buzzing around my head. There must be hundreds of them. Some land on my bug net hitching a ride as I walk, hoping they’ll get lucky when I lift my net, or expose some skin accidentally. I’m sweating through my windbreaker as the sun glares down upon it. But I do not dare take it off. It’s among the few of my clothes that are mosquito-proof. So I carry on in the sunshine, hiking, sweating, listening to the buzz of my new companions.
Even with the mosquitoes, the landscape is amazing. The Granite domes seem endless, but when they do it’s always leading to a meadow. One that’s rich green, with streams flowing through.
We make quick time to Dorothy Lake, rarely stopping due to the mosquitoes. We’ve done 10 miles and we decide to stop for lunch. In a stroke of luck there’s a breeze, keeping the mosquitoes at bay. We eat beans on tortillas with cheese and drink tea as we admire the lake. Lupine expresses concern as she’s exhausted her supply of early grey.
From here we have a short climb about 500 ft to the top of Dorothy Lake Pass, which we quickly dismiss and find ourselves looking into a new landscape. It’s at this point that we leave Yosemite National Park and the moment strikes me with a bit of sadness.
The last few days in Yosemite have been my favorite days by far. The tranquility of Tuolumne, the gorgeous granite backdrops accenting the green Meadows, and pine. We wave goodbye to Yosemite and look into our new landscape as we begin our descent downward. The transition in scenery is immediate. The mountains no longer giant granite slabs and domes. They appear more dirt and rubble. As we descend, the valley is drier as well.
Downward we go over rubble and soil. Twisting and turning, crossing the occasional stream. Into the forest, under a canopy. Around a corner and then there it is, spelled out alongside the trail with rocks, “1,000”. We’ve reached the 1,000 mile marker of the PCT. It’s hard to believe. Now, onward to the next 1,000. May our bodies and minds steady our stride, and take us to the finish line.
I hope the drier landscape means fewer mosquitoes. But, when we stop at a river for an afternoon snack, again we are swarmed. We make the best of it, spraying ourselves with bug juice, and eating the few snacks we have. We rinse our feet in the cool water and dry them in the sun.
The last stretch of trail is 3 miles, and we climb 500 ft. Again we enter the woods, crossing several small streams, capillaries to the rivers below. Then we arrive to the Kennedy Canyon Creek, where a campsite sits on the other side, right aside a meadow. We setup camp and stretch our bodies in the sun.
For a night cap we drink hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, my new favorite tradition. Then we retreat to our tent, the sky still light and the birds singing. I hear rustling outside the tent and look but don’t see anything. Then outside my eye, something brown moves. I jolt to see what it is. A deer jumps at the same time. Three deer walk outside the perimeter of our tent, grazing on the fresh green grass. One approaches and lowers his head to get a look at us, then moves back to what he was doing.
Goodnight deer friends. I hope you enjoy your meal. The air smells fresh with grass and foliage. As I close my eyes it smells sweet like green apples. I know now why they graze here.