Wednesday, September 2, 2015

alone at night in the depths of the woods

When one is alone at night in the depths of these woods, the stillness is at once awful and sublime. Every leaf seems to speak.
—John Muir

Wednesday: en route to Glen Aulin. I hiked part of the day with a family from Connecticut. Most people seem to go counterclockwise, but Susan recommended this direction because it's 1200 feet descent over 8 miles. 
It's really a lovely trail. Huge granite and quartz cliffs and Ponderosa pines and once in a while ferns and Sequoias. 
Lots of great rocks. I wished I had a friends who was a geologist, or at the very least, an internet connection to look things up. 
We had a lot of pre-smartphone conversations: Oh you should really take that trail, the one by Tioga pass with the silver mine and the pie. I can't remember its name. Or: I wonder if that's Mt Dana, or that one.  
I met a few interesting people on the trail: we passed a lithe man coming from the Ten Lakes fork, and it turned out he's finished the John Muir trail (from Mt Whitney) early, atop Half Dome. He had less in his pack than I did. 
There are not a lot of signs, so you don't really know if you've gone 5 miles or 3. With my phone in airplane mode, Apple Health is extrapolating miles from my steps, only it seems to think I've gone twice as far as I have. (Yesterday: 17 miles. I probably walked 9 or 10.)
I liked this rock and gave my achy shoulders and crunched toes a break. 

We met Cece and Ricardo on the trail and had a long talk about where we would live if we could live anywhere in the world. This was inspired by Lydia, a recent college grad who left her job and is contemplating new options, saying that this was her one big chance to travel and take a break. 
Cece is originally from NYC but is on her way to Sulawesi for an indeterminate time. She said: This is not the only time you can decide to leave the straight life. 
I took a break figuring I'd catch up with my friends at dinner and happened to pass this mule train heading up the hill. It's not every day you see a mule with a ladder balanced on its back. Apparently one of the mules had escaped. 
The trail down to Glen Aulin Camp is a hellacious tenth of a mile of cobblestones. They should use it as a test on a reality show. I remembered again why I hated backpacking and was glad there was no one to hear me curse and scream. 
But at the bottom is your own private (public) waterfall, the Tuolumne river. 
And just a few 100 feet away is this view of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, which empties into Hetch Hetchy and eventually 150 miles West into my sink in San Francisco. (I regretted having used it to wash my socks.)

The scenery reminds me a little of Zion. The stars were dazzling last night. There aren't any electric lights and most everyone is in bed by 9. My tentmates had gone to sleep by the time I got in, and I didn't want to wake them by starting a fire. Big mistake. I'm bundled up in silk + cashmere + down + a silk sleep sack, with three wool blankets and gloves. A puffy pink Popsicle. 
So I'm taking it easy today. Most everyone has gone on to either May Lake or back to Tuolumne Lodge. A bunch of people much older than me are off on vigorous day hikes. And while I'm already fantasizing about bubble baths (fed by this river) and fast internet and a foot massage, Glen Aulin is a pretty special place.