DAY 16: Not knowing where we had been sleeping after setting up in the dark, we woke up to 50 horses staring at us. We had somehow parked ourselves next to a breeding farm for horse/mule hybrids that are closer to clones than actual animals and are used as packing vessels for the trail.
We ran to Red's for breakfast, which was INCREDIBLE. Again...I had buckets of coffee. We laid in the sun with our breakfast bellies for an hour or so and took off around noon. At this point, we were really getting lazy with early starts and bigger mileage days. But we had earned it. Our bodies had earned it.
Connecting back to the trail, we continued towards Devil's Postpile, a national monument with unusual, columnar structures made of rock. Around this time, we were winding up towards a ridge as it started to rain. We covered our packs and our heads with rain gear as quickly as possible. Not long after, it began hailing. I was nervous at first, questioning our climb towards ominous clouds, but after a while the hail was consistently falling and pushing me onward, giving me strength. It was an unexpected shift in my part; I was climbing into danger, tempting risk, and yet I chose to trust the trail. The combination of the trails energy and my instincts was all I needed to get me through my day.
Anna and I sang the entire soundtrack of 'Sound of Music' this day. I think it stemmed from the thundering sky...then "raindrops on roses," of course. I came to find that songs from my childhood were popping in my head all the time. My mind was touching memories that I'd hardly recollected before hiking the trail.
As the weather calmed down, we made it to Rosalie Lake. It was gorgeous, calm, and we had it to ourselves. Jason built a fire and sang songs on his guitar. THIS. IS. WHAT. LIFE. IS. ABOUT. Anna and I both struggled with our pasta dishes, they wouldn't soften. After an unsuccessful dinner, we turned to our beloved jars of nutella. At this point, I was really eating a ton. I felt like a teenager in football training.
Rosalie Lake was positively exquisite. It was small, quaint, and tucked away between the trail and a small mountain range. Even with a dissatisfied appetite, my soul was full on all accounts.
DAY 17: Departing from Rosalie Lake after the most unsuccessful freeze-dried Biscuits and Gravy breakfast I started MOVING. My legs were eager to get me to Yosemite, as it would be my first time and the sun was shining in the most glorious way. Not long after, we started hitting huge crowds of people. It was unusual, to say the least. People were flooding in from Yosemite's direction and the traffic was jarring. Many of the hikers looked lost, tired, and confused as to why they had ended up pretty deep in the forest.
As the day continued, the weather shifted. We made our way towards Island Pass just as the rain and hail picked up. Even with the discomfort of hiking in hail, the way it hit the water had the massive lakes glimmering around us.
1000 Island Lake was one for the books. The lake is literally covered in tiny islands of different shapes. Climbing up and around it was beautiful and we really took our time. I hope I make it back there someday to explore those baby islands thoroughly.
Originally planning to tackle Donahue Pass before the end of the day, we chose to save it for the morning. We instead chose to camp right at the bottom of it with a view of what was to come after a nice nights' sleep. The meadow turned out to be a massive wind tunnel. It was colorful but absolutely freezing. Once the sun went down we jumped into our tents that we tucked away into the rocks, hoping to mitigate the wind.
DAY 18: We woke up early to run out of our wind tunnel and get to Yosemite! I was thrilled to make my first steps into the park, having never been before. The top of Donahue Pass is the border of Yosemite National Park and we had less than 2 miles from our camp. I also had my second resupply to retrieve from Tuolumne Meadows, even though I had plenty of food left. With all my meals at VVR and Red's Meadow, I could have brought less.
Making our way up towards Yosemite was truly monumental. The weather was so windy but also sunny, confusing my body's temperature under my puffy jacket. At the top, Anna and I couldn't believe we had made it that far. Luckily I had a few more days to savor in Yosemite and we eagerly continued. We could see the valley 3000 feet below and began the descent toward the gorgeous meadow in Lyell Canyon. Twas quite a stressful walk on the knees.
Once in the meadow, it felt like I was walking through California postcards. These were the Golden State visions I had in my head when I moved here two years ago but had never seen. It was expansive and glorious and the three of us all went at our own pace, winding through the beauty till we ate our measly tuna on a rock.
My dry tuna was the real impetus to get me to my box of goodies a few miles away. I booked it the rest of the way, through the sluggish crowds of people asking me what direction they were headed. Seeing aimless hikers that didn't really know where they were made me feel like I had just come out of the wardrobe of Narnia after being crowned queen. Nobody knew what I had just seen and it felt like I imagined it.
In Tuolumne, we got our boxes, beers, and burgers. I had finally gotten my french fry fix at the little grill next to the post office and my work friends sent me a care package! We wandered to the backpackers camp nearby with fresh strawberries and s'mores makings, feasting to the best of our ability. Anna and I cowboy camped for the first time on the trail, sans tent, and ate too many graham crackers under the stars.