A Couple of Lakes and a Tiny Tent

1 June 2014 in Hiking, Memories, Tioga Road, Trails/Hiking, Traveling, Yosemite National Park

The original plan—before we abandoned our planning for having a drink or two and sleeping late—was to hike Cloud’s Rest today. But I would not allow a day off to go by without accomplishing something and so I threw together an alternate plan – we would do a couple of small day hikes, test out our new tent at one of the campgrounds along Tioga Road, and get a bright and early start closer to the trailhead for Cloud’s Rest tomorrow.

This allowed us a little bit of time to spend leisurely preparing and cooking up our traditional weekend breakfast—basically anything large and unhealthy, today it was hash browns and soyrizo. After emptying the skillet and hastily planning our dinner, breakfast and lunch for the following days we pulled out and made our way up to Porcupine Flat. It was the closest base camp and at $10 a night it was a steal.

We found a campsite strategically located along the creek and situated in area of the campground where we were likely to have few, if any neighbors. It also had a pile of fresh cut logs and some recently cleared brush piled nearby. And so we quickly set up our tent and threw our meager rations in the bear box and we were off. On our way out we spotted a cute little marmot that wasn’t the least bit shy of us. We stopped just a few feet away from it and there it sat munching on a small leaf, sat atop it’s hind legs.

We decided May Lake was a good hike to start with. I had re-hiked this trail after encountering dense fog the first time Lindsay and I hiked it together and I was eager to share the beautiful views with her. With the road that was previously closed now open the hike to the lake is just a little over a mile. Barely enough to warm us up nowadays, but still a pleasant jaunt.

We headed off trail just before the lake and I showed Lindsay the hidden campsite I had discovered previously. It’s tucked up and away from the trail, it’s perfectly flat and resides against a nice wind breaking wall with the rest of the surrounding area open to majestic views of the high sierra and Tenaya Lake.

After taking it all in and having our chickpea salad sandwiches we trekked through the woods and followed the stream that trickles out of the May Lake up to its shores. It was a clear blue day—this seems to be the norm here—and not a cloud or hint there of obstructed our view this time. We wandered the shoreline and marveled at the purity and crystal clear nature of the water. These snow melt fed lakes are really beyond comprehension until you see one. They’re picturesque to the point of absurdity.

Abandoning the tranquil waters of May Lake we climbed up on top of a large embankment of rock just a hundred yards from the shore. The wind had died down just enough to allow us a moment peace as we reclined in the shallow niches of wavy rock. The sun was warming, but the air was cold and when the wind pushed it along a little it could cut right through you. Eventually these intermittent gusts saturated us thoroughly and set us back upon the trail and back to the truck.

With not even three miles in today we were in need of another trail. We didn’t want to wear ourselves out—we wanted to have plenty of leg left for tomorrow—but we also had no intention of spending the rest of the day sitting around on our duffs. So we settled on Elizabeth Lake. From what Lindsay could remember it was supposed to be a fairly flat and easy trail.

Lindsay misremembered. It was almost all uphill. Was I not such a stubborn bastard we might have just turned around, but when it comes to hiking I want to see what’s around the corner, what’s ahead. I can’t turn back once I’ve started and Lindsay is always right there huffing and puffing behind me. So up we went. Up sandy paths, up boulder ridden routes, and up through tangles of trees and roots. It wasn’t that it was the steepest trail we’d hiked or the longest, it wasn’t even close to either. It was tough and trying because it was unexpected and because we knew there was fourteen miles of tough trail waiting for us tomorrow.

A payoff for our effort and tenacity revealed itself in the form of yet another immaculate meadow leading to an exquisite lake. These hidden paradises are incredibly abundant here and yet each time I stubble upon one I’m as captivated as I was the first time. They surprise me and something in their simple lush beauty catches me off guard and hits my senses in all the right places. Show me a picture of this and I would likely be unimpressed, but let me walk into one and the experience is awe-inspiring.

We hiked a portion of the lakeshore before our hunger drew us back towards the truck and our campsite. It was past dinner time and outside of our large breakfast we had hardly ate much today and had hiked eight miles. When we arrived back at the campsite Lindsay went to cooking dinner and I got a fire started.

This might seem a tad silly, camping out just 30 miles from home on a cold night, sharing a tiny tent, cooking spaghetti and eating it out of the pan while huddling around a fire to keep warm, but we wouldn’t trade it for a five star hotel with a cozy bed and a fancy meal in a nice restaurant. There is something to be found in the minor struggles and inconveniences of camping. The meal tastes so much better when there’s some challenges to preparing it – collecting water from the stream, boiling it to purify it, cooking on a tiny camp stove or over the open fire and using the two person, two fork method for straining it. When all is said and done, and everything has been cooked, eaten and cleaned the tiny tent and thin camp pads feel just as good as any fancy pillow top bed. Well at least sometimes.

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