Tuolumne Meadows to Sonora Pass

Injuries, equipment issues and drama… It is 75 miles to Hwy-108, Sonora Pass and we figured 5 days of 15 miles each should do it. But, Oh Man some were tough days…

Most of this section would be inside the northern Yosemite wilderness, and the views were incredible. But there were river valleys and passes to climb…

Saturday, July 4th ——–

We left camp at 6am with the mists still over Tuolumne Meadows and Turtles daughter and her friend hiked with us for a couple of hours. 

We started following the Tuolumne River a few miles to Glen Aulin High Sierra camp, then headed north. This would have been an awesome day except the climbs were at the end of the day when my energy is at its lowest and there were several stream fordings where I had to remove my shoes, but overall a nice day.  

Sunday ——–

This day included Benson Pass (10,200ft) and a couple of watersheds. Forcing 15 miles with 3000 feet of up AND down making this a tough day.  This was offset by the amazing scenery.  Below is a small lake and Benson Pass. 

Monday ——–

Another tough day with the rolling terrain. Not a lot of high elevation (9,000ft), but lots of climbing.  Still doing 15 miles is tough with the terrain.   

 Tuesday ——–

Exiting Yosemite today at Dorothy Pass, next to Dorothy Lake. I will miss the awesome beauty of Yosemite. The wilderness north of the park (Toiyabe National Forest) is notably dryer and more barren with fewer trees and plants.  A lighter day with only 2,000 ft of climbing as we followed the long Falls Creek river valley up to Dorothy Lake, then the descent to Walken Meadows. The weather turned more cloudy and threatened to rain more than once, but we made it to camp dry.  Another Milestone reached!  1,000 miles hiked from the Mexican Border!!! 1,660 to go. 

It was here that the worst happened: I injured myself. My backpack just doesn’t fit right. When I have it properly on my hips, the shoulder straps are wrong forcing me to bend over too far and have back pain. Tighten the shoulder straps and the hip belt rides into my stomach. It was this that caused problems with my abdomen. I started to get sharp pains when climbing steep hills. The pack just can’t be adjusted right. 😣   

This is the largest mushroom I have ever seen. Here is my size 14 shoe for comparison:

 Wednesday ——–

Today we hike the last 13 miles to the Sonora Pass where I meet my son, Michael. The Sonora Pass is actually Hwy-108 and just 9,600ft. However, the terrain is so rugged we have to nearly summit Leavitt Peak to get there. We have 3,600ft of vertical climbing to do and it would have been a tough day anyway; but I was in pain all day.

Popping Ibuprofen like candy I made the climb and it looked like we would make it all the way with no issues; but the weather closed in. Being on a knife edge ridge at 10,500ft with the clouds closed in like thick fog is surreal; All you can see is the trail a few feet ahead. The trail follows this ridge back and forth (west side, then east side and back again) heading north.  

Here is Leavitt Lake. 

We made the final ridge and started to descend. Just when we can see the highway and have 3 miles to go the hail starts. Small at first, then the Lightning started and the hail increased in volume and size. A lot. The term: “Pelted by Hail” is a thing. Pea size hurts. Then it got larger to 1/2″.  There is lightning all around, the trail is filling with ice, and we’re pushing as hard as we can to get off the damned mountain. 

About a mile and a half before the road I pass a family of six huddling under a tiny tarp strung across the trail. The youngest boy being maybe 6 or 7. I didn’t stop to talk as I ducked under the ropes, but we all wondered why this idiot had his family there. 

I was proud that I made it all the way down without slipping on the ice and falling!  There was a couple of inches of ice everywhere and the snow plows were out on the road. My son made it on time and it was great to see him after 3 months. 

Decision time:  with my injury and equipment problems, I decide to skip the 75 miles from the Sonora Pass to Lake Tahoe and use the 5 days to heal and replace the backpack. I simply couldn’t go on. 

Now I have to do this section some time later, but I can easily do that and plan when the weather is better!!!  Meanwhile I’ll be visiting my good friends at REI. 


7 thoughts on “Tuolumne Meadows to Sonora Pass

  1. Funny thing, I saw that side pic of you in front of the waterfall, and my thought was, “what a sick looking uncomfortable pack that is. It looks like it’s falling off his back.” Is it a gregory? Then further in the blog you mentioned that you didn’t like it. Good for you. I’m an old fart also and my opinion of these internal frame packs is they’re good for 2 nights and that’s all. The UL packs are good for 1 night. I broke down and made a custom external frame (1/2 inch tube) with cuben fiber pack (10 pockets) and never looked back. Hike on and enjoy the ride.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael, it’s surreal reading your journal. I could never do what you are doing. Incredible testimony about the trail, weather and shear human experience. You are AWESOME! Keep up the trek and quick healing to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Michael – I am really enjoying following your blog – great words and pictures! Sorry to hear about your back troubles – my husband (Zigzag) is also thru hiking and for some time had back problems – solved when he raised the height of his walking poles! Good luck with getting your pack, and back, sorted. Lee

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Michael – I am thoroughly enjoying followong your blog – wonderful words and pictures! Sorry to hear about your back problems – my husband (Zigzag) is also thru hiking and had a lot of trouble with his back early on – solved by raising the height of his hiking poles! Do hope you get your pack and back sorted soon. Lee


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