Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nature's Peace in Yosemite National Park

"Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature's darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."

-John Muir

After running a hundred miles, there is sometimes a short period of time where the runner experiences a sense of peaceful satisfaction. Months of hard work towards a singular goal have been realized. You can feel good about your accomplishment.

I was lucky enough to get one of those brief windows of bliss following my run at TRT this year. It's a blessing when I can simply sit around enjoying the pleasures of the mountain life, and I'm not filled with this sense of urgency, this feeling that there is something I'm supposed to be doing.

This only lasts for a week, at best, so when my friend Pam suggested a women's backpacking trip in Yosemite for the weekend following TRT, I was completely onboard. What better way to celebrate running 100 miles than by heading off into the wilderness with a handful of free-spirited women?

I met up with my adventuring partners early on Saturday morning during the weekend following the race. We geared-up and headed off on the PCT along the Tuolumne River towards our destination: Glen Aulin.

Pam and Kara get ready for the hike.

Early on the trail, we made a quick stop at Soda Springs to taste the bubbly water. We decided that next time we would bring gin and limes and fill our bottles with nature's bounty from the spring. But considering that it was only 10 A.M and we'd only hiked a half mile, it was probably a good thing we didn't have the ingredients for gin and tonics. It could have made for a long 6 miles to Glen Aulin!

Checking out Soda Springs

When I first heard our chosen destination was Glen Aulin, I was a bit disappointed because I knew it was a popular hike in the park. I wasn't keen on the potential for crowds. But as we made our way along the Tuolumne River, I recalled why it was such a popular trail: The scenery is unbelievable. I know this can be said of so many places in Yosemite, but honestly, this river has a special beauty all its own. And as often happens to me in this park, I was so enraptured by my setting that the crowds simply melted away. I had eyes only for the flow of water across smooth granite, the reach of the trees, and the shape of the clouds against the brilliant sky. I could have been the only one present. Who knows.

It's amazing how a river can take so many different forms - have so many different personalities. It roared with its swiftness and power, and then it meandered so quietly that its stillness reflected the surrounding granite domes. Fierce, then tame - lion to kitten and back again.

After following the river steadily downstream for 6 miles or so, we arrived at Glen Aulin and found the perfect campsite. Secluded from the other campers, we could have been the only ones in a vast wilderness. It was perfect!

We set up camp just in time to be safely sheltered during an impressive thunderstorm. We huddled in the Himalayan Hotel while thunder crackled overhead and the skies pelted us with pouring rain and hail. There's something incredibly comforting about being safe in a tent while a storm rages on outside. We giggled, told stories and sipped wine until the storm moved on, just in time for us to escape the tent and make dinner.

Camp chairs, bear canisters and chardonnay: essential elements to a good backpacking trip.

Sunset view from our campsite.

The next day we slept late, then headed out for a day-hike down to Waterwheel Falls. Rain threatened on and off all day, but we only got hit with an occasional passing shower.

Rain showers will not dampen the spirits of this intrepid group!

Tired, 100-mile toes are well-protected in Injinjis.

We continued to follow the river as it made its way toward the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

We paused mid-day for lunch, swimming and sunbathing. The sun was so warm and soothing during this respite from the showers. It was one of those lunch spots that you just don't want to leave.

Sunbathing on a rock in the middle of the Tuolumne. Could I possibly be any more relaxed? (Um ... No.)

The river drew us on, down its sweet, winding path. The only woman on the trip that I knew going into it was Pam, and I found myself enjoying the chance to get to know other women with lives so different from my own. It seems to me that time on trail is often the best setting in which to connect with others.

Water was everywhere: flowing in rivers and creeks, trickling down granite walls and even occasionally falling from the sky. So it wasn't surprising that the wildflowers were putting on an impressive display.

Hiking through fields of lupine.

Mariposa Lilies.

Tiger Lilies.

After our visit to Waterwheel Falls, we returned to spend another jubilant night at Glen Aulin.

The following day, we returned to the trailhead at Tuolumne Meadows. It had been a short trip, but for me it was the perfect way to stretch out my legs in a beautiful setting with some new friends.

It may seem odd to vacation in a part of the same mountain range in which I live, but I can't help it; I love it here. Perhaps it's because these mountains do have so many good tidings to offer, and because for a few blessed moments, my cares do drop off like Autumn leaves.


  1. I just came back from Yosemite (only a day trip though) and I miss it already.
    Great pictures.
    I love my rainbow injinji socks. :)

  2. Absolutely beautiful! I am hating...argh, envying, you greatly! I want me a women's backpacking trip to Yosemite!!! :)

  3. Looks like a mighty excellent adventure.

  4. I have only two words: soooooo pretty... (Can you hear my longing?) :)

  5. Ewa - Yeah, rainbow striped toe socks are the best!

    Olga - I'm sure you would have fit right in with this group. Maybe next time you come out for TRT, this gets planned for a couple days after and you just come out for a whole week. Sound good?

    Catherine and Amber - Totally awesome and beautiful, yup! :)

  6. "It may seem odd to vacation in a part of the same mountain range in which I live, but I can't help it; I love it here."

    I love this. I makes sense to live in a place you love. A place that inspires you.

    Lovely post. You look like the perfect REI ad sitting there in you camp chair!

  7. Sounds absolutely awesome! Next year, in general, I'd like to do more soul trips anyway, so please do keep me in the loop, darlin'!

  8. It's so true what you said about the best way to connect by being out there trekking through the wilderness. And what a beaut of wilderness you had.

  9. Amazing pictures, thanks for sharing!

    I've not been to Yosemite in soooo long; I need to wait till the kidos have legs longer than a mile or two in them first!