Thursday, June 23, 2016

Can We Just Hike For a While?

Day 77 - June 21
Mile: 972.7 to 987.4
up/down: 4000/3650 feet

Climb a dry south facing slope, descend an impossibly steep crack in a canyon wall so narrow you can't believe they built a trail there (and fill it with wet slippery snow), get to the bottom and cross a scary-ass creek - repeat - three times. That was our day. Oh, and walk on the knife edge snow bank of death. But more on that later...

Remember our camp at Benson Lake and how high the water was, at least 5 feet vertical above normal. When we pitched our tent we looked at the high water mark and assumed it was from peak flow a couple weeks ago. The water should continue to drop, right?  Wrong. We awoke to the shoreline only 20 feet from our tent instead of the 40 or 50 from the night before. Yikes!   Snow is melting and water is moving in northern Yosemite. 

From the lake we climbed to Seavey Pass then dropped into Kerrick Canyon. At the bottom we encountered a difficult stretch, the trail turned downstream but was buried under feet of snow. The canyon was steep there with many cliffs to difficult to move over. The only choice was to follow the footsteps along the creek edge in the snow. One section looked like this -

The knife edge snow bank. River immediately below on right and cliff face with crevasse on left. 

Susan said it didn't scare her at all, but it scared the crap out of me. Once safely past this knife edge snow bank we continued down stream going up and down in elevation to avoid cliffs along the canyon wall until we finally reached the crossing of Rancheria Creek. Two weeks ago this river was uncrossable at the trail. Today it was marginally so. Thankfully we were with a young man we've been hiking around for a few days, Tall Boy from Cleveland, and he helped me get Susan across. It was all I could do to get myself across safely then we both went back in without packs and got Susan to the other side. It was without question the toughest crossing of the entire trip - waist deep and fast moving. We are very grateful to Tall Boy for hanging with us old people today as we moved on to other crossings. 

Tall Boy fords Rancheria Creek 

Knowing we had another potentially difficult cross in just a few miles, and that creeks typically get higher as the day wears on, we pushed up the trail to climb out of Kerrick Canyon and drop into Stubblefield Canyon for several crossings. These all turned out to be manageable and we had lunch on the far side of the main creek. Only one more monster climb and three more crossings before we could finish our day. These are the last of the hard river crossings in this section and we wanted them ALL behind us. 

Up, up, up out of Kerrick Canyon followed by another impossibly steep drop into Tilden Canyon for a crossing of the main canyon creek. No problem with this one so we pushed on to the outlet ford for Wilma Lake. This was not dangerous just very sloppy as the trail disappeared into the lake for several hundred yards. The crossing of the outlet stream was humorous as we could see the "paver stones" under a foot of water. 

All that was left was Falls Creek and we were done - literally, as we had decided not to hike another step after this last ford. It wasn't terribly difficult but long and waist deep. Turns out we have made this crossing before - last year on our Hetch Hetchy 50 mile loop in May. It was ankle to knee deep. 

Finally we are done with the monster rivers. These have been Susan's greatest fear since the beginning so we're both glad it's over. Perhaps we can just do some hiking for a while. And maybe have dry feet? Is that too much to ask?  Probably.