I almost passed out about five times and still hiked the PCT. Ok, this is a bit of a clickbait, hiked only about a mile of it. But still! 😀
Leaving the place of disaster, happy that my car was all right (and still thinking about my stupidity), I drove a dark countryside road. The starry sky started to get a tiny bit lighter in the east and I had to pull over and stop for a minute (without turning off the engine, obviously) to just admire the beauty of the mountain silhouettes towering above the grassy field I drove past. (And yes, I also needed to pee really badly.)
The air smelled better than probably anything I’ve ever smelled; grassy, earthy mountainy. Is “mountainy” even a word? Fresh morning breeze spiced with a touch of dew. Not cold but not warm either, it was the most perfect breeze you can find in summer when super-early mornings are cold in the mountains and days almost as hot as the air in a desert seemingly moving above the hot surface.
Oh, when I re-read what I wrote, maybe I am a bit of a romantic person after all.
With the sun getting ready to start peeking out from behind the horizon I made it to the road, the bridge and the town I knew so well even though I saw them just once before. Only being there filled me with pure joy.
My car started to climb the winding road as I entered the Sierras.
Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite! Nobody checked me at the entrance to Yosemite as it was too early for any ranger to be there. The sign read: “Pay when exiting Yosemite NP”.
On my final stretch, the views were spectacular. The sun was slowly showing up from behind the mountains and hiding back again as I drove, the mist in the valleys had all the colours of a rainbow; deep steel-blue where the sun hasn’t reached yet, light blue and green flowing amongst the branches of all the high trees, orange and pink and purple like an icing on the top of this mist-cake.
I made it to the valley and couldn’t stop being impressed. The Tuolumne Meadow is… Well… I don’t even have words to describe it. Full of flowers and mosses and other plants, here and there a tree… All covered in tiny pearls of the morning dew. The grass extending like a vast ocean absorbing me driving along this miracle in the middle of the mountains.
With other early-travelers, I spent about two hours waiting for the kiosk to open. We all were just trying our luck – first-come first-serve. And I was amongst the lucky ones!
I had to answer a few questions about bear safety, got my map and was ready to find my campsite and build my tent!
Well, the tent-building thing wasn’t so easy as I found out later. But the problem wasn’t with the tent. The problem was with my organism trying to deal with the altitude.
I knew that Tuolumne Meadow is quite higher than Yosemite Valley – and I expected to feel it in some way. But I didn’t expect my body to deal with the altitude so badly…
As I was building the tent, my consciousness has decided to leave me there alone and tried to get away about five times. In these moments I had to sit down on the ground immediately, no matter what was happening, otherwise, I would just faint.
Finally done with getting my campsite ready for the night and locking my food in a bear lock, I could start exploring the area. Decided to leave Clouds Rest for the next day to allow my body to cope with the altitude first, I headed to Dog Lake.
But first! Tuolumne Meadows is where the PCT goes through. You may already know that PCT is like the Holy Grail of my hiking, it’s something I would very much love to do once.
And so, on my way to Dog Lake, I hiked about a mile of the PCT! Man, that felt so good! Only the feeling that I was touching the same path as all the heroes who ever hiked this trail filled my body with adrenaline. Part of me stayed there. I’ll pick it up when I hike the trail.
The Dog Lake is not really a famous place so you probably won’t meet many people there. I was lucky. On my way there, I met one family at the beginning of the trail – and since then there was nobody.
When hiking hidden behind Lembert Dome, the quiet was complete. There was no traffic hum as the Dome blocked every single sound from the civilization now hidden behind it. There was such a quiet that I could hear some rabbit or another animal which I didn’t see chewing grass! It was amazing.
I just sat there for a few minutes, breathing lightly, scared that I could disrupt the utter peace.
Everything was green and covered in moss. The trees stood there as guardians of this place. Everything was so still. And for a few minutes, I became part of it. I disappeared as an individual and became part of that place, fully focused on everything around me and not focused on anything at the same time. Like if my mind wasn’t mine anymore.
It was such a beautiful moment.
Leaving that place and that moment, I made it to the lake.
It opened before me as a book. A completely still surface of the water with no ripples reflected the high mountains still covered with snow and the endless sky. There wasn’t just one world there. There were at least two of them, touching in a perfect harmony, coexisting in this moment.
Stunned, I just sat there, my mind completely overwhelmed. I couldn’t do anything but to stare at it all, amazed.
I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting there before somebody came. Could be a minute, could be an hour. Time didn’t exist for me.
After an older pair came to the lake, I chatted with them for a little while. They had amazing stories to tell and I was glad I could listen to them. And to learn.
At last, they left and shortly after them I, too, gave farewell to this magical place and set on my way back to the campground.
I passed a tiny meadow full of late-afternoon sunshine, climbed along a cliff and over stones, got lost on a plain made out of one huge piece of rock in the ground and finally made it to the Tuolumne Meadow and back to the camp.
On my way I met a pair of PCT hikers, I wish I would have thrown away my shyness and actually spoke to them, but…
In the camp, I made myself some noodles for dinner, carved a spoon out of wood because I forgot mine, ate my dinner, watched the sunset and went to sleep to be ready for the next day’s adventure.
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And have a beautiful day! 🙂
*Please, excuse the not-best quality of these pictures as I left my camera at home in an attempt to reduce the weight of my backpack. I promise it won’t become an usual practice.