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Long Meadow below Sunrise Camp

August 20, 2000
Cathedral Peak over Cathedral Pass to Half Dome
Headed down into Yosemite along a dry Sunrise segment of the John Muir Trail

0645-0730  —  Cathedral Lake (37°-42°F; clear, calm & cold)

          In the morning the bear encounter seems like just another wild wilderness dream except for the claw holes in the plastic bag that covered Irene's backpack. Sure enough, the bear had actually pulled her backpack off the tarp and may have even caught the end of her bivy giving her a little tug as well.

          It is quite chilly but we are energized by the adventure and get going up the trail early. Other campers in the area were unaware of the bear. Bears are extremely stealthy creatures until they make noise disturbing human stuff like pots and pans. If you are in a tent, the only thing you might hear is sniffing; then you can be sure a bear is really close.

          I shoot some sunrise photos of the lake environs as we leave and some from Cathedral Pass where we break to change out of our fleece and into shorts. It is Sunday coincidently and Cathedral Peak continues to command our attention even as we head south down the trail toward Yosemite Valley.

1045-1100 — Long Meadow 37°48.134 / 119°25.826 - 9,390K' (64°F)

          Our first chance for water since leaving Cathedral Lake is at Long Meadow (see above painting). It is dry. We pass Sunrise Camp where people stay in canvas cabins and still don't find running water. We have a little climb ahead of us and our water is getting low. At half a quart we start rationing, sipping instead of gulping. It is surprisingly dry through here and who knows where we will eventually find water. We snap a posed photo of us and a view of the Yosemite back country from the final rise above Sunrise Creek. It is all down hill from here.

1300-1400 — Sunrise Creek 37°45.917 / 119°27.178 - 8,280K' (72°F)

          Finally we reach water at the Sunrise Creek crossing. We hiked about five-and-a-half hours and seven some miles on two quarts of water. Fortunately it is not overly hot and the trail is relatively forgiving. Once refreshed, feet rested and full of water we continue out onto a beautiful ridge; at least, it once was beautiful. A recent fire has besmirched the landscape. Black trunks still holding on to their dead orange pine needles are interspersed with a few yet healthy greens. Large dark divots abound where whole trees have disintegrated even below the ground level leaving only "bomb craters." One hundred foot long smudges on the forest floor evidence where a mighty fallen tree was totally consumed, hardly any charcoal much less wood is left. But then, somehow the forest retains majesty even in this state of natural desolation. This ridge will recover to a higher measure of wonder but not in our lifetime.

          Decision time approaches. Do we climb Half Dome or not? I decide I will not climb Half Dome because my vertigo could kick in and standing atop Half Dome is not important to me. The cable "stairs" take hikers straight up the face to the top of the Dome. I don't like heights especially when I am looking straight down. They make me woozy. Irene, on the other hand, is anxious to make the climb and I convince her she doesn't need my baggage.

          We fill up with water again and head up to the well worn ridge below the final ascent to the Dome. Most all the tourists are gone or leaving as we approach. We encounter a doe and her two fawns who are tame enough for me to snap their photo.

Half Dome Dusk

View of Half Dome from ridge at dusk

1730-1930 — Half Dome ridge 37°44.972 / 119°31.586 - 7,925K'  (78°F)

          Near the switchbacks to the top we find a little flat ground for our bivies (tomorrow we discover signs which prohibit camping up here; so as Dilbert says, we're are all "idiots" some of the time ... I have my turn). We take in the sunset and have a yummy dinner. We should have no bears to worry about tonight. Another "idiot" with backpack is headed for the top as the sun goes down. Camping on top of Half Dome is also prohibited. Once upon a time there were trees up there. They were all chopped down and used as firewood. And under every rock is ... suffice to say, you don't want to look under any rocks up there.

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