y o se m i t e, pt 3

we set out from Sunrise HSC after breakfast, slathered w/ bug cream and sunblock. We went back across Long Meadow for 9/10’s of a mile to where the trail split. We followed the sign to Merced Lake and began to ascend. The rise was steady but not too tortuous. Our shoulders and backs were aching and sore from the previous day and I cursed my over-packing. Necessity versus weight. I had a copy of Dog Years by Mark Doty w/ me which I’d thrown in as an afterthought, something to read perhaps at night – but now, as we hiked, it felt superfluous. Extra ounces to tote.

We crested over some granite hills and stopped to identify some flowers. [Another thing I brought was a guide to yosemite wildflowers and wildlife. I understand that this makes me sound 83 but there it is]. We moved onward, descending now, the landscape changing with the altitude. We could hear the Merced River to our left, far far below.

After awhile the sun came out and it got hot. There was some cloud cover to neutralize but it was there and it made the hike harder. We crossed a meadow and then an extended area of dead charred trees, remnants of a lighting fire a couple years previous. We descended further and crossed a footbridge that spanned the Merced River. Here the trail got dusty. We’d been at it for several hours and our energy was starting to ebb. We continued to descend, finally stopping at another footbridge for lunch. We took our shoes and socks off and soaked our feet in the water. Freezing naturally but refreshing and welcome.

Afterward we headed onward. We had no pedometer or gauge to determine how far we went or had to go but we felt it couldn’t be too much further. We finally came to a sign saying that we had 2.9 miles left, just as the path appeared to go straight down. You would presume going down is easier than up but it’s just as challenging, particularly for anyone w/ knee issues. MM’s knee chose today to get wonky on her so she was popping advils like candy to help w/ the pain. Still, we were glad to be going down and not up, as it was a steep and serpentine staircase.

At long last the staircase ended and the ground leveled. We knew we had to be very close but a sign revealed we’d only gone 8/10’s of a mile. We couldn’t believe it. Our bodies felt spent, exhausted. Our water supply was down to a few drips. But we had no choice but to keep going.

After about 45 minutes or so we stopped. I ate an apple. We were both red and sweaty and tired. We were going alongside the Merced River now, on our right hand side. We were walking like zombies sort of, no thought but getting there and flopping down, our feet moving by computer chip.

At long last we saw Merced Lake and I thought I could see the white canvas of the tents. I realized a few minutes later that I had only seen the water reflected and that I was hallucinating mildly. We kept walking. Heavy clouds rolled in and it looked like it was about to rain. The lake was large and we were on a path that skirted the thing. Could it be possible that we’d have to go all the way around? We put that thought out of our head and kept walking, one heavy foot in front of the other. MM thought she saw a camp structure up ahead through the trees but it turned out to be nothing but an optical illusion. We kept walking, one heavy foot in front of the other. We were in a sort of a fog of exhaustion, unable to really think, cogitate or process but finally, at long last, we saw the Merced Lake camp up ahead.

We headed to the lodge and checked in…

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