we ate breakfast and packed up our packs. the first three-quarters of a mile were lovely, crossing clear mountain streams, through dark woods. we knew the ascent was coming. and so it did. the dirt path gave way to a rocky staircase that criss-crossed an enormous hill in steep switchbacks as far as we could see. nowhere to go but up.
since this was our third day of hiking we had begun to get a handle on things - when to stop, when to drink water, when to eat something – almost on a molecular level. Even though it hurt, our muscles were beginning to feel conditioned. The shoulder burned a little bit less. The wear on the legs was manageable. All this was to our advantage during this part of the day – the straight-up part. We would walk a little bit then stop. Walk a little bit more then stop. To further aid our progress we devised a game: each time we stopped we would alternate remembrances of Maxwell. It helped keep our minds busy on the walking part. Still, we were covered in sweat in just a few minutes and drank most of our water on the way up.
At long last we crested, finding ourselves in a stunning canyon, girded by a stunning meadow. The sky was pure blue. The grass was green, undulating in rolls as the wind blew through. Also, it was flat.
We made our way across the meadow. We had to take off our shoes and socks to cross a stream but the water was so cold and refreshing that we hung out there for a few minutes before putting our shoes back on.
After a couple hours of a progressed and gentle ascent – it had to come back – we arrived at Vogelsang HSC. It was the most stunning of the 3 camps we stayed in, surrounded by mountain lakes and staggering vistas. We found our tent-cabin and here, finally, it appeared we would be sharing a tent for the night. We said hi to the couple inside and then went to a nearby lake for a quick dip (no showers at Vogelsang). It was freezing cold, naturally.
We went back to our tent and learned that the couple in our tent was going to leave. Apparently they’d gotten cell-reception up there
and discovered some emergency at home so they were going to walk all the way down to Tuolumne Lodge. So we were able to have all 4 nights in Yosemite to ourselves, which was not common. We felt lucky. And glad.
At dinner, we met a family who were having a reunion of sorts. A dad, a brother, a sister. All lived in different parts of the country. They flew in to Sacramento together and drove up to Yosemite and hiked up together to Vogelsang to celebrate the mother, who had recently passed, a recurrence of breast cancer. The mother and the father had been there many years before and it had always stayed with her as a place of transcendence. Seeing them together like that was a beautiful thing. I can’t say it better than that.
After dinner, we walked up to a viewpoint to watch the sunset. Margaret took some pictures the old-fashioned way, where you expose light to emulsion on a negative, and they’re probably awesome but we haven’t developed them yet so I can’t post them. So take my word for it. We were rather thankful at that moment that we’d purchased the mosquito nets at Merced Lake as swarming clouds buzzed around our faces. We saw a deer. The family we met at dinner were out walking, drinking in the sunset. We stopped briefly and chatted with them, feeling some unspoken connection to their story, and headed back to the tent.
That night we played scrabble by candlelight and took nips off the flask. We drank to our good fortune, both to see the things in Yosemite that we’d seen and also to be drawing breath at all. Life is a gift.
In the morning, we hiked down to Tuolomne Lodge. It was mostly downhill and relatively short. We found our way to the car.