Reds Meadow to Agnew Meadows
(15 miles, +2,500/-2,000 feet).
Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh! I am so, so frustrated. Today was supposed to be day two of my 80 mile hike to Yosemite Valley. Instead it is the end of my trip. My left knee now feels like my right knee did at the end of my trip last December. It is surely patellofemoral pain syndrome.
I should have known something was wrong yesterday when my knees felt tweaky. And last night I had a hard time getting my legs in a comfortable position. I’ve been doing lots of quad stretches and toe-touches but I guess it didn’t work this time.
I think I overdid it again (does that surprise anyone?). I would have been fine if I had taken my time and camped at Crater Meadow yesterday instead of racing for Reds Meadow. New rule: don’t hike to the cheeseburger. Sigh.
The day actually started out pretty well. My first stop was Devils Postpile, which was pretty awesome before sunrise.
The postpile is a pile of columnar basalt that formed when a lava lake cooled and then cracked into perfect hexagons of nearly the same shape and size. Erosion exposed the lake, and now the columns are collapsing down the hill, leaving a pile of the weirdly perfect rocks at its base.
Just past the postpile I reached my low point for the day, crossing the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River.
The 2,000 foot climb up went okay, but my knees did feel more and more tweaky as the morning progressed.
Soon the Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail diverged, and I followed the JMT.
I filled up with water at Minaret Creek, which looked lovely in the morning light. I spotted a deer while I waited for my water treatment drops to do their magic.
Soon I was at the Trinity Lakes, and then at Gladys Lake, my high point for the day at 9,600 feet.
I was really worried about my knees, so I decided to take a nap at Gladys Lake.
After my nap I packed up to go, had a little climb up out of the basin, and then started my descent to Rosalie Lake. This is when it got really, really painful to go downhill. I spent half an hour limping, stretching, breaking, and gnashing my teeth. By the time I was halfway down to Rosalie Lake I made the decision to end the trip early.
The good news was that I could exit the trail at Shadow Lake and head back to Agnew Meadows where I could get a ride back to Mammoth. The bad news was that I would have to get there going almost entirely downhill, about 1,500 feet. I took my time.
The hike down to Shadow Lake took a really long time (or at least it felt like it!). When I got down to it I saw that the trail went completely around the lake to the west. It was just a short bit of cross-country to the east to get to the outlet, but I did not know how tough it might be to cross. I decided to take the gamble.
As it turns out, the cross-country was not too bad. I was going slow anyway, so route finding didn’t really slow me down. As I neared the outlet I found a comical “No Camping” sign nailed to the side of a tree that had fallen quite a while ago.
I reached the trail again at the outlet where I got water and continued my slow descent.
Across the San Joaquin Valley I could see the PCT traverse that BarnFinder, MixMaster, and I had done just a few weeks before.
The trail here was steep, and my knees felt every one of the lovely steps on the trail.
At last I made it to the valley floor and then had just a couple miles of flat or uphill to get to Agnew Meadows. When I got to the road I waited for the bus for about half an hour before I realized that it does not run on weekdays after Labor Day. So I had to hitch.
Fortunately, the hitching was easy. One man stopped to apologize that he had no room, and five minutes after that a couple of hikers in their 70s picked me up, regaling me with tales of their Sierra adventures. I was on my way back to the hotel where I could rest up for the night before driving back to San Diego.
Yosemite, I am so sad I missed you, but I will be back!