I got seven days of great hiking, explored a new route between Yosemite Valley and Red’s Meadow, and met some wonderful hikers, but my hope for a third complete Yosemite-to-Mount-Whitney hike ended on September 8, when I exited the trail at Vermilion Valley Resort.
The smoke had come and gone the first week, sometimes being a bit of a nuisance in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes not at all, and never reaching the point of spoiling the walk. After a zero-day in Mammoth, I even had a great hike from Red’s to my campsite at Lake Virginia. By 11:00 a.m. the next day I was sitting atop Silver Pass enjoying some salami and cheese. That was the last pleasant hour on the trail.
On the way down from Silver Pass the smoke started to roll in. By the time I was halfway to Quail Meadow it was thick, caustic, and causing one of the more nasty headaches I could remember. The views were mere shadows in the nearly opaque gray that enveloped me in all directions. That meant it was no fun walking and no fun looking at the Sierra Nevada. That didn’t leave much incentive to continue.
When I reached the bridge over Mono Creek I discussed the situation with a couple of fellow hikers: Christa and Forest. Soon we were joined by Chris and son Sam. Ultimately, Christa pressed on (successfully, I hope), while the rest of us decided to exit the wilderness the next day. VVR did a wonderful job of getting us cleaned up and well fed before we made our way to Fresno (thanks to Forest and Natalie) and onto our next adventure.
This is the third time in three attempts that my hike has been affected by a fire. In 2009 it was a “controlled” burn that got out of control and closed the road from Lee Vining to the valley, fortunately the day AFTER I had gotten through. The smoke was bad enough, though, that I had to take an extra day at Mammoth to get medical care. In 2013 it was the Rim Fire, which was rough on the lungs and the view, although never so bad as to make me leave the trail. (Of course, I was walking AWAY from the Rim Fire, not towards it.) The third time was by far the worst.
Still, it was great to be out there. More to come in the weeks ahead regarding my trip over Red Peak Pass and Isberg Pass, as well as other JMT-relating info.
Good hiking, Ray
p.s. By the way, I would really appreciate it if you took a quick look at one of my non-hiking projects. More about that, here.