Date: 8/20/17 | Miles Hiked: 17.5 | Passes: Cathedral
Today felt long.
My hike was mostly flat or downhill — a much welcomed change to yesterday’s uphill battle — but nothing is easy with 30+ pounds strapped to your back.
The trail brought me into the heart of Yosemite, taking me over Cathedral Peak, across Tioga Road and through Toulumne Meadows. You’d think this would be a magical part of the trail, but it was actually one of the toughest sections, mentally.
Today’s hike made me come into close contact with the two things backcountry-goers dread seeing the most.
1: Cars. So. Many. Cars.
Tioga Road is the road in Yosemite National Park. Your access to nearly everything in the park comes from this road. After a few days of hiking in complete wilderness and finally accepting that phone service would never exist, I was forced to walk right back into society.
Cars were everywhere. Driving along the road. Parked along the road. Filling a large lot I had to walk through.
I wasn’t thinking, “Gross, cars. I’d rather see trees.” No, seeing these great inventions that would allow me to drive the distance I had planned to take two weeks hiking in just a matter of hours made me miss such a luxury. I thought, “Wow, cars! I wish I were on a day hike here. I wish my car were parked here so I could drive away to enjoy a soft bed, a cold bowl of ice cream, and hours of mind-numbing Netflix.”
Seeing these cars when trail life still felt new was torture. I needed a boost of modern society to get me through this section of trail.
My brain immediately went the route of, “Where there are cars, there are people. Where there are people, there is cell service.” I took my phone off airplane mode and waited for the sweet, sweet site of full bars and 4G. I needed to call someone in my support system. I needed them to help me quit modern day addictions. Just 5 minutes with someone on the inside would remind me why I was spending so much time outside.
No such luck. I was left to wallow on my own, surrounded by hundreds of cars. None of which were mine.
2. People. So. Many. People.
While my hopes of cell phone service was a bust, I was correct in my thinking of “Where there are cars, there are people.”
I had stumbled from a dirt trail in a forest to a wide, gravel trail that led to an area I can best describe as a park for an afternoon of picnicking and kite flying. Green grass, a sunny day, a pretty pond under a wood bridge that looked just as perfect. A handful of grazing deer. And people.
Clean people. Clean people wearing cute outfits and small daypacks. Clean people wearing cute outfits who had clean children also wearing cute outfits. Clean people pushing strollers. And couples, so many clean couples. Everyone was taking pictures and talking about where they should go and what they should see while in the park.
I felt like a dirty outsider. I timidly followed the trail, embarrassed by my ripe scent, dirt-smeared clothes, giant backpack and greasy hair.
While I badly wanted to be away from the crowds, I also wanted to eat lunch. And eating trumps nearly everything on the trail. So I sat near the pond and started preparing my food.
A small group of deer stood behind me, and I felt in the way as people tried to take pictures. But I also felt like I belonged there, like I was more closely related to the deer than the gawking people. We were just trying to eat and get on with our day. Why should we move or do anything to improve the quality of their photos?
I watched as a young family snapped portraits near the water. The dad suggested following the small trail that wrapped around the pond. I was sitting near them on this trail. The mom looked in my direction and made the executive decision to do something else. I couldn’t help but feel they didn’t want to walk toward me, a dirty backpacker, and hurried to eat my lunch so I could get out of that clean, picturesque place.
But back to the trail…
When the trail turned to dirt my anxieties fled. I was back where I belonged, surrounded by nothing but trees, earth and mountains. With a footpath and my legs as the only choice for transportation, and only birds and deer to delight in my dirtiness, I felt home.
The day ended with rain and giddy nerves over the thought of summiting my first real pass in the morning. I had another long day planned, starting with Donohue.