Sierra Trek 2014 Trip Summary

Troop 26 Sierra Treak 201 14
Mammoth to Yosemite
July 31st to August 10th

Scouts: Jarrison Ball, David Zevallos, Josh Acuna, Andrew Davis, Jeremiah Swider, Riley Barrad, Max Johnson, Sam Johnson, Jason Teng, Ben Zevallos

Adults: Paul Johnson, Nick Teng, Jerry Ball, Ceasar Zevallos, Matt and Susan Swider (drivers only)

Day 1 – Thursday July 31st.

We all met at the Big Five parking lot at 4AM and loaded up into 4 cars for the drive to Mammoth. The drive took a little over 6 hours and we stopped for breakfast along the way. We got to our first campsite, right next to downtown Mammoth, right around lunchtime.

Four of the adults left to drop food off at Tuolumne Meadows and the cars off at Yosemite Valley, then make their way back to Mammoth. A trip that would have them gone for another 5+ hours!

Some scouts just hung around the campsite but a group decided to walk into Mammoth to buy a Frisbee, ostensibly for use in Tuolumne Meadows which was already being bandied about as the preferred layover day location.

The scouts prepared tacos for dinner and the shuttle drivers returned just as dinner was being served. After dinner we talked about the upcoming hiking days, and the need to follow ‘Bear-ettique”.

Day 2 – Friday August 1st.

We broke camp around 9AM with Matt Swider shuttling scouts and packs to the main lodge where we could pick up a shuttle to the Agnew Meadow Trail Head.

On the bus ride there, some of scouts noticed that the tickets had a punch section for IN and Out. After puzzling over this for a minute, we realized we wouldn’t be coming out this way, our OUT was in Yosemite Valley!

We all gathered at the trail head and after selecting a trek leader set off. The days’ agenda was not long, but we decided to push on and instead of stay at Edize Lake that night, we made our way to Clarice.

After a small amount of cross country, we made our first camp there. All of the adults went swimming and some of the scouts did as well.

Taking a break on the way to Clarice
Taking a break on the way to Clarice
At Clarice
At Clarice

Day 3 – Saturday August 2nd

Even though the air had grown a little smoky from the fire in Yosemite Valley the day before, the sky was clear this morning. We did not start particularly early as the day’s hike was not slated to be large. We were headed to Thousand Island Lake. The hike may have been short, but there certainly was some up and down.

Scouts beat the adults to top that day, as usual.
Scouts beat the adults to top that day, as usual.

The Swider’s joined us here for a short visit as they had done their own overnight elsewhere and had day hiked to Thousand Island. While the lake was nice, the air had grown very smoky again, stealing away some of the beauty of the place.

Most of the adults went for a swim, but thunderheads cut the evening short. Also, everyone was aware that the following day was a long hike with Donahue Pass to shoot at 11,500 ft. So we went off early to bed that night.

A smoky campsite at Thousand Island.
A smoky campsite at Thousand Island.

Day 4 – Sunday August 3rd

We all girded ourselves for the hike. Scoutmaster Johnson admitted to a knee problem that would have him in the back for the duration. The weather was somewhat overcast that morning, but the smoke was gone.

A less smoky view of Thousand Island.
A less smoky view of Thousand Island.

We stopped for lunch near a stream at the base of Donahue pass, but the scouts were rearing to go. Although it’s not normally possible to eat an entire portion of beef jerky in less than 20 minutes, the scouts were ready, up and moving.

We spotted some dear along way. As the top of the pass grew close, the weather began to grow colder and wetter, and rain gear was donned while at the top. We also encountered a very brave marmot.

Deer on the way to Donahue.
Deer on the way to Donahue.
A long look back near the top of Donahue.
A long look back near the top of Donahue.
Scouts at the top first (again!).
Scouts at the top first (again!).
A very brave marmot looking for food.
A very brave marmot looking for food.

After shooting the pass the troop made their way down. Unfortunately waiting for the scoutmaster may have taken its toll on the time available. At the bottom of the pass we continued on for another half a mile, but made camp after the first crossing of Maclure creek.

A closer look at our itinerary showed we should have gone about another 1.5 miles farther into Lyle Canyon, but its good we stopped where we did. After setting up camp and pitching some rain tarps, it started to rain. After dinner was all cleaned up, the wet and cold drove us all into our tents to enjoy the snug comfort of being warm and dry when outside was wet and cold.

Day 5 – Monday August 4th

Even though the hike this day was literally flat, it was also long, over 11 miles due to our stopping short the night the before. Our goal was Tuolumne Meadows and a layover day. However, this would prove to be the most daunting day for the troop for one particular reason…Rain.

It rained most of the day, starting just a little after we broke camp. And it was cold, as there was no sun. A long story short, it was not a banner day for the troop. Some scouts broke off and went ahead, others struggled behind, and the scoutmaster was way far back limping along.

Most scouts suffered some wet clothes and it seemed all scouts suffered damp feelings. The Scoutmaster strode into camp very late and things appeared somewhat in disarray. However, Mr. Teng came to the rescue with the purchase of fresh food for a hot meal and firewood to keep everyone warm. While we battened down the hatches for more rain, there was none, only cloudy skies.

Day 6 – Tuesday August 5th

While this day was now the official layover day, there were no organized outings as there were other things to deal with. First and foremost was getting the second round of food out of the stash spot and sorting it out.

Secondly, there was quite a bit of clothes drying that needed to happen. Also, the damp feelings of the night before needed to be addressed as there was talk about not going on if the weather was going to be bad.

However, it was agreed that the day would be spent getting ready, and the final decision would be made the next morning. Scouts spent the day getting ready, heading over to the camp store for some fun, or just exploring the campground.

Some scouts (Sam Johnson, Ben Zevallos, Andrew Davis and Jeremiah Swider) made a quick jaunt up the face of Lembert Dome – good for them!

That night everyone was treated to cheeseburgers at the camp store and spirits rose directly. On the way back from the camp store, on his own and with a tasty cheeseburger in hand, Jarrison Ball was stopped in his tracks as a large black bear crossed his path.

Fortunately the bear was not looking for a cheeseburger that night and he continued on toward the west end of the campground. This would not be our last bear encounter of the trip, not by a long shot. After dinner a pleasant evening was had around the campfire with the remaining wet items being dried.

Day 7 – Wednesday August 6th

To the cries of “Break out your Sun Gear” from the scoutmaster, the scouts made their way out of the tents for a morning free of clouds and full of blue sky. All of the thoughts of quitting left with the clouds.

The day’s hike was something just over 5 miles, so no one was in too much of a hurry to break camp early, but this did not work to our advantage. After having pleasant weather during the hike to Lower Cathedral Lake, the thunderheads began to roll in.

Most everyone who wanted to get a swim in had time, but rain started not long after that. After dinner most scouts decided to stay out of the weather and hang out in the tents reading, but since the rain was short lived, Nick Teng, Sam Johnson and Jeremiah Swider went for a hike around the lake, while Max Johnson and Paul Johnson took in the view of Tenaya Lake and Highway 120 from the north west edge of the lake.

Cathedral Mountain as seen from Lower Cathedral Lake.
Cathedral Mountain as seen from Lower Cathedral Lake.

That night a bear visited our campsite and explored the adult cook area. Nothing too aggressive, just poking around.

Unfortunately Mr. Zevallos was camped right next to the area and had a front row seat. He admitted to being a little frightened by the goings on just outside his tent. After that night, Mr. Zevallos made sure to put his tent far away from the cook area.

Day 8 – Thursday August 7th

The morning began with some vigorous tent shaking and happy birthday singing by Mr. Johnson and Mr. Teng for David Zevallos and Josh Acuna, both of whom turned 17 that day. The day’s hike had us shooting Cathedral pass with the Sunrise Lakes as our destination.

The hike was fairly straightforward except we got a little tangled up when we had to make our way through the Sunrise High Sierra Camp and find the trail leading out to sunrise lakes. Even though it was just an acre or two of tents and small buildings, it was like looking for a trail head in downtown Santa Barbara! We found the trail eventually, after crisscrossing the camp once or twice, and shot another small pass to drop into the sunrise lakes.

One of the sunrise lakes.
One of the sunrise lakes.

Like the previous days, however, not long after arriving the thunderheads rolled in. After dinner and under a rain tarp sheltered from the evening rain, Mr. Teng presented store bought brownie and cupcakes to the two birthday boys. Another round of happy birthday and then the scouts shared the dessert with everyone. This evening the rain did not let up, so after dinner everyone hit the tents. It rained most of the night.

Day 9 – Friday August 8th

Once again the sky was clear in the morning, although everything around us was wet. As it turned out, the previous nights’ rain was the last we would have for the trip. The troop got going fairly early as there was a big day ahead. Clouds Rest would be the lunch spot for the day and it was at 10,000 ft. With the scoutmaster taking a separate lower route, the rest of the troop went on to Clouds Rest and spectacular views.

Scoutmaster view of Clouds Rest, if you look closely, you just might see Troop 26!
Scoutmaster view of Clouds Rest, if you look closely, you just might see Troop 26!

With thunderheads rolling in, the scouts made their way down from Clouds Rest. Everyone recalls the sheer down-ness of the trail, coming down thousands of feet in just a mile or two!

Needless to say, everyone made it to the trail junction, including the scoutmaster who showed up via another trail just 15 minutes later. The scouts made camp near the trail, the adults found an open air campsite about 100 yards away.

This night would be known as the night of the bears! It all started when campers just above the adults gave a shout about a bear headed our way, and there he was strolling through our cook area, just marking it in his memory.

The Scoutmaster headed down to warn the scouts and a general flurry of activity ensued as the cook area was cleaned up and bear cans put to rights. A few minutes later the bear showed up and started playing with a bear can, the scouts shooed him away with shouts and banging and with Josh Acuna making himself even larger.

A short while later, after dark, the bear returned to the adult camp and accosted Mr. Teng’s backpack to get at some bug spray. Another warning to the scouts and another flurry of activity as backpacks were inspected for anything that a bear might want.

The scouts then set about sleeping outside on guard around a fire, but eventually went into their tents, with their backpacks all piled elsewhere.

That night the bears played soccer with the bear cans. Every can was slapped at least once to see if it was secured. And when morning light came, two back packs had been torn slightly and one was missing. Found not far off in the bush later, with a hole in it. The prize in most cases just some trash. Oh well, lessons learned…

Day 10 – Saturday August 9th

Half Dome Day dawned clear and bright. After breakfast the troop made the short hike over to the Half Dome Trail head and stashed the back packs. Traffic was picking up now this close to Yosemite and the troop joined many others trekking to the dome.

All went well and the majority of the troop made it up the perilous steps and cables to enjoy a special event, the view of Yosemite Valley from one of the most well known geological formations on the planet.

How many people get to do that? Not that many do, and probably less in the future as the access becomes more restricted

After Half Dome the hike to Little Yosemite Valley was finished in short order. Still 6 miles short of Yosemite Valley, the campground offered excellent access to the Merced River and most everyone took advantage to have a nice swim.

That night, spirits were high and the last backpack meal was prepared and consumed. Some scouts watched as the rangers unsuccessfully tried to capture a rattlesnake, but he slid off “into the duff” where no one dared go after. After some card playing and book reading, everyone went off to bed, with dreams of pizza or cheeseburgers dancing in their heads.

Day 11 – Sunday August 10th

“Smelling The Barn”, the scouts rose early and broke camp by 7AM, a trek record for sure. A quick round of thanks during the Scout’s Own revealed the highlights for the scouts. For many it was Half Dome, for others it was the beauty or the lakes or the bears. Everyone had a great time when all was said and done. The hike down was beautiful, but also filling up with people as we neared civilization.

Bear Night at trail junction.
The Bridge at the top of Nevada Falls.
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Half Dome in the back, lesser domes in between, Nevada Falls in the fore.

Nothing would persuade the scouts to have a shower and a swim; we made our way to the cars, and loaded up. Different cars went for different lunches, some for pizza in nearby Oakhurst, while others held out for In and Out cheeseburgers in Fresno.

Most everyone was home by 6PM. Mammoth to Yosemite and home again.

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