NO WALK IN THE PARK
PCT DAY 57: Mile 942.5 (Toulumne Meadows) – Mile 962.1 (Matterhorn Creek)
Thursday June 9, 2016: 19.6 miles ( 31.4 km)
We were the only campers overnight in the Tuolomne Meadows Campground. It has not officially opened yet but I am still surprised that the other PCT hikers chose to camp over the road by the river. This morning when we left the campground and descented towards the Tuolomne River it was so cold my face hurt. I am pleased we camped where we did, as it was so much warmer.
We had a pleasant morning hiking though the ancient glacial field which forms the meadow, dense pine forest and along the Tuolomne River. We passed the Tuolomne Falls which made a thundering sound we could hear for some time before we saw the falls. The sun was shining it was warm and we even saw a gopher snake. It felt like it was summertime and we were back in the desert except that the trail did get a bit soggy in parts.
We were enjoying the easy hiking even though our backpacks were groaning under the weight of the food we were carrying for the next 7-8 days to Echo Lake. We stopped for lunch in a beautiful meadow by Cold Canyon Creek.
I was thinking this is great it feels just like a summers day walk in the park. Based on our rate of progress we thought we would be at our chosen campsite at Matterhorn Creek by 5pm. But as we are learning on the PCT having expectations can be a recipe for disappointment.
We were descending towards Virginia Canyon when we first encountered snow. All the way down to the first of the the 2 pretty difficult creek crossings we were hiking on snow with the trail barely visible. We crossed the first creek which was a little bit of a shock compared to the creeks in the High Sierra. The current was much stronger and the water was thigh deep. We were about to cross the second creek when I realised that I left my sunglasses on the bank of the first creek. Hammer offered to go back and get them. Poor guy had to cross that nasty creek 3 times. Glasses retrieved we made the second creek crossing. Water in both creeks was roaring fast which made for a difficult crossing. I did get very nervous with both these crossings.
Spiller Creek was our next challenging creek crossing. This one did not go so well. Hammer made it across and I followed. The creek was wide and the bottom was very slippery. Half way across I realised that I should have crossed it in my hiking shoes. Anyhow I almost made it all the way across when I could not find a solid spot to place my foot and my legs were swept from under me and I fell in. Hammer was nearby and tried to grab me but I ended up pulling him in. Lucky we were close to the bank and could regain our footing before being washed too far downstream. I was shaking as I got out. My nightmare has been realised, I’ve fallen in the freezing, fast flowing river. My pack was wet but the contents stayed dry. Our clothes were soaking wet. It was late afternoon but luckily we found a sunny spot where we could strip off to dry out.
From here it was all uphill on a snow covered trail to our campsite for the night. Something tells me that the PCT leg from Tuolomne Meadow to Echo Lake will not be a walk in the park.