Backpacking with Chris, A Grand Walk

Glen Aulin through Cold Canyon
June 27 – 29, 2012
Total distance:  26 miles

Chris and I drove to Yosemite National Park for a backpacking trip.  The trip had been planned for months, and we were excited to see Waterwheel Falls and venture into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River.

A view from the trail to Glen Aulin.

My favorite view from the trail to Glen Aulin.

Beginning at Tuolumne Meadows, we set out on the six mile walk to the Glen Aulin area where we’d camp for the night.

A view from the trail.

A view from the trail.

We walked quietly, lost in our own thoughts.  Lavender daises and pink mountain pride adorned the trail.

Mountain Pride

Mountain Pride

When I glanced up from the rocky path, I saw a sign that said Waterwheel Falls and thought we were walking in that direction.

The bridge over the Tuolumne River.

The bridge over the Tuolumne River.

We set up camp at the bottom of a steep granite slope near Conness Creek, our water source.  The ground was flat and sandy and surrounded by trees.
Conness Creek, our water source at camp.

Conness Creek, our water source at camp.

We sat by the fire that evening and planned out the next day.  At night, we slept under the bright waxing moon set against a backdrop of twinkling stars.

Ready for dinner, sitting on a new camp pad.

Ready for dinner.

In the morning, we bear-proofed the camp and left, pack-free, ready to take in the beauty of the high country.

Walking through the forest at the beginning of the trail.

Walking through the forest at the beginning of the trail.

Waterwheel Falls was approximately three miles away.  We thought we’d get back to camp in time for lunch and a nap. Chris was happy with a short jaunt since he’s not crazy about hiking.

One of two redwood trees in this area.

One of two redwood trees in this area.

The trail was relatively easy. It rose gently through a lodgepole forest then opened up into a long, beautiful meadow where hundreds of Lemmon’s paintbrush grew.

A field of Lemmon's paintbrush. (click to enlarge)

A field of Lemmon’s paintbrush.

By the time we reached the meadow we were parched. There was a seasonal stream winding its way through so we stopped and had a drink.

The first water source in the meadow.

The first water source in the meadow.

At this point we began wondering, Where is the Tuolumne River?  Also, it was strange not to see any day-hikers.  And it seemed like we had walked longer than three miles. Should we turn around, I wondered.  The trail marker I saw the night before couldn’t be wrong (three miles to Waterwheel Falls), so we continued walking.

The trail through the long and narrow meadow.

The trail through the long and narrow meadow of Cold Canyon.

We re-entered the forest at the other end of the meadow.  Broken trees, limbs, and branches littered the path making it a difficult obstacle course to traverse.  We came upon another seasonal creek and rested there while deciding what to do next.

The second water source.

The second water source.

It was mid-afternoon. There would be no noon victuals back at camp, just a shared Clif Bar there on the rocks by the babbling creek. Something was awry, and the question still remained: Should we continue on?

Seven miles back to camp!

Seven miles back to camp!

We continued walking until we came to junction and three trail signs: Virginia Canyon on the Pacific Crest Trail–1 mile ahead; McCabe Lake–2 miles southwest; and Glen Aulin (from where we came)–7 miles!  What?

Ready to walk to the falls.

Frog

Chris has a sixth sense about these things. He knew from the time we stopped at the meadow that we were on the wrong trail and should have turned around. I didn’t want to give up so we continued on. He asked me if I knew the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog.  He called me the scorpion because I’m a hiker and it’s my “nature” to hike, and he was the frog because he willingly came along against his better judgement.

“A scorpion asks a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature.”

Sitting in the shade before walking back.

Sitting in the shade before walking back.

We had mistakenly taken the Pacific Crest Trail through Cold Canyon instead of the trail to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River.  Though we had a map, it was back at camp inside the tent.

Getting closer to camp.

Getting closer to camp.

That evening as we rested by the fire, we talked about staying another day and walking to Waterwheel Falls.  We decided to do it another time.

Tuolumne Falls in the background.

Tuolumne Falls at Glen Aulin in the background.

Although we didn’t reach our planned destination, we were not disappointed. We enjoyed the time we spent together in the scenic wilderness and hope to make it to Waterwheel and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River someday soon.

Ready for the walk home.

Ready for the walk home.

2 thoughts on “Backpacking with Chris, A Grand Walk

    1. Janet Post author

      🙂 Thanks for reading. Yes, we attempted a second time to that area last year and still didn’t make it: my knee gave out so we turned back. Someday for sure!

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      Reply

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