Roses, Buds, and Thorns

August 15 – 17, 2014
Lyell Canyon Backpacking Trip
Total distance: 14.6 miles
*Photo courtesy of Anthony

The car brakes squealed as we came to a stop at the River Restaurant in the small village of El Portal just outside of Yosemite National Park.  Jasmine, Anthony, Julia, Chris and I feasted on a scrumptious buffet breakfast before the hike.

My nephew, Anthony, an Architectural Designer for an Orange County firm.

My nephew, Anthony. An Architectural Designer for an Orange County firm.

A newbie to backpacking and camping, Jasmine asked how she was supposed to get her self-inflating Therm-a-rest pad inside her sleeping bag.  (The sleeping bag goes on top of the pad.)  From then on I knew it was going to be a fun trip.

My niece, Jasmine.  Currently a YWCA Case Manager and a Travel Specialist, and is considering joining the Peace Corps.

My niece, Jasmine. Currently a YWCA Case Manager and a Travel Specialist. She is considering joining the Peace Corps.*

The road was clear of traffic up to the high country, but the large parking lot west of the trailhead was crowded.  We took the last available spot.  Leaving the car, we shouldered our bulging packs stuffed with bear canisters, food, tents, flashlights and other backcountry necessities.

Leaving the parking lot.

In the parking lot with packs close to 30 pounds each.*

Like beasts of burden we plodded along the trail while our bodies acclimatized to the added weight and the higher elevation (8,600 feet).

Julia and Chris

Julia and Chris*

Ranger “Rick” (not his real name) stopped us at the Twin Bridges area.

Looking out at the Tuolumne River from the Twin Bridges area.*

Looking out at the Tuolumne River from the Twin Bridges area.*

He wanted to see the Wilderness Use Permit that backpackers are required to carry.  I squatted under my cumbersome pack while Jasmine rifled through its top pocket looking for the piece of paper that allowed us to sleep in the park.

Anthony with the Yosemite Park Ranger.*

Anthony with the Yosemite Park Ranger.*

When he was satisfied, Ranger Rick took off swiftly up the trail.

One of the two bridges over the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.

One of the bridges over the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.

At the next marker we noticed that he nabbed a solo backpacker who was without a permit.  That person could have been cited and/or fined.

One of several trailhead signs.

One of several trailhead signs.

We followed the sandy John Muir Trail towards Lyell Canyon and crossed a bridge over bone-dry Rafferty Creek.  We walked through thick stands of lodgepole pines.

Most of the trail was soft and sandy.

Most of the trail was soft and sandy.

As we reached the floor of the canyon, the trail opened.

Found near the trail: fly agaric is considered poisonous (has caused human death), it is also known for its hallucinogenic properties.

Found near the trail: fly agaric is considered poisonous (has caused human death), it is also known for its hallucinogenic properties.

The map showed that we would follow the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.  I began to get concerned when we passed a barren spot that looked like a dried up pond.  In this third year of California drought, I wondered if, like Rafferty Creek, the river was dry.    Without water, our plans would have to change drastically.

Reading the map to check for water.*

Reading the map to check for water.*

Trailing behind the group, I watched as Chris made a sharp left turn into the meadow.  Like ducklings, Julia, Jasmine and Anthony followed behind.  A narrow path cut through the carpet of grass and ended at a sandy shore and a lazy pool of water.  Chris found the perfect spot for lunch, not to mention our water source.  We sat on the bank of the crystal-clear river and ate.

Our view during lunch.

Our view during lunch.

It was a day of sun topped by a deep blue sky.  The air was still and the grass was almost brown.

The sweet smell of grass pervaded the air.*

Most of the grass in the meadow was dry.*

Fortunately, there were no mosquitoes as we walked through a series of meadows and over sun-baked granite slabs surrounding the river.

Enjoying the walk.*

Enjoying the walk.*

Amelia Earhart Peak appeared closer and larger with each step we took.  Tears filled my eyes when seeing the meadows and glorious mountains, our home away from home for the next few days.

Amelia Earhart Peak standing tall behind Julia.

Amelia Earhart Peak standing tall behind Julia.

A short time later, Chris found a flat spot to camp with an existing fire ring.  We flung our packs to the ground and rested.

Reading The Giver before seeing the movie.

Reading “The Giver” before seeing the movie.

Meanwhile a large group of people, mostly kids, set up camp directly across from us.  That urged us to move on.  We trekked up the hill towards Vogelsang High Sierra Camp and found another comfortable site.

The younger generation's tent was on a slant, but it didn't bother them much.

The cousins shared a tent which was on a slant, but it didn’t bother them much.

After erecting the tents and collecting water to boil, we relaxed on the camp furniture:  boulders and logs near the fire pit.  The cacophony of woodsy sounds entwined with our laughter; a pleasant ambiance to end the day.

Looking into the fire, we saw a cat.  Do you see it?

Looking into the fire, we saw a cat. Do you see it?

DAY TWO
Chris had been up for hours enjoying the solitude, the gray light of dawn and the banter of birds in the cool morning air.

Wildlife*

Wildlife*

The rest of us emerged from the tents mid-morning.  After breakfast, camp chores and nature  calls, we headed farther up the John Muir trail to the river.  The water was low and we could walk across it on stones.  The gravel glistened at the shallow bottom as we waded through it.

Freedom*

Freedom*

We sat against a log in the brindled grass drinking in the surrounding beauty.

Reflecting*

Reflecting*

We read, napped, laughed, and played games all afternoon like cards, dice and 20 Questions.

Playing a dice game called Three's Away.  The loser had to haul water.

Playing a dice game called Three’s Away. The loser had to haul water.

Each night we played a game called Roses, Buds and Thorns. We told what was best about our day–Roses; what we would have changed–Buds; and what was the worst part of our day–Thorns. Some of our favorite things were: lunch by the water, the beauty surrounding us, time spent reflecting in the meadow, the scenic Twin Bridges area, waking early in the morning and being the first one up.

My favorite view of the trip: Amelia Earhart Peak taken from the middle of the river.

My favorite view of the trip: Amelia Earhart Peak taken from the middle of the river.

When the last light of  day receded, the guys retreated to their tents.  The girls sat by the fire and watched the flames flicker and dance as the stars lit up the night sky.

DAY THREE
It was time to leave.  We stuffed our belongings back into the five packs and made good time hiking out.  We stopped at Tuolumne Meadows Grill around noon.  The long line for food moved quickly unlike the long line of bumper-to-bumper traffic leaving the park.

Heading back towards civilization.

Heading back towards civilization.

I was blessed to have shared this time in the wilderness with my husband, daughter and extended family.  My hope is that Jasmine and Anthony would feel a love for Yosemite and an enthusiasm for backpacking that will last a lifetime.

 

21 thoughts on “Roses, Buds, and Thorns

  1. Patti Ross

    What a great trip–thanks for bringing me along. With bad knees, I cannot do such hikes, so truly appreciate your willingness to share your hikes. And the roses, bud & thorns game is great!

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    1. Janet Post author

      Thanks, Patti. That is a game we’ve played since my kids were young. Luckily, you don’t need to do much hiking to see the beauty of Yosemite.

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  2. Dad

    Loved the pictures and the narrative…and what a great looking family. 🙂 It’s special that the 5 of you shared that experience together.

    Dad

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  3. motioners

    As always, your narrative compliments the joy and beauty of backpacking (not to mention spending time with family). Lyell Canyon is one of our favorite locations to backpack, offering spectacular views and an abundance of wildlife including deer, marmot, coyote, squirrel, many species of birds, and of course, bear. Your blog sparked our desire to head up and take in the beauty of this particular location, which we’ll do in October just before the snows. thanks, bill

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    1. Janet Post author

      Thanks, Bill. 🙂 I felt that this time I didn’t focus on the flora and fauna of the area. As you mentioned, there was much wildlife (no bears that I was aware of though). I’d love to go back as a day hike and take it all in again. I hope you enjoy your trip in October.

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  4. booksoutsidethebox

    Love the Roses, Buds and Thorns idea. I haven’t had a chance to go camping this year yet, but we’re thinking about it for Russell’s birthday in November. We’ll have to try it out then. Great post!

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    1. Janet Post author

      Thank you for reading. Roses, Buds, and Thorns is a game that we played around the dinner table when our kids were young. It carries over to all ages.

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  5. Pingback: Time to Reflect Makes All the Difference | Learn More Everyday

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