Why I Hike

July 28, 2017
Spillway Lake
Total distance walked: 8 miles

The headlights lit the dark ribbon of highway as I drove to one of my favorite trails at the east end of Yosemite, the Spillway Lake trailhead.  Wiping sleep from my eyes, I wondered why I do this…why do I hike? 

Leaving the car, I walked at a brisk pace to keep warm—at an elevation of 9,700 feet, the early morning air was cold.  A deer trotted through the lush meadow.  Later I would see a large buck with velvety antlers.

Mule Deer

Soon the trail cut through the Dana Fork of the rumbling Tuolumne River.  This would not be an easy rock hop over, so I changed into water shoes.  Cold water seeped into the Aqua Socks, crept up my legs and numbed my feet as I wedged them between the slippery rocks.

Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River

I waded across one careful step at a time.


After crossing the river, the trail traversed a muddy marsh that sucked at my shoes.

Hermit Thrush

It led into Mother Nature’s wildflower garden.  Wildflowers are one of my favorite parts of hiking.  This trail was filled with them the spectrum over.  The overwhelming joy I feel when seeing the beauty of nature, both flora and fauna, is a big reason why I hike.

Crimson red paintbrush and cobalt blue lupine near the river.

The trail ascended and switchbacked through the forest.  I pushed myself uphill in two-heel drive, my heart racing as I gained elevation.  Exercise is another reason why I hike.

Mammoth Peak with Parker Pass Creek cutting through the meadow.

The essence of pine was strong at the midway mark.  I checked my watch.  I would need to continue at a quick clip to get a 15 minute break at the lake before turning back.  Walking quickly was not a problem.  Each time I stopped to take a photograph, hungry mosquitoes landed on exposed flesh, so off I went.

Still have 1.7 miles to go.

It was a tranquil atmosphere apart from the cacophony of buzzing bugs.  A light breeze blew through the valley.  A Sierra Sulphur fluttered near the grass.   Up to that point, I had seen no one.  Then a fit, young Ranger approached from behind.  She mentioned, as she walked passed, that she was headed up and over Kuna Crest North using a map and compass.  That was the last I saw of her.  Again, I was alone on the trail, the silence a blessing.

Kuna Crest North

Before long, the trail dipped into an alpine meadow.  What looked bucolic belied the full truth.

Looking north at the wet meadow.  This is why I hike!

The carpet of grass was completely filled with water.


I usually avoid walking off-trail, but this time I forged my own path away from the moist meadow, eventually heading back to the drier section.

Again, the amazing view looking north.

Another glance at my watch told me I was close to my hike-to-the-lake time limit.  I pushed on.  Before me was Kuna Peak, its spectacular beauty lifting me like nothing else.  I definitely hike for the mountain views.

Kuna Peak and Spillway Lake outlet.

As soon as I caught a glimpse of the lake, I sat and rested, my eyes feasting on all of the surrounding beauty.

Approaching Spillway Lake. Elevation 10,500 feet.
A waterfall drops through the colorful layers of rock above Spillway Lake.
The pink snow is cold-loving algae that thrives in freezing water.

The drive to the trailhead and the hike in took longer than expected.  There was no time left to explore at the lake.  I gathered my things and walked back to the car, satisfied with what I had seen and accomplished for the day.

On the return hike I passed a tree with a heart-shaped mark on its trunk, a reminder that I love hiking because you never know what you will encounter while out on a trail.

Image rotated for effect.

Flowers seen on the trail.  Click an image to enlarge.

17 thoughts on “Why I Hike

  1. Very nice hike. As usual, the narrative and photos made me feel like I was hiking with you. 10,000 feet is pretty high. Have you ever considered carrying canned oxygen with you when hiking the high country?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Best photographs yet! I especially love the one with paintbrush and lupine. It sounds like you so enjoyed this hike and your photographs explain “why you hike”! The serenity of it all speaks volumes!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Janet you inspire me! Id love to do a hike with you. We have flirted with this a few times. We must get out our calendars. So nice to see the green grass and wildflowers still, in August no less! I did a 5 mile round trip up at Carson Pass end of June this year, elevation 8500. Lets just say it was a stroll 😉 which was fine for the company and the conditions, still snow on the trail!

    Liked by 2 people

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