July 28, 2017
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.
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.
I waded across one careful step at a time.
After crossing the river, the trail traversed a muddy marsh that sucked at my shoes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before long, the trail dipped into an alpine meadow. What looked bucolic belied the full truth.
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.
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.
As soon as I caught a glimpse of the lake, I sat and rested, my eyes feasting on all of the surrounding beauty.
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.
Flowers seen on the trail. Click an image to enlarge.