An abandoned high sierra camp and a picturesque waterfall gushing into oblivion. It’s a quick trip, basically 6 miles each way leaving from Tuolumne Meadows, typically bustling with folks seeing all of the Yosemite high country that they can muster, but not so for us. For us, this is basically the last weekend of high country backpacking with a weather system promising the rest of California some much needed rain and a good dump of snow at elevation, needless to say Tioga Pass will close.
We park down a dirt road off Tioga road, throw our packs on and get on trail right on schedule; knowing that the distance is short makes the journey light and easy, fun and we are generally excited to be hanging out with friends from the east side. Making our way in, we don’t see a soul, one of Yosemite’s favorite trails and not one person do we pass heading in, it’s kind of remarkable. Passing cascades, waterfalls, and iced over puddles, we all fall in love with the day, crisp and in the 60’s, sun out with some cartoon clouds to interrupt the blue expanse of the sky.
Glen Aulin leaves nothing to be desired. A beautifully lonesome and quiet seasonal camp a couple weeks past it’s close date and now some great friends throwing lines into the water to try and nail one of those little Sierra Brook Trout to snack on before dinner. As afternoon progresses, we laze about, basking in the sun as we know it will dip into the 30’s this evening. The sun goes lower and lower until it disappears behind the wall of pine; its instantly cold and the small fire is the only source of heat for us now. Snacking on our friend’s lucky catch while we wait for dinner to rehydrate, we sip red wine with a whiskey chaser and reflect on good times past, present, and future.
Dinner is backcountry chicken burritos, wrapped in foil, and thrown in the fire to get that extra heat and cheese melt; again we are thankful for a dehydrator back home and the leftover chicken carcass from last week. The night rolls through, the cold sneaks in, the whiskey warms, and voices get louder as the “cheers governor” games get belligerent. Drown, stir, and off to sleep; warmth in a bag and a high country cool just kissing all of our faces.
Waking up, we linger in our bags, holding on to that last bit of heat until the need to pee is too much and we’ve got to get the day started and confront the cold of the outside as the sun meets the frost and warms the forest. Coffee to melt away the headache that the Turkey 101 birthed in the night and whatever is left for food to put in our stomaches. Break down camp, pack it away, give it a stretch and make sure no T’s were L’d; we are off, marching from whence we came, up up up and along the trail this time passing a few folks out on a morning day hike in the Yosemite High Country.
A quick one out, and we are back at the car ready to head back to the city, refreshed and relaxed. The ticket on the windshield could say otherwise, but fuck it. Note to self: dirt roads off Tioga road are apparently still part of the Tioga Corridor on which there is no overnight parking allowed past 10/15.
Lost Coast Trail – Mattole River to Black Sands Beach
North to South – 24.6 miles
Day 1 – 8.3 miles – Mattole River to Randall Creek
Day 2 – 9.7 miles – Randall Creek to Shipman Creek
Day 3 – 6.6 miles – Shipman Creek to Black Sands Beach
Slowly. Step, wait, step; balance, step. Head down, eyes on your feet, step, look up to the hazy California coast dropping to the fury of the winter Pacific, step; the rock you’re on wobbles, slides, and down, propped up by a hand. Struggle. A push up with forty on your back, a knee that says no, an aching body that only wants a view; affirmation.
Sand. Soft dry sand, wet firm sand, granular sand, powdery sand, sand with rocks, sand with sticks, sand with seaweed. Step, sink, step. Slow going on this section, tide is returning and your race to escape it takes on new urgency. In a few hours violent waves mercilessly pummel rock into sand. Move along.
Blocked. Stuck, knee deep and rushing; gallons upon gallons screaming for escape. You gaze up and down the stream, hoping to see something different, a log, a series of rocks, nothing. Pack off, bend down, laces untie, boots off; step. Slowly, carefully, propped by a pole, still slipping; stub a toe, a curse. Other side, trail in front, boots on, laced up, forty on your back; step.
A bluff; bright green, well fed grass, a worn trail of firm dirt to coast along. Up and down, side to side, eyes ahead; take it in, and down. Rocks. A uniform groan and it begins. Slowly. Step, wait, step; balance, step. Head down, eyes on your feet, step.