August 22, 2007

Don't Feed the Bears...If You Can Find Them (Part 2)

Day 2: Our Private Island; Blazing a Trail
One of the tough things about camping is that you can't sleep in. Even if you've hiked an extra 4 miles the night before and your body needs some recuperation. So the sun woke us up and we made some freeze-dried bacon and eggs for breakfast. And of course we had to have some hot chocolate. Classic Swiss Miss--gotta love it!

Buena Vista Lake's cool water was calling our names, so we went for a dip. It was certainly cool. The first jump in was the kind that stops your breath half way down your throat. But swimming in that crystal clear water was the payoff for our brutal hike the day before, and that made it all the sweeter. There was a little island that we swam out to and sunned on its smooth rocks.

This lake was the only time that we had any sort of interaction with bears. We could hear one down on the other end of the lake, probably fishing. It was growling and thrashing around a bit, which is kind of fun to listen to, especially knowing that we were at a safe distance. Had I known that this would be the closest we'd get, I wouldn't have wanted to rent the bear canisters (good for an extra couple pounds of pack weight), but I think they're required, so we didn't have much choice, eh?

We decided to blaze our own trail today and cut a more direct line to Ostrander Lake. That involved crossing over to another ridge and then decending a rock face. When we reached the top of the ridge, we were amazed at the beautiful view. The overlook included the Hart Lakes, Ostrander Lake, and I think a distant view of Half Dome. After taking lots of pics and taking in the beautiful scenery, we started our descent. We did a little bouldering, but nothing too extreme. Stanley's bum ankle made it tough for him, so sometimes he'd go down 3/4 backwards. An interesting sight, but it worked for him. We saw a marmot and two bucks along this section of our hike, and that was kind of cool.

Ostrander Lake was everything we hoped it would be. So beautiful! The water was so calm that it may have been the most glassy I've seen in my life. And we set up camp in a spot with a firepit, so we were able to have the all-important necessity of successful camping: a log cabin fire.

Day 3: Speed Backpacking?; Mountain Lake vs. LA Pool Contrast
It's nice to wake up and be 40 feet from a beautiful mountain lake. I'd almost say that there are few things I'd like more. The beach could maybe give a mountain lake a run for its money, I suppose. In fact, I believe I'd pick a beach house over a lakeside cabin if I had the financial resources. Anyway, back to the backpacking trip...

I don't know why we were in such a hurry, but Chris set a comparatively blistering pace from Ostrander Lake back to the car. Where we had averaged maybe 2-3 mph the first day (before Stanley's ankle started hurting), we figured out later that we were probably doing between 3.5 and 4 mph on this last day. I couldn't help but keep thinking to myself, "Why are we in such a hurry to leave this beauty? Let's take it slow and enjoy nature for a bit more. Who knows when we'll be back here again." So the 6.5-7 mile hike of our final day went pretty quickly.

When we were about to reach the Ostrander Lake parking lot, we saw a bunch of girls and one guy kind of standing along the side of the trail. We walked past them and then stopped to check how far the sign said we'd gone that day. The girls and guy kind of followed us toward the parking lot and somehow we started a conversation with them. Turns out they're Italians and were thinking about hiking to the lake. However, they weren't really equipped for the 6.2 mile hike. We asked if they'd take our picture and they were kind enough to oblige.

Then they told us they really wanted to get pictures of the lake, and we offered to show them ours. You can see Daniella (I think that was her name) trying to take a picture of Chris' viewer with her digital camera. Then we offered to email them some of our lake pics. So Stanley got Daniella's email, they said we should let them know if we're ever in Italy and we could stay with them and they'd show us the sights. I love how friendly people can be! I'm definitely thinking of taking them up on their offer. Maybe next summer. Anybody want to be my traveling buddy?

It felt really good to put our packs in the back of the truck, take off the hiking boots, and start driving back to civilization. After dropping off our bear canisters in Wawona, we drove out of Yosemite and started back to LA. According to plan, we stopped at the first In-N-Out we saw.

Our burgers and fries were so delicious! Maybe it's just the three days of camping food, or the above-normal calorie-burning that we experienced, or just the fact that I haven't had In-N-Out in a while, but that was some tasty eating!

A few hours later, we arrived in LA and went to Chris' apartment building. After taking showers, we went down to the pool and hot tub to relax for a bit. Though very comfortable, it just wasn't the same as the mountain lakes we'd enjoyed in the last 48 hours.

What a great trip. I would recommend a backpacking trip to Yosemite to almost anyone. And I'd also recommend taking more water containers (especially camelbaks) and taking less trail mix. And don't be too concerned about bears if you go at this point in the year. Happy trails to you, until we meet again!

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