Friday September 25, 15.7mi/25.3km
Tuolumne Meadows (942.5/8606ft) to Marie Lakes Trail Jct (926.8/10,069ft) (CA)
I was awake at 7am, and it was very cold up here at this high elevation. I wasn’t sure when Bonus Miles and Cheshire Cat would arrive, but I figured they were camped about 6 miles away in Glen Aulin camp. Knowing that I had a couple hours to wait around, I stayed in my warm sleeping bag until almost 7:30, which is very late for me. I finally walked over to the Tuolumne General Store around 9am, and laid out a nice sunny warm rock. My two friends showed up 15 minutes later, and it was so exciting to talk to them! We had planned on getting breakfast, but the store had closed the kitchen an hour early, and we were all pretty bummed out. But, they soon had lunch items, and I bought ice cream and some snacks! We hiked out a bit after noon, and spent most of the afternoon excitedly talking about the last couple of months on the trail. As we hiked up the Lyell Canyon, we would occasionally stop for a water break as we followed the Tuolumne River upstream.
It was a long, gradual climb up to Donahue pass, and a beautiful autumn day in the Sierra. We saw only a couple northbound (section) hikers, and one of them gave me a new trail name – “Do Over” – a reference to my repeating the trail, but now with SOBO status.
We hit the top of Donohue Pass around 5:30pm, and took a long break after the long climb up to 11,000ft/3350m. When our break spot went into the lengthening shadows, we figured it was time to get moving again.
The sun went down about 30 minutes later, and we ended up hiking by moonlight and headtorch for an hour to our camp spot, arriving around 7:30pm. We could have stopped earlier, but we wanted to descend off the pass to a more hospitable climate, and to set ourselves up for an easy 20-mile day into the town of Mammoth tomorrow.