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we drove, we hiked; we hiked, we drove

By Sunday, September 16, 2012 , , ,

Ediza Lake

By the third hotel Lukas was frustrated with me and opted to stay in the car while I "cross countried" up an embankment to reach the Motel 6.  And when his phone wouldn't respond to my text letting him know they offered the cheapest room in town he ended up joining me in the drab, utilitarian lobby.  A swipe and a sign and we had an upstairs room for the night - one that was not at all fancy but was ready now and that worked for us.  We were both eager to be settled into the next installment of our Labor Day weekend adventures.

Motel 6

The adventure had started in the dark in Santa Cruz that Friday morning.  It was still dark when our untrusty GPS sent us on our first u-turn.  And after that it stopped making any sense.  We made at least two complete circuits of Modesto before finding the way out of town and on to Oakdale where we regained the familiar track.  That added an hour to our drive.  We rode through Yosemite mentally crossing our fingers that we'd reach Mono Lake in time to get a walk-up permit.  The permit was needed to spend a couple nights in the wilderness of the Eastern Sierras.  All the reserve-ahead permits were long gone by the time we had made our destination decision.  We could however, get a walk-up permit at 11am the day before and that was what we were after.

At 10:30 we finally pulled into the dusty dry parking lot of the Mono Lake visitor center.  I hurried out of the car - long lines envisioned in my head.  Yet, inside it was calm, cool and uncrowded.  We ended up wondering around the center for half an hour.  Five minutes after 11am we were back on the road, permit in hand.

And that brings us back to the hotel search and our last evening in civilization - well at least for a couple days.  We wrote off the lackadaisical sunset in favor of dinner.  But only after driving back to Yosemite and deciding not to hike to Cathedral Lakes.  Sunrise the next morning at Silver Lake also was unpicture worthy and we opted for a bit more shut eye in the budget "friendly" Motel 6 room.

Getting to the trail head was reminiscent of Disneyland.  While we stood in line to board the shuttle bus, tickets in hand, a guy talked at us over a hand held mic/PA system.  Herds of people milled around, many getting ready for mountain biking or a trip up the snowless mountain on a gondola.  Our shuttle driver wanted so desperately to be a a tour guide.  She pointed out such things as mostly obscure lakes and trees that had been blown over.

the hike

Our hike out along Shadow Creek Trail was most entirely up hill and entirely tiring.  Upon reaching Ediza Lake we continued along the south side to get to the approved areas for camping.  We found an awesome spot nestled among the tall trees.  But unfortunately, as Lukas pointed out, it was very near a few other "awesome spots".  Still, being tired as our out of shape selves were, we set up camp there and as afternoon progressed the other spots around us filled up.

That evening we dined on rehydrated dehydrated backpackers meals - mine a very lumpy mac and cheese since I failed to correctly read all three lines of directions.  As the light faded Lukas shot pictures along the nearby stream.  We turned in for bed in our cozy two man tent just as it really got dark.

the campsite

All too soon after a night in which we both felt like we were awake more than asleep the alarm cold was sounding off.  By bright full moon light we got dressed and hardly needed our flashlight as we made our way down to and around the lake.  I parked myself on a rock and watched Lukas hop from rock to rock.  At blue hour the water in the lake was calm and reflective.  All of a sudden golden light splashed across the Minarets in the background.  Lukas was frantically shooting.  And then just as quickly the light quality changed and the day had begun.

We breakfasted on oatmeal - maple brown sugar taking me back to family car camping trips growing up - mixed with a little protein powder.  Then, since we couldn't figure out what to do next, we took a much needed nap.  It was mid day and hot in the tent when we woke up.

morning & afternoon
I was just warm enough that a dip in the lake sounded like it might be enticing.  Once in my swimsuit I wasn't quite sure if it still sounded like a good idea but we made our way down to the water's edge.  The sun was warm but the water was bitterly cold.  Lukas laughed when I squealed after just dipping my toes in the water.  It was cold!  I waded out on the squishy, mud at the bottom of the lake.  At mid thigh I counted "1, 2, 3" and plunged under the water.  Up and sputtering I quickly headed back to shore.  Lukas chided me, "I thought you were gonna swim around."  So I turned around, got back in, took two side strokes and came right back.  Refreshed, I warmed up on a big flat rock then donned hiking boots and the bright orange quick drying towel for our walk back to camp.

After a little exploring that afternoon and the fact that even more people were setting up camp near us we packed up and moved camp.  The new camp spot put us further from a water source and up a big hill.  Both things that made it certain that no one else would move over there.  And then while having our early dinner I noticed across from us - and near our old campsite - a big cascading waterfall.  Quickly we changed our post dinner photography plans and we were off to explore the waterfall.

falls
That night was colder than the first and we both ended up sleeping in our thermals.  We were already tucked in when Lukas had to water some trees.  He called back to me to check out the sky so I poked my head out of the tent.  The moon hadn't risen yet and the sky was inky with millions of startlingly bright stars.  Beautiful.  Yet, the cold night air had Lukas scurrying back to the tent and that was the end of the stargazing.

Again the alarm woke us up early early.  The last morning we made our way down the hill from our camp and then up the hill by the waterfall.  Lukas had traded in the idea of reshooting the lake for a morning spent at the waterfall - the peaks surrounding creating a tempting backdrop.  When the light changed I headed back to camp to start the packing process and Lukas headed to one last spot on the inlet creek.

the winner
We were hoping the downhill nature of our return hike would mean it wouldn't take us as long.  But checking our average moving speed on the GPS we weren't making much better time - though we didn't have to rest nearly as much.  At the end of the trail we waited for the shuttle bus.  Though one comes by about every 20 minutes, the one we got on seemed to wait forever before making the ascent to the parking area.  Like stinky, very stinky, sardines, the bus finally got us back to the parking.  We headed back into town for a quick grab of perishable foods - french fries, soda, sandwiches.  It was a junky food pig out that we'd pay for later with tummy aches.

We didn't bother with the GPS on the way home - who wants to make circles and u-turns?! But our late start time for the drive back meant we were joining the herds moving west.  Lukas blew past lollygaggers on Tioga Pass, but there wasn't much we could do about the pace once we got out of Yosemite and had to travel through the little one stop light towns along highway 120.

It was after midnight when we reached home.  That was after a pitstop in Santa Cruz to pick up the kitty, eat a grilled cheese, do our stinky laundry and take a little {necessary} nap.  And that... that was it. 

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