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PCT 2015 Day 59 Donahue Pass and Tuolumne Meadows

  • Start: 922.9
  • End: 942.5
  • Miles: 19.6
  • Camp: Tuolumne Meadows

The day started gently with only 300ft of elevation gain to Island Pass. It’s pretty but I find it hard to think of it as a proper mountain pass because it starts so high already. Donahue Pass later in the day was not the fastest we have ever climbed but was a pretty easy trail, and this time definitely a proper mountain pass. 

On top of Donahue Pass we officially entered Yosemite National Park and encountered our first Yosemite Ranger. He was leading a group of Boy Scouts, but stopped to check our permits and bear canisters. He recognised us immediately as PCT hikers, and it got me wondering why. Is it the minimalist shoes, compared with the John Muir Trail hikers with their sturdy boots? Or the small packs compared with the behemoths that the weekenders carry? The weird knee brace tans that show we’ve been outside for an extended period? Or perhaps just the smell?

The downhill was surprisingly tough, some steps, some grit and some rough rocks. I was glad we were coming down it rather than climbing up, but I still slipped a couple of times. We stopped at the first creek to eat lunch, although I was also grateful for the rest for my knees.

Our progress was slow into Tuolumne Meadows despite being flat along Lyell canyon. We paused again for a thunderstorm to pass overhead, but even that doesn’t account for the afternoon dragging so much. I think it’s because the past few days have been so challenging and so stunning that by contrast easy, flat hiking seems long and dull. But the meadows were very beautiful and grazing deer and scampering squirrels provided the occasional distraction. 

We arrived to find a busy campground and store, already overrun with hikers. Mostly JMT hikers, although some were clearly day hikers basing themselves in the campground for the Fourth of July weekend. I took advantage of the store microwave to eat food I wouldn’t ordinary eat on trail because of its weight: vegetable curry and rice. Not exactly gourmet in regular terms, but out here it feels fit for a king.

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