Wanna turn a 5-mile hike into an 11-mile hike? Follow me!

I’m an idiot, I can’t read a map, I parked at the wrong resort, and I now humbly apologize for all the people-hating I did in this post, because several people saved my ass today by helping me find the trail when I thought I was lost, and one of those groups also gave me a ride back to that wrong resort where I’d parked the BFT.

Sigh.

Y’all enjoy these photos I took along the Twenty Lakes Loop. Only two have captions, because I’m out of adjectives for hiking in the Eastern Sierra.

I’ll just be sitting here for a few more hours, popping ibuprofen and sipping electrolyte-infused beverages.

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Yep. Had to cross some snow!

Yep. Had to cross some snow!

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I knew the water taxi was a mileage-saving option (1.5 each way). I did not use it to get out to the trail head, nor did I buy a ticket for my return. Which is why, as I limped down to the dock after completing the loop, I had to ask the hottie boat driver, "Um? Do you give pity rides to overzealous hikers?" Affirmative. He let me buy my ticket after I got off at the other end of the lake. Worth. Every. Penny.

I knew the water taxi was a mileage-saving option (1.5 each way).
I did not use it to get out to the trail head, nor did I buy a ticket for my return.
Which is why, as I limped down to the dock after completing the loop, I had to ask the hottie boat driver, “Um? Do you give pity rides to overzealous hikers?”
Affirmative. He let me buy my ticket after I got off at the other end of the lake. Worth. Every. Penny.

There was no mail at the Devil’s Postpile, and the Ansel Adams Wilderness is in color

IMG_7335The boys are back on the John Muir Trail, to complete the approximately 150-mile portion from Mammoth Pass south to Mount Whitney. (Last week, they hiked the approximately 60-mile portion from Mammoth Pass north to Happy Isles, and I picked them up in holy-shit-is-this-place-crowded Yosemite.)

So while they’re backpacking, I’m day-hiking, but on trails that are designated “popular,” “easy to follow,” “heavily trafficked,” or any combination thereof. I’ve not been blessed with a very accurate sense of direction, so when I’m hiking solo, I do what it takes to keep myself safe and un-lost.

ranger station

Today I put in 5-6 miles, hiking from the Ranger Station (6) to Devil’s Postpile to Rainbow Falls (You Are Here) to the Lower Falls (bottom center), and back up to Red’s Meadow (10).

Since I was in the Ansel Adams Wilderness for most of my time on the trail, I took the liberty of using black & white filters on some of my photos as an homage. They’re nice, but definitely not of the same caliber as Mr. Adams’ artwork.

This is the Devil's Postpile. See? Not a letter or package in sight, just columnar basalt.

This is the Devil’s Postpile. See? Not a letter or package in sight, just columnar basalt. I will now try to inject the phrase “columnar basalt” into casual conversation at every possible opportunity.

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Columnar basalt down!

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I crossed right the heck over the JMT! Tim and Dane would have walked through here on the first day of their northbound hike last week.

I crossed right the heck over the JMT! Tim and Dane would have walked through here on the first day of their northbound hike last week.

It was a long way down...

It was a long way down…

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

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5th arrow down: MT WHITNEY. That's where I'll pick up my guys in about two weeks. Also, I find it curious that SHOWERS are designated as mandatory, but COLD BEER is not?

5th arrow down: MT WHITNEY. That’s where I’ll pick up my guys in about two weeks. Also, I find it curious that SHOWERS are designated as mandatory, but COLD BEER is not?

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Saved the best sign for last. I’d been hiking for 3 hours by the time I got to it, and I was ready for that bus ride back to the parking lot!

Backpackers stink! And so does Yosemite in July. OMG, just… don’t do it.

Emily "You Can Embroider That Shit on a Toss Pillow" Rohrer

~ Emily “You Can Embroider That Shit on a Toss Pillow” Rohrer

Close your eyes and place yourself in your favorite outdoor setting, be it a state or local park, hiking trail, beach or lakefront cabin, wooded grove, waterfall, even your own back yard. Then…

Open your eyes and contend with a DisneyWorld-esque crowd of tourists who are trying to enjoy the exact same spot with you, stopping to consult their maps right in your path, posing for selfies in front of everything, dealing with children who have obviously just had it, and/or driving with one arm out the window to shoot video that nobody will ever want to look at — because every single one of them spent significant time, effort, and money to get there, and they are going to have the Experience of a Lifetime, dammit, same as you.

That’s what Yosemite is like in July.
Squirrel! This is one of the thinner ones you are likely to encounter if you walk more than a mile on a trail. The ones closer to more popular areas are both tame and fat. Quelle surprise.

Squirrel!
This is one of the thinner ones you are likely to encounter if you walk more than a mile on a trail, at which point the human traffic decreases considerably.
The squirrels closer to more popular areas are both tame and fat.
Quelle surprise.

By 2:00 in the afternoon, it was not hungry bears that park visitors had to worry about. It was me. To quote late comedian John Pinette, “I’d lost my cherub-like demeanor.”
Although I managed to keep most of my words in my head, under my breath, or inside the truck while following others, I did uh, quite a lot of swearing and name-calling. On the plus side, my expletive-filled rants rather seem to have impressed my 19-year-old!
These are bear lockers. Your supposed to put your food items in there, rather than leaving them in your car for bears to tear apart. By mid-afternoon, I say we take the food out of the lockers, and put half the people in.

These are bear lockers.
You’re supposed to put your food items in there, rather than leaving them in your car for bears to tear apart while you’re gone.
By mid-afternoon, I say we take the food out, and put half the tourists in.

We know what summer crowds are, and yes, we know how to avoid them. However, if you’re hiking the John Muir Trail, you have to do it when there’s little or no snow, and if you’re hiking the whole thing, you have to go through Yosemite.
Since Tim (husband) and Dane (our younger son) hiked the northern third of the trail this week, they had to exit there, at the Happy Isles Trailhead, which meant I had to depart our home in Lee Vining by 0530 to get into the park by 0730, in order to get a parking space in the closest lot to their exit point.
Due to jumping a little late into the permitting process, my guys had to start their hike there inside the yellow circle at Red's Meadow last weekend and go north. Next week, I'll drop them off at Red's Meadow again, and they'll complete the southern part of the trail.

Due to jumping a little late into the permitting process, my guys are unable to hike the trail end to end. They had to start their hike inside the yellow circle near Red’s Meadow last weekend and go north.
Next week, I’ll drop them off near Red’s Meadow again, and they’ll complete the southern part of the trail. Total mileage: 211

It was awful — awful for me with the hordes of domestic and foreign tourists in the valley, and also awful for Tim and Dane out in the “wilderness.” Tim said that three years ago when he came through while hiking sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, he could go hours and hours without seeing another hiker. This year? Minutes. It has clearly become a thing, and that’s kind of a shame, and it’s difficult to reconcile the happiness of knowing more people are getting out there and enjoying back-country hiking, with the utter dejection of having to share.
Rant over. Sorry. I know I have issues.
But I still got some cool photos, with minimal numbers of people in them. My apologies for not labeling all of them. I have a terrible sense of direction, so even if I were to look at a map to try to figure out what I was looking at, I won’t remember exactly where I was or which direction I was facing, so it’s kind of a lost cause. No pun intended.
Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

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Upper Yosemite Falls

Upper Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls

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Mirror Lake

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Mirror Lake, the other direction

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My Guys (Dane refused to smile. In many ways, he's still the 2-year-old we know and love.) Since it was Tim's 50th birthday, I hiked in to meet them. They'd put in about 62 miles in 6 days, with the stinkydirty clothing to prove it! But because of some crossed signals about our meeting point (they took the high road, I took the low road), I in fact put in a longer hike than they did that day! Boys: 11 miles. Emily: 12 miles.

My Guys
(Dane refused to smile. Boy might look like a man, but in some ways he’s still 2.)
Since it was Tim’s 50th birthday, I hiked in to meet them. They’d put in about 62 miles in 6 days, with the stinkydirty clothing to prove it!
But because I’d been exploring the park for a few hours already, and there were some crossed signals about our meeting point (they took the high road, I took the low road), I in fact put in a longer hike than they did that day! Boys: 11 miles. Emily: 12 miles.

Yosemite, we will visit you again, but we’ll shoot for early May or late September next time, mmmkay?


After a lengthy cool down period (like, almost a year), I revisited this post and wrote a somewhat more helpful — and a lot less snarky — version, for those who might be interested in a summer camping trip to Yosemite. It’s here.

I went to a ghost town, so let’s just pretend a ghost stole my pants

About thirty miles from here lies the Bodie State Historic Park, a 19th century gold mining boom town that was abandoned in the 1940’s, and developed into a state park in the 1960’s but left in its state of “arrested decay.”

(Don’t worry. I’ll get to the pants.)

Here's a shot I took today, capturing almost all of the main part of town.

Here’s a shot I took today, capturing almost all of the main part of town.

Back in 1879, it looked more like this. (Photo of handout passed around by park ranger)

Back in 1879, it looked more like this. There were about 2,000 buildings and close to 10,000 residents.
(Photo of handout passed around by park ranger)

There are no re-enactors in period costumes strolling about, and that helps add to the ghostly feel of the place. If you go — and it is well worth the drive and the price of admission — you’ll hear only the wind, the sound of footsteps on dirt streets, a few birds, maybe the buzz of a fly. You’ll also hear gasps, camera clicks, and comments in at least three languages from your fellow tourists (the park packs in about 14,000 every summer), but everyone in the comparatively small crowd there with me on this Monday morning in July was surprisingly quiet and respectful of the surroundings.

You can walk around and up to the buildings at your own pace, and peer inside the glass to see what’s been left behind. I spent about 2.5 hours doing just that. Most of my photos need no explanation. Enjoy the haunting silence.

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Shot o' whiskey, please.

Barkeep. Shot o’ whiskey, please.

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See the two old gas pumps? In the next shot, you'll see what they look like in the winter.

See the two old gas pumps?
In the next shot, you’ll see what they look like in the winter.

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That’s one of them in the left foreground. This place gets 5-10 feet of snow in the winter, and is accessible only by skis, snowshoes, or snowmobile. (Photo of handout passed around by park ranger)

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Leave it to molder long enough, and apparently a globe of the earth turns into the Death Star.

Leave it to molder long enough, and apparently a globe of the earth turns into the Death Star.

Creepy. Here's my thought. If I were a local cardiologist? I'd pay someone to stand inside one of these buildings, and just quietly say "boo" every time I tourist hoods eyes with hands and peers inside the window. Because that would cause instant heart attacks, several times a day. I am a schemer.

Creepy.
Here’s my thought. If I were a local cardiologist? I’d pay someone to stand inside one of these buildings, and just quietly lean sideways and say “boo” every time a tourist hoods eyes with hands and peers in the window. Because that would cause instant heart attacks, several times a day.
Guaranteed stream of additional income, right there.

Main Street during the heyday...

Main Street during the heyday (photo of handout passed around by park ranger)…

... and today

… and today

Why do so few buildings remain? This kid. Bodie Bill. In 1932 he played with matches, exactly like you're not supposed to, and the resulting fire destroyed all but 5-10% of the town. That's a big accomplishment for a 2 1/2-year-old.

Why do so few buildings remain?
This kid. Bodie Bill.
In 1932 he played with matches, exactly like you’re not supposed to, and the resulting fire destroyed all but 5-10% of the town.
That’s a big accomplishment for a 2 1/2-year-old. (photo of handout passed around by park ranger)

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Cemetery gates...

Cemetery gates…

And the dead people's view of town

And the dead people’s view of town

My favorite shot of the day. You can make out my silhouette in the glass, see the building reflected behind me to the right, and you can see into this room that used to be a gymnasium. (Don't freak. That's just an old deflated speed bag hanging in the window, looking all sinister and spectral-like.)

My favorite shot of the day. You can make out my silhouette in the glass, see the building reflected behind me to the right, and you can see into this room that used to be a gymnasium. Don’t freak. That’s just an old deflated speed bag hanging in the window, looking all sinister and spectral-like.

I was pretty dusty after walking around the ghost town all morning, so I decided to head about 20 miles to Bridgeport, to dip myself into the Travertine Hot Springs. Word has it that clothing is optional here, but everyone I saw was wearing a bathing suit, including the two women coating each other with mineral mud while speaking in what I think was an eastern European language, and I figured if they weren’t naked, nobody else was gonna be either. So I ducked behind some low scrubby bushes and changed into my suit.

(Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten about the pants.)

The view from my "dressing room" was breathtaking.

The view from my “dressing room” was breathtaking.

Found me a hot one!

Sitting in a hot one!

Got into this one too.

Got into this one too.

Here’s a video of the bubbling source of one of the pools. It’s about the size of a softball, and you really shouldn’t stick your finger in it. Guess how I know.

And now… the story of my traveling pants. A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Our RV park does not allow clotheslines.
  2. When we are in an RV park that does not allow clotheslines, I defiantly use the truck’s grille guard as a drying rack.
  3. Sometimes I forget that I’ve hung an item or two on the grille guard.

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    And that is how, after driving fifty miles today (mostly highway, maybe ten on dirt roads), and returning to the BFT after my dip in the hot springs, I noticed this “rag” caught in the bars, untangled it, and realized I’d gone all that way with my own damn leggings leading the charge. The cute ones! With the skirt attached! Might as well have been a flag bearing the slogan “Forgetful Laundresses of the World — Unite!” Sheesus, Emily.

Lessons of the day, which I learned when I was two, but clearly needed reminding of at age 47:

  1. Don’t play with matches.
  2. Don’t stick your finger in boiling water.
  3. Know where your pants are at all times.

Sightseeing solo in the Mono Basin: a tufa one special

You see what I did there?

No?

No, because you probably don’t know that a tufa is a particular kind of limestone spire that you see if you visit Mono Lake in California’s eastern Sierras.

And I went to see them on my own. Tufa one.

Get it now?

These are tufas.

These are tufa.

This is how they're formed.

This is how they’re formed.

When the lake was higher, as little as 60 years ago, all these tuftas were under water.

When the lake was higher, as little as 75 years ago (a blip in its 1- to 3-million year history), all these tufa were under water.

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I learned a lot about the tufas, Mono Lake, and water politics on a guided tour put on by the Mono Basin Visitor's Center.

I learned a lot about the tufa, Mono Lake, and water politics on a guided tour put on by the Mono Basin Visitor’s Center. You can read about the lake’s history here — a fascinating story involving water diversion to Los Angeles in the 1940’s, a grassroots “save the lake” effort in the 1970’s, and a compromise reached between the two — but I don’t want to take up blog space with it. This sign marks the lake level that was mandated by that compromise, 6392 feet above sea level. It’s still got some growing to do.

Our ranger, Duncan, did a demo showing how fresh water interacts with the briny lake water, which has a PH level of 10. That's salty! (Also, I did not take this photo to sneakily capture the hottie biker guy sitting on that rock, but I can't say I'm disappointed. His eyes.

Our ranger, Duncan, did a demo showing how fresh water interacts with the briny lake water, which has a pH level of 10. That’s salty!
(Also, I did not take this photo to sneak-capture the hottie biker guy sitting on that rock, but I can’t say I’m disappointed it happened. His eyes, y’all.)

No fish in the lake, just brine shrimp. Remember sea monkeys from the 70's? Same dealio.

No fish in the lake, just brine shrimp. Remember sea monkeys from the 70’s? Same dealio.

Oh, and why I am I sightseeing solo? It’s only temporary. Tim and our younger son are hiking the John Muir Trail, and I am doing the opposite of sitting at home pining for them.  My goal: an adventure a day.

On a related note, we’re all a little sad that Tim’s dad didn’t get to accompany us on this adventure after all (read this). He learned that the knee pain he’d been powering through during his training hikes is in fact a torn meniscus, so hiking the JMT was not a possibility. Sigh. Maybe next year?

Anyway, back to me. So far my adventures have included exploring Lee Vining, our hometown-of-the-month, and driving the nearby June Lake Loop.

Lot's of character in this 3-block town...

Lot’s of character in this 3-block town…

... like the old school house museum...

… like the old school house museum

... and this 1935 shit-I-thought-I'd-remember-it truck (apologies to those who get into makes and models)...

… and this 1935 shit-I-thought-I’d-remember-it truck (apologies to those who get into makes and models)…

... and Nellie Bly's upside down house.

… and Nellie Bly’s upside down house.

Yep. The boots are by the bed, but everything's on the ceiling. Gives new meaning to the song, "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under."

Yep. The boots are by the bed, but everything’s on the ceiling.
Gives new meaning to the song, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?

The town also offers spectacular views of Mono Lake.

The town also offers spectacular views of Mono Lake.

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Scenes from the June Lake Loop

Scenes from the June Lake Loop

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I pulled in to stop at a scenic overlook, and found a slot machine in a rock. If you can't read the story about why it's there, click here.

I pulled in to stop at a scenic overlook, and found a slot machine in a rock. If you can’t read the story about why it’s there, click here.

Just south of the June Lake Loop, on Hwy 395? A whole lot of wow.

Just south of the June Lake Loop, on Hwy 395: a whole lot of wow.

What’s coming up next in my adventure-a-day schedule? A ghost town, an alpine hike, maybe some hot springs, and of course, Yosemite National Park. I bought the pass; I’m just waiting for a weekday to go, in hopes of avoiding the biggest of the summer crowds.

You’ll know where to find the full report!