In case you haven't read part one of the story behind the photos from Cathedral Lake and Peak, I recommend checking it out here!
So there we are, Stephen Oachs and I, 150ft. above Upper Cathedral Lake, watching the clouds drifting by, while a yellow-bellied marmot named Chuck enjoys the last sun of the day on a large boulder just a couple of feet away from us. We fire away, both knowing that sunset won't be TOO spectacular... mega spectacular but nice and that it will probably (no, we actually knew for sure) a long, long way down to the safety and comfort of the MoHo, where Tucker "The Magic Beagle" awaits us back.
Clouds are just starting to get some color when Stephen starts getting worried about the way down... We need to keep going soon! As soon as the lights starts to get worse, we need to get at least to the trailhead... Man, I didn't haul my big fat ass up here just to get down again before I saw the sweetest light of the day! Dang! Alright, just one more frame... now we really have to keep going! Okay, for everyone's safety, let's pack and head down the same way we came up here...
We start climbing down those boulders... Mmhhh, this is not the way we came up here, is it? Ugh, I don't know. Let's see over there... The pine that supported us on the way up, is way out of reach but this is the only spot that is halfway decent to get out here. Alright, let's get back up there and try our luck. Surprisingly, getting down from there was easy compared to the insecure way up those boulders and what took us 35 minutes to get there, we managed to climb down in about ten.
I was about to say how light it is still when we reached the trail but not a minute into it... BANG! Darkness. Uhm, flashlights... where the eff are they? I hope we did not forget those as well... The bear mace is one thing, but walking down there in the dark? No way. Well, at least we would not have seen the bear coming...
After the first little heart attack, we finally found our CSI LED flashlights, the size of a thumb. Great. We're making good progress and are already past the fork in the trail, where it splits to the upper and lower lake, in less than 10 minutes. We'll be back in no time, if we're lucky and don't get bear mugged.
All of a sudden, a noise and branches cracking right off the trail to our right... Stephen and I both flashing our extremely LARGE flashlights into the woods, in anticipation to see some eyes glowing in the beam of light. No eyes, no more noises... must have been a deer we scared away. Thank God. After that point, I think we both geared up and went twice as fast.
Another mile or so into our trek back to the MoHo, I hear heavy breathing right behind me, beams of light shoot into the forest everywhere. Stephen standing there with eyes as big as Burrowing Owls staring at you. Something is behind me! What? Dude, you just scared the shit out of me. His tripod which he insecurely attached to his backpack came somewhat lose and was touching the back of the hiking poles he was carrying. Dare you to ever do that again!
Alright, the rest of the trail down went pretty smooth except for one or the other complaint here and there... I don't know why I am still going? I will probably die tomorrow anyway... so bear, come and get me now! Man, my back is killing me...
To cut a long story somewhat shorter, we did not come across a bear BUT... about 0.2 miles to the MoHo, we could hear the traffic on 120 already, right in the middle of the trail, a huge... I mean, HUGE... puddle of pee! With all the little moments of shock and fear along the way, the super fresh puddle of pee was probably the worst. Knowing you're so close to the road and safety, being eating by a bear at this point into the trek would have made the day complete.
Anyhow, despite all the fear and brown stained underwear, I am still glad we made it up there (and back down!) to get some decent shots (I think.)... It's hard to do such an amazing scenery justice and the trek to places like this, is half the shot.
I'll be back --- for sure --- and this time, I'll bring the bear mace!
- 4.5 miles to Upper Cathedral Lake: 3 hours 20 minutes (including breaks)
- 150 ft. up the boulders: 35 minutes
- Setting up, shooting, packing: 1 hour
- 150 ft. down the boulders: 10 minutes
- 4.5 miles to the Tuolumne Meadows trailhead: 1 hour 30 minutes (including three short stops to check if all body parts are still attached).
Looking back at it, it was totally worth it, even though I must say,
a bit dumb to make this trek in one day and not camp up there. Lesson
Until next time,