Elizabeth and Budd

July 22, 2020

Today’s hiking plan was something Jim concocted (he’s usually the strategist):  a little old, a little new and a good dose of cross country.

We’ve really hit our stride with regards to the rhythms of camping. After a couple days, our systems are pretty smooth… what needs to be done, by whom, in what order, by when… so rising and shining, getting breakfast going, making lunches, cleaning up, packing our day packs… we are like a little ant colony of three.

Gorgeous, crystal blue sky, warmish… damn… spectacular.

We’re on the road by our usual 10:00, give or take, into the park (the rangers have figured out how to identify the cars with passes and we are relieved of having to wait in the 30 minute line to get into the park). We hit the Tuolumne Meadows ranger station to fill our jugs and water bottles, then up the road to the trailhead. We parked somewhere between the visitors center and the trailhead for Cathedral Lakes.. at the crosswalk that marks the short trail to Soda Springs (this detail is for my future ref). On the south side of the highway, one find a trail, to a trail and eventually to the Elisabeth Lake trail, which we took.

For us, because of where we started, it was about 3 miles to the lake and up the usual grunt out of the meadow, just shy of 1000′ elevation gain. Once up and out of the forest, it’s really, really pretty.


I already knew I was not likely to join Peter and Jim on their adventure.. I was going to decide when we got to the lake, and brought a book just in case.

Here’s Elizabeth Lake. What they are going to do is leave the trail and head toward that nub, Unicorn Peak’s northern notch. They are planning to go through those trees on the right, and once out on that granite, contour around somewhere below the notch and hope to run into Budd Lake on the other side. It’s all open and granite-y. Then, they’re going to explore the Budd Lake area before heading back down on the Budd Lake fisherman’s trail, a trail we’ve taken 4-5 times.. it’s a long, sometimes steep, decent back down to the meadow, following the drainage from Budd Lake (with some great waterfalls and narrow gorges). It’s a great trail, not hugely used.


So they took off, and I hung out at the lake and ambled around the creek area for a while. I love that kind of time alone in an area where I can’t get lost.. I sing a lot and talk to myself. And somehow, it’s always bigger and more vast when you’re alone. I saw a couple we’d all passed on the trail going up, then didn’t see anyone until I was near the bottom again. With the campgrounds and all park services closed, it was pretty void of people.


Once down to the car again, I grabbed a Crazy Creek chair and found a spot off the Soda Springs trail with a view of the meadow, and read Little Fires Everywhere. It was actually chilly and windy, so I bundled up. It was extremely cozy and I was ecstatic to have that time to just read in such a treasured spot. My view:


And me (I somehow managed to break my sunglasses!) It’s not like there were people around, but the mask kept my face warm.


The real story of the day, however, was not my glasses, my view or the novel I was reading. Jim and Peter were having more of an adventure than they bargained for.

Here’s what it looked like as they began their ascent out of the Elizabeth Lake area. And you can also see that what appeared, from the lake, to be great slabs of granite, wasn’t at all.. the terrain was more like giant boulder fields and talus.

They got some great views. This is looking back on Elizabeth Lake:





This is looking north toward where we started in Tuolumne Meadows. That prominent white mass in the middle of those trees is Lembert Dome.



I like this one of Peter, making himself comfortable on a rock:


Unbeknownst to them — and you never really know what you’ll encounter when you’re off trail, unless you’re plotting your course carefully with a detailed topo map — they’d picked a route around Unicorn that was not easily passable. They’d gone high, hoping to gain and hold elevation early, but got cliffed out a number of times and had to backtrack and re-route.


Even though it wasn’t that far as the crow flies, it took them hours and hours to get to Budd Lake, but they finally did.

But not before they had to negotiate a few dicey descents:



Jim would tell this story better than I will here, but I do know that some portions of the adventure were easier for Peter than they were for Jim.. the 45-year age difference being what it is. Peter did some scouting and route-testing and then offered some much appreciated coaching–Peter, from far below, guiding Jim through a series of moves involving optimal hand and footholds. Which, from what I hear, worked out great!


And, once back down on terra firma, well around Unicorn Peak to the other side, they came across a set of no-name lakelettes. (Man.. this looks so pretty, I wish I had been with them.)


And here, finally, is Budd Lake:



I like this shot, too, with Peter in the photo for scale:


And that big hunka burning love in the distance is, of course, the iconic Cathedral Peak, the face of which Peter climbed last year — a 5-6-pitch climb. It’s not the hardest climb in the park, but it’s exposed and easily the most famous climb in the entire Tuolumne Meadows area. Definitely one for the memory books.

Such a great area! I don’t think they saw anybody up there for most of the day. If anybody at all.

Because of the route challenges, they got back down to the car at least two or three hours after I expected to see them. So by 6:00 or 7:00, I was pretty worried. I was working out where I was going to go (the Ranger Station) and when to do it, given the light remaining in the day (I figured they’d need good light for helicopter rescues). But none of that was needed, as they finally showed up. Yay.

But not without injury! Check this out:


It didn’t happen on one of their dicey descents, they weren’t attacked by mountain lions. This happened while walking on a solid trail on their way down. In fact, one of Tuolumne Meadows’ most traveled and well tamped trails.. the Cathedral Lake trail, which they decided to take because, given the hour, they could power down quickly.  Apparently, Jim was looking down and ran into a tree branch. It was a hefty enough branch that it gouged his head, even through his hat! And it bled a lot. The above photo was taken back at our campsite, after a few rounds of water and rags.

(I know, sorry.)

Here’s more of the clean up job:




And the bandaging job (first aid is not my forte):




But I’ll take credit for this: a solution for holding the bandage in place and a fashion statement:



Our last dinner was another round of rice and beans.. which, given how tired they were (at least Jim!), was just fine:


And we got a lovely evening, too.









Ten Lakes Basin

July 21, 2020

We survived our second night in the tent. With some pillow (“pillow”) and sleeping pad adjustments, night two was a lot more comfortable than night one.

See how refreshed Jim looks?


This may be my all-time favorite picture of Jim. Something about that look.

It was a startlingly clear and gorgeous morning.. these don’t come close to conveying the sharpness of the light… but here are a couple shots anyway:




The breakfast scene:


And how happy am I that Peter’s doing the dishes? (Super happy.)


He gets to come next year, too.

For a new hike, Jim found an area we’d heard about for decades but had never been to… this seemed like a good year for it: Ten Lakes Basin. You drive west, all the way out of Tuolumne Meadows, past Olmsted, past May Lake turnoff, past Porcupine Flat, past a whole bunch of other turns in the road and finally get to Yosemite Creek. If you get to White Wolf, you’ve gone too far. There’s a small trailhead there for Ten Lakes Basin.

For family stories documentation’s sake, I will briefly describe .. an incident: About half a mile in, we couldn’t remember if we’d locked the car.. nobody could remember hearing the beep. Peter volunteered to go back and check. He left his backpack with us and began jogging back down the trail. Jim and I decide we’ll press on; Peter can catch us up trail a bit, we thought.  I swung his backpack over mine and off we went. An hour goes by and no Peter. We decide to stop and wait. There is nobody on this trail.. except finally we see an old guy (one we’d seen in the parking lot at the trailhead) slowly lumbering up the hill. He tells us he’d seen Peter. Peter asked if the old man had seen us, he hadn’t. This worried Peter, so he went back to the car, thinking we’d gone off trail to pee maybe, then headed back to find him. Or something. Peter, not finding us at the car, and somewhat panicked about our safety, headed back up the trail. At this point, Jim had decided to head back to the car (we were now probably two miles up the trail when he turned around). They met one another somewhere in between. Peter was pissed and worried, then pissed and relieved, Jim was contrite, I was oblivious. I had been worried, but when I saw him, that turned to elation, then a bit of surprise, followed by some defensiveness, then contrition. There was lots of second guessing on everyone’s part. Each of us had a different logic behind our respective choices and conclusions. We talked a lot about all the shoulda’s and about the importance of communication and we agreed that Peter was more right about this one than we were. We redistributed backpacks and started out again, not talking for about a mile. Then things got back to normal.

(Postscript: the reason the car didn’t beep was that my keys were still inside, tucked inside my purse, buried out of sight. Jim had his keys in his backpack. In fact, you can’t lock the car when the key is inside, any of the car’s keys, even if someone outside, with his own key, wishes to lock the car. Take note.)

The first couple miles of this trail offered some great open granite vistas with Yosemite creek cutting through the canyon. The next bunch of miles were largely forested. A neato tree…


With fuzzy bark:


This meadow, about 5 miles in, maybe, was glorious:



It’s 6-ish miles to the pass, maybe 1500 feet of gain.. not bad, except most of that is at the end on the pull up to the pass (700-800′ in about .8 of a mile). It’s a grind. I pulled up the rear. I am getting used to this, but don’t like it. Vowing to lose some weight and work on more leg strength.

Our plan was to go to Grant Lake, another mile off the pass (and down about 400 feet). We’d heard (from Bob, I believe his name was.. the older guy, from Albany, as it turns out) that once at the pass, before you drop into the Ten Lakes Basin (a different direction from Grant Lake), there is an outcropping where you can go for a spectacular view. We decided to do this.

Here’s the view:


That is looking east, down on the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

Our lunch spot:


And this is the view south; you can see one of the lakes in Ten Lakes Basin (I hear there aren’t ten lakes.. but that seems odd).



A cute one of Peter.. eating lunch..



Another view with lakes:


A view back up to the pass. You can see J&P ambling back toward the trail:


They decided they wanted to see Grant Lake. I brought a book, so decided I’d sit at the pass and read (see above comment about next year!). I hung out with this grouse…



and this marmot:


The old guy (and really, he wasn’t that old.. just 70), Bob, made it to the pass by this point (we’d passed him again on the trail once we started up again). He was planning on staying out for a few days in the basin. He sat for quite awhile and chatted (at great distance, by the way, due to Covid concerns). That’s where I got a bit of his story. Very nice guy. Besides Bob, we saw only one other threesome of hikers. In a full day of hiking in Yosemite…

This is Jim’s photo of Peter at Grant Lake. Bummed to miss it (see comment above about next year!) …


After Jim and Peter climbed out of the Grant Lake area and got back to me at the pass, we headed down. Power hiked. This is my strength.. and I had all kinds of juice left. That, at least, felt good!

Passed through that sweet meadow in the late afternoon (no mosquitoes this trip.. a few, but nothing bad):


Some bear scat along the way…



Stopped for Jim to deal with a hot spot.. and hung out on this cool log…



Got back in time for a lovely, sunset. No rain this afternoon, but a cold evening!  Beautiful sunset:



And a late dinner in the dark…  pasta with yellow peppers:





Summer Sierra Storms

July 20, 2020


Rise and shine! We have hiking to do!

I’m forgetting now (since I’m writing this a month later and backfilling all my missed blogs over the last month) how cold the nights got.. but somewhere in the 40s. The tent was warm, especially inside down bags (not to mention there were three of us in a small space exhaling hot air. But, wow, as the sun started rising and warming everything up, it was shirt sleeves by about 8am.

Here’s Jim by the river that ran besides our camp spot…


Coffee and oatmeal and granola and apples…


Staying outside the park meant driving in through the Tioga gate daily, which was a bit of an ordeal — which is to say it was slow-going as the whole park entry procedure was adapted for covid purposes — and usually took us 15-30 minutes.

But, we also got to enter the park through the Tioga gate.. and that’s pretty sweet because you get this outstanding start to your day..


(Though… are you noticing those clouds building already?)

On our first hiking day, we had to pay homage to our beloved Tuolumne Meadows tent cabins.  I admit to begin apprehensive about seeing them in their down state.

For good reason:


That’s the lodge! Yikes..

And here’s Peter actually climbing up to the roof of the kitchen.. this shot taken from inside the lodge looking up through the ceiling..


We figured we’d get our annual cabin shot. Here are Jim and Peter on sitting on the stoop of our favorite cabin #5…


It’s both pathetic and brilliantly traditional. Look for it on a Christmas card…

Here are a pair of lovely shots of Pothole Dome one down the meadow, the other close up. Hardly any cars on the road. The popular trailheads had lots of folks, but only hikers were around .. not the drive through folks



We decided to climb up to Cathedral Lakes from the lower Cathedral lake drainage, starting at Tenaya Lake. It was strange because there was hardly anybody at the lake — usually that’s one of the larger gathering places for summer visitors to the Tuolumne Meadows part of the park. So.. a quiet, empty lake:


Peter starting out on the trail..


A great shot of Pywiak Dome..which Peter climbed with Toren, Meredith and Toren’s dad last summer.


And then, off trail, in the drainage, heading up the slabs:


Looking back toward Tenaya Lake, and you can see a bit of Pywiak on the right..


The clouds were ominous, we started hearing thunder, seeing lightning…


We kept going and go fairly close to the lake..but then the drops started.. hiked most of the way back in a light rain… light enough to eat lunch by the lake.  It was a 6-mile day.. good enough for a first day’s acclimation, though we’d have liked to spend a lot more time exploring areas up by the lakes. Also… we saw a couple families around Tenaya, but not a soul after that.

By the time we set up for dinner, the rain had stopped.

Peter and I had our nightly gin rummy and appetizers.. and Turkovich’s The Boss.


This was a beans (baked) and rice (Lundberg’s parmesan) night. Lots of reading and a good night’s sleep.





We did it! We made it out the door. Took Peter’s car to Hoffman’s, got coffee in West Sac and hit the road sometime before noon. I only wish I’d gotten a shot of the car: about as stuffed as a car can get! No views out the side or back windows and a bit of carved out airspace for Peter in the backseat. A brief stop in Copperopolis and gas in Crane Flat, then we got to the gate:


So the way it worked was, you could access the national park — drive through, stop and hike, even backpack — but there were no services, no open stores, no campgrounds, no tent cabins. There were rangers staffing the gates and the ranger stations. The PCT and JMT were open for through hikers. The trailheads were semi-crowded with cars, but the roads were sparse. Reservations were required for park access; we made ours for a week. This meant we could come and go every day, though we had to “check in” on the day our reservation began (or lose it altogether).

We were apprehensive: what would Yosemite look like without people? If we did encounter people, would it be safe? Would everyone honor the guidelines?

We were also apprehensive because we were taking our chances that we’d find a camp spot. We wanted one as close to the Tioga gate as possible, to give us good access to all the high country hikes we wanted to take. So we didn’t dawdle once we got in. I took this picture of Tuolumne Meadows through a rain-spattered window. It felt like home, and we were all feeling sentimental, but we kept going.


We made our way through to the eastern side and once out of the park again, started looking for places. Tioga Lake campground and Junction were full. The sign at Ellery Lake (within a couple miles of other other two and less than five minutes down the hill from the Tioga gate) said full, but Peter saw what he thought was a clearing, so we checked it out, and sure enough camp space #3 was open!

We got in, paid the camp host ($12 bucks!) and began to set our campsite up.


The rain was gone… This is a view to the east, from our campsite.


Peter took off to climb Lembert Dome.. his annual arrival ritual, while Jim and I set everything else up, stashed food in the bear box, and got things ready for dinner.

Peter got back, had some apps…


Then dinner: sauteed polenta, artichoke garlic chicken sausages, spinach, tomato sauce and wine, and chocolate cake for dessert.


Not too bad for our inaugural dinner. We started to relax….


… enjoyed a gorgeous sunset, then went to bed early!


In the interest of Covid-19, we were going to sleep in separate tents, but in the end, decided to roll the dice and hope that none of had the virus (which, as I write this blog three weeks later, I can confirm that we did not). We’d already begun to let our guards down in Davis.. and certainly on the 5-hour drive to Yosemite.. so in for a penny, in for a pound became our guide.


  • Everything these days is “in the time of covid.”





Day #3 of Peter being home …

… and we are sca-rambling to pull it all together for a camping trip  (leave tomorrow, as early as we can push off).  Packing for our annual Yosemite trip involves the usual assembling of mountains of hiking and outdoor gear .. but since we’re camping this year instead of staying in tent cabins, preparing for this trip also included the excavating of long-stored camping bins (that have moved all over the place during the last year because of the house and garage remodel). We had to empty the bins and assess .. so that was yet another layer of organizing.

We are fine-tuning our strategies both for what we’ll take for an estimated five days (estimated because, I mean, what if we hate camping? Or can’t find a camp spot, or the mosquitoes are bad or the forests start burning…) and how in the world we’ll get it all into the car. This undertaking also includes meal planning .. which .. we’re finding ourselves sort of unprepared for.

[Jim and I are apparently in denial that we are actually camping, after two decades of tent cabins. Glamping, some call it — a bed, a wood burning stove, a bathroom with showers and electricity, all meals prepared (and cleaned up) by lodge chefs and helpful staff — is just very nice.. but not to be during a global pandemic.]

And… because Peter’s just come home, we were also dealing with great piles of unwashed clothing and even greater piles of belongings spilling out of Peter’s room and strewn throughout the hallway, his bathroom, the living room, kitchen and laundry room… stuff he’d accumulated over his four years at UCSD.

Shocked I don’t have a photo of all this.

So, anyway. In the middle of this house pandemonium and camping mobilizing, Peter says he’s got to send a photo off to UMich for his student ID card. Could we please take a nice photo? That was a lot more fun, I gotta say. Took many dozens, in different shirts, with different backgrounds and even different cameras.


I think he went with the upper right one.


It’s still so nice to have this guy around:


We took a nice walk today and ended up at Mishka’s for coffee and so much fun conversation. I treasure this.

Tonight, a tiny celebration.. a split of prosecco, some chocolate cake.. and, at long last opened a few cards from family and friends:


And a toast: graduation, a job well done!


Aww… my guys.



Seems Like Old Times

July 16, 2020

Oh my god, it’s good to have Peter home. Some shots:

Within, I’d say, 6 minutes of arriving (at 12:45am by the way), Peter found his way to the piano and begin playing through his repertoire. Even though late, I plunked down to listen and stare adoringly (out of view, I hope). I snuck this pic.


He’s also been playing a lot of guitar in the last 24 hours since he’s been home. This was taken by Wes down in La Jolla a week ago, but it’s a familiar sight hereabouts:


And the usual discourses.. this one on that classic “100 prisoners problem.”

The 100 prisoners problem is a mathematical problem in probability theory and combinatorics. In this problem, 100 numbered prisoners must find their own numbers in one of 100 drawers in order to survive. The rules state that each prisoner may open only 50 drawers and cannot communicate with other prisoners. At first glance, the situation appears hopeless, but a clever strategy offers the prisoners a realistic chance of survival. Danish computer scientist Peter Bro Miltersen first proposed the problem in 2003.

He lives for this kind of stuff. If you want to know how to solve it:


It took Peter a few days, but he did solve it and explains to Jim here:


Jim looks like he’s going to wring the life out of that polkadot napkin.


It’s a Lot

July 15, 2020

  • Chris had a stroke. He’s at Torrance Memorial for at least a night for testing. He seemed very perky on the phone, he feels fine, there appears to be no damage. Cardiologist is on his way. He’s wondering… heart attack and stroke in the last week… what in the world is next? Chris says, “Something’s wrong with Chris.”


  • Michael’s biopsy revealed multiple myeloma. They will begin aggressive treatment and he’ll be a person who is living with and managing cancer from here on out. Simultaneously, Matt’s dealing with his own forever condition that will require lifelong management. Matt says, “We all have something.”


  • Peter’s due home in an hour. We haven’t seen him since mid February. He left La Jolla yesterday morning. Moved out, done with that part of his life. He called when he was passing Harris Ranch on his way to Berkeley to pick up a friend for a couple of days of Sierra backpacking. He pinged us when they settled for the night (about 8pm) (always thrilling), somewhere in the high Sierra. He called a little while ago to say they bailed out due to weather; he was dropping Ryan off in Berkeley again and coming home. I am besides myself to see him. And… we need to distance and practice safe togetherness. Anxious about that. Significant risk management ahead.


  • Jim, Peter and I are planning on a trip to the high Sierra to hike.. and presumably to camp somewhere outside the park. Leave on Sunday. We just can’t miss a summer in Yosemite.  Eager to spend days off the grid, in the mountains, hiking and being together with my guys (but not too together). It won’t be our usual Tuolumne Meadows experience. I am quite apprehensive. See above.


  • When we return, Peter will begin the enormous job — both logistically and emotionally —  of packing and planning his cross country move to Michigan to begin a whole new chapter in his life story. A significant blind dive into a new life. During a pandemic. So. Much. Uncertainty.


That is just a lot of stuff going on. I actually don’t have a photo that goes with all of that.

I do have a pic of our tent. Jim found it and set it up yesterday. It’s a tiny bit worse for wear (though not much wear in the last 15 years, maybe more). But we think it’ll work for Jim and me.. we may have Peter bring his own tent! See above.





Good Sign

July 14, 2020

Folks came together over the weekend and painted this giant sign along Second Street in downtown Davis.

davis blm

Photo credit: I’m not sure.. the photo’s been circulating on Facebook. I’m using it and don’t know whom to credit.. but it’s a great drone shot.

Vicki and I had coffee at Mishka’s this morning — that tuft of trees in the lower left hand corner of the above photo. I walked around and around and tried to get a photo that captured the hugeness and beauty of it. It stretches over the better part of the block between E and F.



It’s good, I like it. I hope it means people are noticing, that they are ready to listen, to reflect, to learn, to act. Repeat.

I’ll take this as a sign that we are.  It’s a good sign.

Monday Memes

July 13, 2020

I am in such a blah mood. I shared with Jim tonight at dinner my list of grievances. He was more impressed I’d actually made a list of grievances than he was with my grievances. I get that. I’m a weirdo.  Just sharing my list made me feel better, though. In the greater scheme of things, all pretty trivial. Interesting how that works.

I’m not in a mood to write, so I’m going to have myself a Meme Monday. Here are some pretty great virus-related memes I’ve collected in the last couple weeks:






naive stupid


pres bs