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A Tale of Two-olumnes: The GCT Revisited

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A Tale of Two-olumnes: The GCT Revisited
July 11, 2012 10:05PM
Last year for my wife's birthday we did a non-epic day hike of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne from White Wolf to Tuolumne Meadows. This year she couldn't repeat the trip (she did help with the car shuttle!), but the two friends (who first planted the seeds for this day-hike) who couldn't make it last year we able to make it this year.

It was the exact same trip as the one eleven months ago, and it was completely different.

As reported here previously, there were some downed trees just below Harden Lake that required cutting across a few switchbacks. Trail crews had been making some progress here, but had also encountered some equipment challenges:



There were a few mosquitoes near Morrison Creek, but they were not an issue in Pate Valley. Hetch Hetchy Reservoir was still full, but given the feeble inflows from the Tuolumne, it probably won't be for long. Last year (left), the Tuolumne ran swift and deep below Pate Valley; this year (right), in many places with care it could be crossed without getting your feet wet:



The small pond near the bottom of the Morrison Creek switchbacks was dry, and the first bridge in Pate Valley crossed a stagnant pool. Pate Valley was otherwise dry--and hot. We encountered many more people this year than last, and most of the good campsites along the route were occupied. Almost all the parties were travelling down-river, one exception being a small Sierra Club group that we passed near the Cathedral Creek confluence.

Last year, when we arrived at the unbridged Register Creek crossing, thunderstorms were threatening us and had already swollen the creek such that the crossing was a dangerous waist-deep affair. This year (right), a dry-foot crossing even for those with very short feet:



The waterfall at this crossing provided a refreshing break from the summer heat, as did the cool breeze at the top of the Muir Gorge "bypass".



The breeze was unfortunately intermittent, and in the calm, wooded sections, small annoying flies swarmed near our faces.

Many consider the highlight of the GCT to be the series of waterfalls and cascades from Return Creek to the twin bridges above Glen Aulin. While the cascades were still enjoyable, and the low river left much more smooth granite exposed, the infamous Waterwheel was all but missing in action:



Our pace was about the same as last year, and the sun sat just after we left the Glen Aulin trail at the twin bridges to take the "Pothole-Postpile" shortcut. Only near sunset did the mosquitoes return, and only for a half hour or so.



We had left White Wolf at 5:45am and arrived at the Pothole Dome parking lot around 9:20pm; as with last year, the distance was about 30 miles.

More Pictures
avatar Re: A Tale of Two-olumnes: The GCT Revisited
July 11, 2012 10:23PM
Thanks for the trip report and the before and after photos. What a difference a year makes!
.
Re: A Tale of Two-olumnes: The GCT Revisited
July 11, 2012 10:34PM
I love the before and after pictures. Very nice.
Re: A Tale of Two-olumnes: The GCT Revisited
July 13, 2012 09:19PM
Thanks for the pictures and contrast with previous year. I am scheduled to hike up the GCT from Pate Valley to Glen Aulin and TM as the end of a longer trip the last week of July. Having never hiked this route before, I am curious as to whether you would judge it to be worthwhile in the absence of a reasonably flowing Tuolumne River? It seems that the water is probably a key feature of this hike. I'm wondering if I should think about other possible routes to end the backpack trip. Of course, maybe the GCT is super interesting without the water. What are your thoughts having just done it?

Thanks
Frank
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