Adventures start with planning, but great adventures start when our plans fall through. When we accomplish our goals, we understand strength, but when we see a world of possibilities beyond our goals, we understand freedom. Plans create the skeletons for our adventures, but detours create the flesh.
The plan for George, Michael, and me was to make camp at Tuolumne Meadows for a few days, then head south to climb Mounts Russell, Whitney, Muir, Williamson, and Tyndall. The Rim Fire was burning on the western edge of Yosemite National Park, though, and highway 120 was closed between Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows. At the last minute, we decided to head for Sonora Pass instead.
Between traffic and dinner, we didn’t get out to Sonora until 11:00 p.m. We drove up the road toward the pass for another hour or so, then pulled off at the Cascade Creek Campground. This campground is primitive; there are no water spigots, no RV plug-ins, and no ranger-led campfire programs. It’s also cheap, and we were one of only three parties there. We quietly threw out our bedrolls here and went to sleep.
We woke up to the sun filtering through the ponderosa and the haze. The place took on an orange hue due to the Rim Fire only a few miles to the south. The campground was nearly empty. We packed up our things and took off for Sonora Pass. We stopped at Dardanelles to refill our water, then drove up to the Saint Mary’s Pass Trailhead. We planned to climb Sonora Peak, the high-point of Alpine County.
There wasn’t much to be said for this hike. It was beautiful, of course. It was also hazy. It was only a few miles of hiking round trip, and there was nothing technical or dangerous about it. We got to the summit, threw down our packs, and enjoyed the first of many luxurious summit lunches. After taking in the views, we headed back down the hill, and were at the car in an hour.
From there we drove down to Virginia Lakes, a fishing hole to the east of Yosemite National Park. The hike, the drive, and the campground at Virginia Lakes were much quieter than usual. It seems the Rim Fire had scared most people from coming up into the hills. We weren’t complaining, though, as it was easy to find a spot to park our car and lay down our sleeping bags.