What started out as a typical day of hiking soon turned into anything but typical. Little did we know that there was a wildfire raging just outside the eastern entrance to the Park, off Highway 120 leading into Toulamne Meadows! To start with the hiking; we were hardly acclimated to the high elevation (7,500 – 8,250 feet). After some study and debate, we chose a hike starting at Porcupine Creek, east of the Toulamne Meadows visitor center. This hike held great promise. With moderate elevation gain and the promise of a reward at the end, we were hooked. The fact of the matter, though, was it was pretty tough going. Lots of ups and downs and temperature in the high 80’s had us huffing and puffing, with lots of breaks to catch our breath. After 4 miles we had our reward: a commanding view of Half Dome, Glacier Point, the high Sierras and Yosemite Valley. We contemplated life for an hour or so and headed back to the car.
It turns out luck was on our side. We should have stopped back at Toulumne Meadows, Olmstead Point, Lembert Dome or Tenaya Lake, but we merely slowed down for a gaze.
After passing these sites and nearing the eastern edge of the Park, we were greeted with a stopped line of cars a mile long full of people scratching their heads as to what was going on. In time, a park ranger came by to say that there was a fire coming up the other side of the mountain, opposite Highway 120 and that it “wasn’t in his jurisdiction” to escort us any further. We waited for what must have been an hour until the California Highway Patrol finally arrived to escort us out of the Park. The line of cars moved slowly down the mountainous road and all were soon struck by the visage of a wildfire underway on the crest of the mountain.
Kind of scary, but at least we were at a safe (?) distance. We were basically the last group of cars escorted out before Highway 120 was closed – for days. All along the main north south highway leaving Lee Vining people were parked all along the roadside, cell phones in hand, snapping pictures. Enough excitement for one day!