|Vogelsang Peak, 11516
ft / 3510 m, Fletcher Peak, 11408 ft / 3477 m
The previous evening I had gone over to Rich's house in the foothills and we had ridden a couple of mountain bikes on a beautiful trail near his house. The trail followed along side the American River and then parts of Folsom Lake and offered nice views from almost any place on it. It took us a little bit more than an hour to finish the sections of the trail Rich had found adequate as a little warm up for the next day's hike and Terri, Rich's wife, picked us up somewhere near the lake, because doing a loop that would lead us back to the house would have meant doing a substantial uphill part and we were in no mood for that.
Back at the house we debated our program for the next day, notably whether to sleep a few hours and leave in the early morning hours or whether to leave pretty much after dinner and drive through the night in order to start hiking with headlamps once at the trailhead. Because we had made good experiences with the latter approach on Shasta and a few other mountains in the past, we opted for leaving at 11pm (which would still give me about 90 minutes of sleep). Our goal for the next day were Vogelsang Peak and Florence Peak out of Tuolumne Meadows and we were looking at a 4-5 hour drive to the trailhead.
We were on the road by 11.15pm and got to the trailhead by about 3:30 in the morning. Rich had done most of the driving after not having slept at all, while I had caught another 2 hours of sleep or so. But at the trailhead I was still very tired. Maybe it would have been better not to have slept at all. I drank the rest of the mountain dew, hoping that it would give me some kind of kick, and after packing our gear (we took one pair of crampons and an ice axe for the two of us) we were on the trail by 4am. An almost full moon was out, but the beginning of the trail leads through trees and we had to use both our headlamps. This was especially necessary because we could not find the trail right away. We found the start of it, but once approaching the river, bit granite slabs caused the trail to be difficult to find and we had to search around a bit. We had done a hike from this trailhead once before, the legendary Mount Lyell day hike, but on that occasion too we had started hiking during the night and faced the same initial problems.
Soon, however, we had crossed the first bridge and shortly after that the twin bridges and I knew that we were on the right track. We followed the trail through sometimes wooded area and sometimes across meadows. It was still very dark and a couple more times we almost lost the trail until we had left the granite slabs and found ourselves in the woods. After about half a mile we came to an intersection. All intersections on this trail are marked with metal plates which were perforated with the names and distances of the destinations of each trail. If we would have stayed on this trail we would have ended up in Lyell Canyon, but we turned right towards Vogelsang High Sierra Camp and Vogelsang Pass, which from this point was still a respectable 8 miles away. After we turned right, onto the Rafferty Creeks Trail, the trail began to ascend steeply through the heavily wooded area. This was the only part of the day (except for a few short sections on Vogelsang and Fletcher) that we had to deal with any notable incline). The trail ascended about 1000 feet over the next quarter of a mile before leveling out again and just gradually inclining all the way to Vogelsang Pass. Vogelsang Pass after all was barely 2500 feet above Tuolumne Meadows and distribute that over 9 or so miles does not yield a lot of elevation gain.
At this point it was getting light on the horizon and I was beginning to feel very tired. It went to an extreme, when I realized that I was falling asleep while walking. I would find myself tipping over and just catching myself before tipping over. I was losing balance every so often and the fairly monotonous trail did not help either. Rich was moving much faster than me at this point, but always waited for me to catch up. My falling asleep was familiar to me from driving, but it had only happen to me once while actually walking or engaging in a physical exercise and that had been on the Oxfam 100km run/hike two years ago. My remedy for whenever that happens to me while driving is to pull over and take a 10 minute power nap. I mentioned that to Richard and he agreed that it would be better to get me in shape again before continuing. In addition he also needed a ten minute break for some personal business. I therefore lay down under a pine tree and quickly fell into a deep slumber.
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This page was last updated: July 10, 2010