We left May Lake as soon as we could after breakfast because we knew that we had a long day of hiking ahead.
This was the first day of the trip that I felt really good. No headache, nausea or fatigue. I had figured out at this point that all camps with showers also stocked soap so I threw away my soap at May Lake. Anything to save carrying a couple of extra ounces!
The distance we had to cover was 8.25 miles, with only a small elevation gain from 9270ft at May Lake to 9400ft at Sunrise. So why did it feel like we were hiking uphill all day long?
Only a little over a mile from May Lake we crossed Tioga Road and arrived shortly after that at Tenaya Lake. It was still early but we took a long break to let the girls swim in the lake for a while.
After leaving Tenaya Lake we walked through a forest of fir trees with little meadows in between. At one point we noticed hundreds of beautiful butterflies flitting around in some wildflowers and we stopped for a while to watch them.
Lunch was another stop along the trail and was delicious as usual. The HSC staff packs amazing lunches that you order the night before and pick up in the morning before you head out. We found that one lunch was more than enough for two people. We used 3L camel back bladder inserts in our packs for water and found that most days we arrived at the next camp close to empty. We did have a filtering device with us in case we needed to refill along the trail.
The place where we stopped for lunch was the beginning of a very long and strenuous uphill climb. Imagine climbing granite stairs for three hours, but the stairs were so big that you couldn’t just put one foot in front of the other. It was one foot up and then bring the opposite foot up to the same level to meet the other foot and so on. I don’t remember exactly, but I would guess that we climbed about 1 mile in those 3 hours.
On our way to the top we passed two hikers who were experiencing real exhaustion. We were legitimately concerned that they may need to be rescued. On our way to Glen Aulin on the first day we did meet two trail rescuers who are employed by the park. They were running, and one of them was barefoot! In fact, we encountered many barefoot hikers, and when my husband’s boots started to bother him on the second to the last day of our trip, he became a barefoot hiker too.
At the top of the steep climb there is a lookout where you can see Half Dome and another trail that breaks off from that point to go to Clouds Rest. We stopped there for a photo op and came across a really fun group of ladies who were visiting from Montana. They were doing calisthenics and we joined in.
At this point, we figured that we had to be getting close to camp. Boy were we mistaken! We continued to climb and came to a beautiful high meadow full of amazing green grasses, flowers, trees and a beautiful pond. We decided to go for a swim. One touch of my toe in the water revealed that it this beautiful pond was really nothing but melted ice a degree or two away from turning back into ice again. I passed on a swim but changed into my shorts.
The next challenge that we faced on this day was another uphill climb, the last push before reaching the true top of the mountain. One of the girls had the biggest meltdown of the trip at the realization that she would have to climb again. The rest of our party went on without us while I stayed to talk her down from her panicked state. This set us back about 20 minutes. When we were able to continue we walked through a wooded area and I had my first and only experience during this trip of having “the creeps”. I don’t know why or what, but something was making me feel uneasy. I radioed my dad and found that they were not far ahead of us on the trail so that made me feel a little better.
Finally we could see some little bits of white through the trees. Tents!
We were relieved to have finished a very challenging day.
The views at Sunrise Camp were beautiful. There are no showers at Sunrise due to the lack of water at this camp. The toilets are composting toilets, but they were smell free. There was very little water for handwashing, which I didn’t really like, and no swimming at this camp because there are no water features to swim in. After a long day like that, we were so tired that we didn’t care.
We went to bed early but sleep was hard to come by because the staff at Sunrise Camp were hosting prom that night. “Prom” is a celebration that the staff from all of the other High Sierra camps attend. Imagine finishing up the dinner service at a camp many miles of strenuous walking away, getting dressed up and then walking to prom at Sunrise Camp, partying with your friends and then walking back to the camp where you work to prepare and serve breakfast the next morning. That is what these guys did!
I would definitely rate the walk from May Lake to Sunrise Camp as very strenuous. For me it was the hardest day of the trip (physically and mentally).
Next up: Sunrise Camp to Merced Lake. My favorite!