Smedberg lake – tuolumne meadows
25.9 miles.
4293ft up. 4914ft down.

Catwater was physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. I felt like she really needed to get to town today, and also selfishly I really wanted to get to town today and not spend another night in my broken tent. I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t know how to play it.

I didn’t think going off ahead would work, because she has a tendency to take a lot of breaks and she would just stop and camp if she felt she wanted to. Plus, it’s not nice to feel you are playing catch up all the time. So I opted for being behind and kind of pushing her onwards. But I also know its not nice to feel like there is someone breathing down your neck so I made sure I hung back a bit.

In the morning we agreed that if we reached Glen Aulin by 4:30 then we would push on to Tolumne Meadows. So I tried my hardest to make sure we got there before 4:30. I knew she would have trouble justifying camping then.

We set off and I hung back to take photos, letting Catwater take the lead and set the pace. We made it up and over Benson Pass. Here is this lady, who is down both physically and mentally, who is in her 60s – basically twice my age, who is hiking this trail for the second time and she has just taken Benson Pass in her stride. If you’re looking for an inspiration her she is:

Now if I had been on my own I would have just carried on without stopping, but I know Catwater – and most other normal people – like to take a few breaks. But I got antsy every time we sat down and I would hover – part of my made up on the spot plan – so we wouldn’t stay too long. But being behind her today wasn’t just about getting to town, it was making sure she was ok too.

I tried to be positive, to tick off the difficult bits, to celebrate only having 20 miles to go, to say the uphills weren’t that bad. But I know how annoying it can be when you’re in a negative frame of mind to have someone being all perky and positive all the time, you tend to want to punch them in the face. So I was conscious of trying not to be annoying with it.

After one break she made me go ahead and I saw two people coming towards me and they shouted ‘Puff Puff!’ It was Ruth and Alex who flipped down to Walker Pass when they got to Ashland and are heading north. We stopped and had a little chat and after a little while I said we had to go because ‘we are trying to get to Tuolumne today, aren’t we?’

When we got to a creek and stopped to fill up water for the next 8 miles Catwater says to me ‘you’re being so…’ Oh god, my shoulders tensed and I prepared myself for her to say ‘you’re being such a pain in the ass, leave me alone and let me get on with it’. But she said ‘you’re being so kind‘. She knew what I was doing. But I went about it in my British way of not confronting the subject head on but by dancing around it and hoping for the best.

We made the final big climb of the day out of McCabe creek and when we reached the top we had basically 7 miles of downhill where we could make up some time. Catwater was ahead of me for the first half, we were flying along at 3mph. We stopped for food and she satellite texted her friend to tell her we would make it to Tuolumne today. Awesome, so she thinks she can carry on.

I flew down the next half and made it to Glen Aulin at 4pm. Mission accomplished. I stood on the bridge and absorbed the view for a while until Catwater came down the trail.

We had 5.7 miles to go to highway 120 and I was determined to make it there before it got dark. My goal was before 7pm. The trail has a few steep rocky switchbacks, we saw some day hikers who had no intention of yielding to us uphill hikers so we stood out of the way to let them past. It was sandy in places and in others the trail was marked by cairns as it crossed the large expanses of flat rock.

Soda spring, a weird bubbly sulphuric natural thing

I pushed hard and got to the road at 6:32pm. I got instantly cold so I put all my layers on and sat on a picnic bench and ate my leftover goldfish. A few cars came in and out and then one pulled right up next to me. ‘Are you Puff Puff?’ came a voice through the window. It was Noreen, Catwater’s friend. I bundled my stuff into her car and we drove down the road to meet Catwater. She was right there coming up to the road, she also made it before it got dark. Pow.

We drove to the Whoa Nellie Deli and had their World Famous Fish Tacos. They were good.


I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.




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