I left home in Medford, Oregon on Wednesday afternoon August 17, 2005, for a hiking vacation. My first destination was Parsons Peak in Yosemite National Park. I am a County Highpointer and I only have 5 counties left to complete the state. It is a long drive to Yosemite from Oregon, but I made good progress and right at dusk I turned up Hwy 120 towards Tioga Pass from Hwy 395.
There was a little black Mazda ahead of me that was going slow and I was going to pass him at the first opportunity when all of a sudden, a deer jumped in front of the Mazda and he hit the deer solid. That poor deer was launched in the air at least 15 ft high and I had to take emergency braking maneuvers to avoid having that deer join me in the cab of my truck. Fortunately, I missed the deer and the little Mazda, but the poor deer was gone from this world.
I continued carefully up to Tioga Pass and entered Yosemite National Park. Descended down to Tuolumne Meadows and turned left towards the lodge and the Ranger Information Station. I circled the Ranger Information Station and noted that no one was manning the booth at this late hour. I continued on towards the lodge and found a big parking lot on the left for hikers. I pulled in and found an isolated parking spot on the north side and parked. I stored all my food in one of the large bear lockers because I didn’t want any visitors in the middle of the night. I crawled into the back of my truck and went to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a long day.
I woke early at about 4:15AM and started to get ready for my hike. By 5:00AM I was ready and headed out wearing a headlamp so I could see the trail. The trail started on the south side of the parking lot and was well marked, elevation here is about 8,700ft. I headed out slowly, crossed a couple of bridges, found the John Muir/ Pacific Crest Trail and headed south. I hiked for a couple of miles before I could see well enough to turn off my headlamp. It had rained the previous afternoon and there were puddles on the trail in spots. I hoped there would be no thunderstorms today.
The miles clicked off quickly, I passed several campsites with tents pitched, but no one was out and about this early in the morning. Within 2 hours I was at my turn off to head up to Ireland Lake. I had only gained about 200 ft in 5.7 miles from the trailhead. I took a little breather here and took off my long sleeved shirt. It was a beautiful morning and I had worked up a nice sweat on the trail. As this trail started to climb I woke up a couple deer. They didn’t seem too afraid of me and just moved off the trail a little ways and let me pass.
This trail gains altitude and I slowed down. After another hour, 2.5 miles, and gain of about 1,500 ft there is another fork in the trail. The sign said Ireland Lake was 3 miles to the left. I took this trail. This trail wasn’t nearly as steep as the one coming out of Lyell Canyon, and I made good time. Soon I was above tree line and could finally see Parsons Peak. After only 1.7 miles I was at Ireland Lake and could see what lay ahead of me to get to the summit.
I left the trail, turned left and headed directly towards the outlet of Ireland Lake. This cross country part was easy walking through grass and wildflowers. Soon, I rock hopped across the outlet and turned towards Parsons Peak. There is a little drainage on the south side of the lake between Amelia Earhart Peak on your left and Parsons Peak on your right. I just picked the easiest route up across this area aiming for the saddle on the south side of Parsons Peak. No real obstacles here, just watched my footing because I didn’t want to sprain an ankle 12 miles from the car.
As I approached the saddle a friendly marmot scampered around and let me go by. When I finally reached the saddle all of Yosemite was laid out to the west. I could see Half Dome and hundreds of peaks I couldn’t identify. I started up the south ridge of Parsons Peak and this is just a big pile of talus. Large rocks that are pretty solid and I didn’t have any trouble finding a route to the summit.
I took a few pictures from the summit and then continued north along the summit ridge and then down to the highpoint of Mariposa County. I found a little cairn and then continued down the ridge line a little to a place that looked comfortable. It was time for a rest. It had taken me nearly 6 hours to get to my goal. I ate lunch, hydrated well, and took more pictures.
Then I took a shortcut back down to the basin on the north side of Ireland Lake. I just headed off the north ridge line directly towards the basin. This side is much steeper than the south side, but it was ok going down. I wouldn’t recommend it coming up.
I retraced my steps that I took during the morning and took all the same trails back to the car. Now, in the afternoon there were lots of hikers on the John Muir Trail. I must have passed 50 backpackers coming up the John Muir Trail to camp in the wilderness. It was a beautiful day for a hike and I have to admit I was having a lot more fun with my small daypack than these backpackers carrying their bedroom and kitchen with them.
The total hike had covered 24.1 miles, gained about 3,471 ft in elevation and had taken 10.2 miles. A long dayhike, but I’ve had longer ones.