The Adventures of Lyell Canyon

October 26th, 2006

October 24, 2006

The most adventurous portion of our vacation involved two incidents in Lyell Canyon near the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge.

As per the map we had in hand, we hiked across the Dana Fork and then the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. After crossing the Lyell Fork, we headed on the path along the river with the river on our left side. Beautiful views of the river, fall foliage and the granite boulders in the area greeted us at every turn.


It was too much for the girls so we stopped in one of these areas along the river and let them climb, skip and hop. Here, among the boulders and calm, cold icy stream the first incident happened. We called the girls to continue on the hike, but as Jennifer was less than a few feet from the shoreline, she slipped on a log. She fell, caught herself, but landed in the water. Breaking the thin sheet of ice, she ended up waist deep in the stream. Dressed in jeans for this warm October day, she was cold, shocked and unhappy. Mike volunteered to hike her back to the van. Thankfully, we had clean, fresh clothes in the van. Mike reported that her attitude did a 180 degree change when she feel in the ice…from not wanting to leave to hating the place…then when she got dried back 180 degrees to loving the place.

Meanwhile Jackie and I continued the hike to the next stream, Rafferty Creek. The creek was dry so we immediately turned around and went back. But as we hiked back, we noticed things were not the same. The Lyell Fork was farther back and the sights didn’t seem completely familiar. We came to a sign we hadn’t seen previously. There were three directions. We choose the direction along the river and continued onward. When we met another sign we hadn’t seen beforehand we knew we were on the wrong path. It confused us though because the river was supposed to be on our right as we were heading back. It was on our right, but things didn’t look the same. We backtracked to the first unfamiliar sign then tried the other path toward the river. Thankfully, this got us “unlost.” We found one of the bridges we had crossed earlier over the Lyell Fork and continued back to the van. We were 1/2 hour late and starving. Fortunately, my wise husband had gone to the van and brought lunch back to a great picnic spot.

How did we get temporarily lost? A look at the map made me realize what had gone wrong. When we turned after crossing the Lyell Fork, we headed along the river BUT we weren’t really on the path. We were on a man-made path that was so well used we thought it was the real path. So, when Jackie and I turned around, we didn’t find the man-made path, we found the real path. So that’s why things didn’t look the same at first and that’s why we came to an unfamiliar sign and that’s why we went a little farther than we should have gone. On the bright side, we now know about a great little loop trail there!

I greatly appreciated how Jackie controlled herself and her emotions while we were temporarily lost. It is scary to be “lost” but it really helps if you can just think things through. I would say we were never really lost because we could have always backtracked our steps and we had firm plans for what to do if we got to spot X or a sign that said Y. We were on an unexpected, extended adventure.

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