Friday, September 18
We broke camp early and hiked west out of Pleasant Valley up 1400 feet to a ridge of Rancheria Mountain. We had excellent views of the canyon of Paiute Creek up to the Sawtooth Range. The canyon resembles Tenaya Canyon with spires and domes of granite. We crossed a long ridge of the mountain thru sierra cabbage meadows and trail sections overgrown with ferns and brush. Few people see this only trail from Pate Valley to Hetch Hetchy. We stopped at a flowing creek – the water on the hike was ample -- and started down the 3000 ft drop to Rancheria Creek.
As we descended the south wall of the narrow section of Hetch Hetchy could be seen but not the water. Half of Hetch Hetchy can only be seen from this trail or by air, only partially, and by so few. As we neared Le Conte Point, I scrambled up some rocks and could see Kolana Rock. Le Conte is near the trail and like other point in the park must offer spectacular views, but has no trail up to the point. Pete and I pondered how to open up the grand canyon to more visitors by a better lower trail.
The views of Hetch Hetchy were striking and sad. We arrived at camp and cooled off in the pools of the creek only to be met by two park rangers who reminded us that we were prohibited from swimming at the site within the one mile radius of the lake but could swim just upstream as if that made a difference. (Not sure how they measure the one-mile limit – as crow flies or as creek courses.) We met Mark and Laurie, had a great spaghetti and wine dinner, followed with joking and star gazing and to bed in prep for tomorrow's festivities.