Reflecting on Life through the Tuolumne River: Poopenaut Valley Trail & Rafting
I have had a river filled couple of weeks here in July, enjoying the wonders of the wild and scenic Tuolumne & Clavey Rivers. Great for the hot weather, and even better for the heart.
I return to reading and remembering the words of Lao-Tzu sometimes when I feel lonely, as I have recently after hearing of the passing of my Granny from my family back in Michigan. I am not a scholar of these writings at all, but I find comfort in a holistic life view. And, for some reason when I read many of the passages I cannot help but think of metaphors to water, rivers, lakes and oceans. The flow, the way it can turn into clouds and humidity in our air, the way it can be both soothing and deadly. Having the opportunity to go to the Tuolumne has helped me feel more connected with my surroundings, and in turn with everyone I am missing here in California.
Poopenaut Valley Trail, Yosemite
Trailhead: Evergreen Road inside the Hetch Hetchy entrance to the park, about 4ish miles past the Ranger station the trailhead is signed on the left. There is a small pullout on the right with enough room for may 3 cars if everyone park nicely/has compact vehicles. See on map
Distance: 1.3 miles straight down the canyon, than same 1.3 miles straight back up. Meaning a very quick but tiring 2.6 mile hike.
I hiked Poopenaut Valley trail by myself one Thursday afternoon, choosing it to get to the river because I never gone that way before, and I knew that the trail would not be crowded. This hike is too strenuous to attract the normal swimming hole visitors, and is located in a part of Yosemite that doesn’t become too crowded anyhow (Hetch Hetchy). And I can understand why Curtis was alright letting me have this hike all to myself – there was poison oak all along the trail and I am surprised that the grade of this trail does not cause more erosion than it appears to have. Plus, the trail does have an unfortunate name, Poopenaut Valley… really? Who named this?
Once I got down to the river though, it was wonderful. The water in Tuolumne directly downstream of the dam is immensely cold, but oddly calm and wide during this low flow time. I told Curtis that the Tuolumne here reminded me of Michigan rivers, big and slow moving, although I would be hard pressed to find such a steep river canyon in Michigan.
I did not run into another person for the entirety of my hike & swim down in Poopenaut Valley, although I did see quite a few birds and ants (be careful on those tempting sun rocks! It’s a trap). I was slightly concerned about bears since I have seen a couple while in Hetch Hetchy, and made sure to make some aimless talking whenever I got spooked by how perfect this area would be for a bear lair. Ants and posion oak withstanding it turned out to be a very relaxing trip, a nice way to visit the river. More photos in the Gallery below
Rafting the Tuolumne
Another way in which I was able to experience the Tuolumne this past week was through a one day raft trip, spanning approximately 18 river miles. Rafting is the wild and scenic Tuolumne in the Stanislaus National Forest is a unique experience: The length of the river does not have any major road crossing/nearby, and only a handful of rarely use trails – meaning that rafting is one of the only ways people see this part of the river up close.
I have never been rafting before, and was a little nervous about the “World Class Whitewater,” although it is a low flow period with just enough water being released by Hetch Hetchy to allow rafting once daily. Luckily river guides are apparently very good at helping newbies not to freak out/fall out/die, and told us when to paddle and helped to explain the rapids to us.
Rafting the river was exhilarating! And beautiful! And I am so grateful for the opportunity to get out there.
Reflecting on it, I like to think of my Granny as a fellow adventurer, someone I am grateful to have in my (cheesy pun alert) “Life Raft.” I remember how she loved exploring Europe, without a companion although she made lots of friends. I remember how she moved from house to house looking for a different view, or even making us move the furniture around in her living room when she could stand the same set-up anymore. I thought it was both crazy and sweet how she embarked on a new life journey marrying Bob and moving up to northern Michigan in the last couple years. And if you think about it, whether we are hiking down a trail, floating down a river, visiting with friends, family, and strangers, or progressing through a somewhat monotonous day, we are all part of one big adventure together.