Summer 1982
Yosemite Run

In the summer of 1982 my brother and I ran from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley over Vogelsang Pass. My account of that run starts under the map. My account refers to various points from "A" through "G". The route we took is marked with black arrows.

I ran, with my brother, from Tuolumne Meadows, "A", up Rafferty creek, over Vogelsang Pass, "C", down into Little Yosemite Valley, "E" - "F", finishing at Happy Isles (Yosemite Valley), "G". It was a distance of almost 30 miles (29.9) on trails of dirt, rocks and sand. We started at 8,619 feet at Tuolumne Meadows, "A", climbed to 10,600 feet (Vogelsang Pass, "C") and then dropped down to 4,040 feet at Happy Isles, "G".

I knew the run was going to be intense, but I really had no idea how demanding it was going to be. I thought some concentrated and tough riding of my bicycle was all I needed to do to get in shape - was I ever wrong. At Vogelsang pass I realized I should have been running too, but oh well - it was the wrong time to realize that. I do not remember who came up with the idea. All of a sudden my brother and I were going to do this crazy run. We planned to do it. I thought I had trained for it (intense bicycle riding), while he did train for it (lots of running, he was in medical school - I don't know where he found the time) and then we did it.

We left the Tuolumne Meadows campground at 6 AM on an August morning wearing running shorts, t-shirts and running shoes. His wife was going to drive their station wagon down to Yosemite Valley and meet us at Happy Isles, "G". When we started, Unicorn Peak had the morning sun on it and Mt. Conness was silhouetted against the morning sky. I could see my breath and there was frost on the ground. I thought the running shorts were not such a good idea to start our run with, but knew as soon as the sun was higher above the horizon I would warm up. Each of us carried a day pack with water bottles, mosquito repellent, a first aid kit, sun screen and food.

Our first rest was after eight and a half miles at Vogelsang Pass, "C" (about 10,750 feet). We passed the turnoff for the Vogelsang Lake High Sierra Camp, jogged and ran 1.5 miles further to Vogelsang pass, climbing all the way. I felt pretty good, not winded in spite of the altitude, but was aware that my bicycle riding was not adequate preparation for the constant impacts of running. We drank water, scarfed energy bars, ate trail mix and applied sun screen. Vogelsang lake looked inviting, but we knew the mosquitoes would be horrible so we didn’t go back down in that direction.

We continued on and went down to Merced lake, from "C" to "D", along Lewis Creek. At that time the trail did not appear to be horse friendly to me, being narrow and rocky. The horse friendly trail (flat, wide, smooth), was along Fletcher Creek, from "B" to "D", not going over Vogelsang pass. I recall crossing the outflow of Merced lake (the Merced river) and continuing on for some distance, "E" (maybe ½ mile) before starting down a series of switchbacks into Little Yosemite Valley. We drank as much water as possible at the Merced Lake High Sierra Camp, before the trail went along the northeastern shore of Merced lake. Until Nevada Falls, "F", we only drank what we carried in our water bottles.

In little Yosemite Valley (behind Halfdome) these two rangers stopped us. We’d been going for almost ten hours. We had about 26 miles behind us. We had been running on a mostly sandy trail for about five miles. Running on sand is exhausting - I was starting to get pretty tired from that. The constant impact from my feet was wearing me down too. I almost had to sit when we stopped. I stood, swaying, breathing hard, thirsty, not saying anything.

Anyway the older ranger says, “Where you guys coming from?”

My brother says, “Tuolumne Meadows.”

The ranger says, “Where you guys going?”

My brother says, “Yosemite Valley.”

The ranger then says, “Can I see your wilderness permit?”

My brother comes back with, “I didn't know we needed one for a day hike.”

There is a moment of silence as the rangers look us over. We are wearing running shorts, t-shirts, running shoes, each carrying a day pack. The younger ranger bursts out laughing and the older one gets red faced. He turns away saying, “Carry on.”

I laughed a little.

We joined the John Muir Tail in Little Yosemite Valley, behind Half Dome, and planned to follow it down to where it departed the Vernal Falls trail to go to the stables. The John Muir Trail crosses a vertical stone face near the top of Nevada Falls. The trail had been blasted into the stone. The overhanging portion was usually dripping with water at that point. It continued horizontally for several hundred yards and started its final descent to Yosemite valley, about ½ a mile from the top of Nevada Falls, "F", almost 27 miles after we started our run.

In the spring and early summer you could get drenched on this section of the trail, not so now. The overhang still had some rivulets running down the rock face, there was water on the trail, but the soles of my shoes barely got wet and I was almost too tired to notice. My legs kind of quit working at that point and wouldn't hold me up sometimes. I fell a couple times before I figured out what was happening and knew I had to be careful.

Our jaunt was a lot more strenuous than a marathon and longer too. Rather than smooth asphalt and cement roadways, we were running on dirt, rocks, gravel, sand and bumpy asphalt (the last ½ mile), all types of uneven surfaces. To avoid Giardia (a water borne intestinal parasite), we drank only, and filled our water bottles, from streams that flowed into the valley(s) or from melting snow banks. It was August so we hadn’t seen a snow bank since Vogelsang Pass. We didn’t carry a water purifier because of the weight and the fact that neither of us owned one. We got low on water, in Little Yosemite Valley, but wouldn’t drink out of the Merced river. We knew if we did, we would get Giardia. The first water we could trust was at the top of Nevada Falls where the Park Service had built a water fountain. We filled our water bottles and quenched our thirst there. After that stop I was somewhat revived, but still felt pretty tired.

We were moving fast enough the mosquitoes didn't know there was a movable feast nearby, from the CO2 in our breath, until after we were gone. We stayed up high and avoided the lush green meadows so we didn’t have to hassle with flying blood suckers (mosquitoes) and worse (deer flies).

Years earlier I had been chased by six deer flies from Reds Meadows along a dirt road. I managed to kill one during my two mile ‘run’. The other five did not appear daunted by their companion's demise. In fact, they appeared to redouble their efforts to land on me and bite me. My ordeal of dancing, spinning around, waving my arms, running - all while wearing a seventy pound pack, was finally ended when a rancher drove past, could see I was having difficulties and stopped his pickup to see if I needed help. I dumped my pack in the bed of the truck, hopped inside and slammed the door closed, before saying anything. The deer flies were over an inch long and a bite from one was something I wanted to avoid. I had heard from someone who had been bit, he said it was like being stabbed with a white-hot needle.

Anyway, we went down to Little Yosemite Valley/Merced Lake on a trail beside Lewis Creek, to the north of Washburn Lake and to the south of Vogelsang Lake ("C" to "D"). We filled our water bottles at the high sierra camp, before we got to Merced Lake and drank as much as we could hold, to stock up for Little Yosemite Valley. We avoided flying bugs, never using the insect repellant we carried.

The last mile and a half was pretty tough. I was exhausted and I knew as soon as I put weight on my legs, they could buckle if I wasn’t careful. I had trouble keeping focused and I had to stay alert anyway to avoid abrupt ground contact. My legs would not support me unless I put my weight directly on them which made running on uneven surfaces hard to do. I came very close to falling multiple times. We were overtaking and passing everyone on the trail. Nobody ever passed, or even tried to stay with us. The final ¼ mile was surreal. The John Muir Trail had gone off to the left to the stables, I was utterly exhausted, but kept going to the end of the trail, to Happy Isles. We had completed the craziest thing I will ever do, though I was too tired to care at trail’s end.

I wish the small digital cameras of 2010 had been developed at the time we did the run in 1982. My brother had a Nikon SLR and it weighed so much, we never considered taking it. The final mile was hard to do. If the last section hadn’t been downhill, I doubt I could have made it. My leg muscles were quivering, spasming and cramping from almost 30 miles of pounding impacts. At that time you could still drive and park near Happy Isles, "G". That’s where my brother's wife parked the station wagon. It was about 5 PM when we finally reached the end of our run. We had covered almost 30 miles at altitude over some really tough trails in 11 hours.

There were shadows in Yosemite Valley, though the sun was still above the western wall(s). I kind of remember collapsing at Camp Curry, eating a fish burger, watching the shadows get longer, drinking a beer, being aware of what I had just done and being too tired to care. I slept during the drive back to Merced.

It’s been almost 27 years since we did the run. I remember how we would not drink out of the Merced River. We got really thirsty near the bottom of Little Yosemite Valley and kept going to the top of Nevada Falls. We quenched our thirst there and filled our water bottles at the drinking fountain the Park Service had constructed. The interaction with those rangers is verbatim. I was really tired and said nothing. My brother talked to them. I am not sure what the older guy said at the end. It might have been, “Get out of here.” The other stuff he said and my brother’s response was so classic. In spite of feeling wrung out I laughed a little.

My brother remembers the run also. The John Muir trail diverges from the Vernal Falls trail about a mile from Happy Isles as my brother’s e-mail points out.

From: ""

To: "anthony -------"
Biking is a different excercise (no impact so the quads are toned in a different way) I remember how jelly mine were the last mile down from Vernal Falls. .. a camera would have been great ie a nice small digital one. . . .

That run is the most outrageous thing I will ever do. I am immensely proud of my brother and myself for doing it. Now, when I get into thinking I’m a loser and a weenie, I think about doing this run and those thoughts go away.

I completely forgot about the events of the summer of 1982 until November 23, 2009. That is the date repairs were completed to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland. I have a degree in Biochemistry which involved a lot of Physics and Mathematics classes. Along the way I delved deeply into Physics research and experiments. I had been following the construction and use of the LHC avidly. Events of a year later (in 1983 I fell about 160 feet [maybe 165 feet] rock-climbing), plus the lack of photographs, caused me to forget the summer of 1982 for almost 27 years. Anyway, I was thinking about the LHC and something about the summer of 1982 started to come back to me out of the mists-of-time.

I thought and concentrated, being careful not to 'remember' events that had not occured. I remembered what we had done that summer. I was amazed that I had forgotten, that no one had mentioned it. The fact that I could forget for so long illustrates the magnitude of my accident. If I had taken pictures, I would have been aware of what I had done - without the lag time. Oh well . . .
To read about my accident, click accident details.

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