On Tuesday morning, my eyes wouldn’t open when I woke up. My eyelashes were crusted over and stuck together. The last time this had happened to me, I was seven and I had panicked. I didn’t panic this time, but simply groaned, “Aw-w-w-w, shit.” I hoped I did not have now what I’d had when I was seven.
I got my eyes open after some careful rubbing and working the crust out. I went straight to Moose. Before I had even said anything, Moose saw my eyes and said, “Uh, oh.” She was thinking pink eye, too. Moose referred to the nearest medical opinion…Anne! Anne was a certified EMT. She thought it was pink eye, too.
This wasn’t looking good. Three out of three people with educated opinions thought it was pink eye. Moose remembered that the Sierra Club group still camped up at the High Sierra Camp had a doctor.
“Let’s go see if he takes drop-ins! Oh…and stay away from the dish line this morning.” One thing we knew for certain about pink eye is that it is highly contagious. Nobody even wanted to sit near me that morning.
Sure enough, the good Sierra Club doctor was happy to examine me. He only had rudimentary instruments, though. He could not make a certain diagnosis, and he thought it was likely to be pink eye, but he said it could also be a less contagious simple infection.
“I’d see if it clears up on its own. If it hasn’t cleared up by Thursday, you should go down to the clinic and have it checked.”
Thursday. I was doomed. Moose had hiked out several times already to deal with various issues. She had always had to hike out on a Thursday. We both knew this wasn’t going to be cleared up by Thursday, and Moose was going to have to hike out again.
The one good thing about my eye problem…with the specter of pink eye over me, nobody wanted me anywhere near the dish line! I had a legitimate three-day pass from washing dishes.
On Wednesday morning, I woke up with my eyes crusted shut. I think I worked The Mound that day. You don’t need to see very well to crush rock.
On Thursday morning, I woke up with my eyes crusted shut. Moose and I gathered our stuff for our hike down to Tuolumne. We hiked up past the High Sierra Camp and took the familiar left turn down the Rafferty Trail. We hadn’t gone far when we heard stock approaching from behind. Horses and mules spook easily, so protocol for hikers encountering them on the trail is to stand still on the uphill side of the trail and quietly let them go by. Moose and I moved off the trail to the uphill side and turned to watch the mules pass by.
It was a string of Curry Company mules. Curry was the concession that ran all of the ‘touristy’ stuff in Yosemite. This was a mule string running the High Sierra Camp loop. They were taking paying guests from Vogelsang to Tuolumne Meadows, and then to continue on tomorrow to the Glen Aulyn High Sierra camp.
I noticed that Moose had stuck out her thumb like a hitchhiker. I laughed and thought that was a great joke, so I stuck my thumb out, too.
The packer actually brought the mule string to a halt. Most of the mules had riders. A few of them had tarpped loads with all of their gear.
“Need a lift?” asked the packer, a young Hispanic lady as she pushed her Stetson up off her forehead.
“Got any extra saddles to Tuolumne?” Moose asked.
“It just so happens that a few people decided to hike down to Tuolumne today instead of ride, so I do. Back there.” The packer motioned back to the string.
I could not believe that I was actually hitchhiking a ride out of the Backcountry.
As we walked to our mules, Moose said, “This packer is a former Corpsmember that I know. I knew that if she had extra saddles, she’d let us ride.”
Seven miles is still the longest I’ve ever ridden in a saddle in one day.