After my brief water break, I tossed my pack back on and continued on downhill. It was a great day to walk, and I was cruising. As I wandered the switchbacks, getting lower and lower, the valley really opened up in front of me. I flew downhill, and was cruising. My lungs felt great and I found my groove, my perfect pace -- where I was going quick, but not exerting myself so much that I had to stop every 2 minutes to catch my breath.
It was absolutely gorgeous that day, but as it began to heat up a bit, I knew I had a (relatively) long dry stretch coming up, so I stopped for another snack and to refill my water by a gorgeous lake.
Suddenly, while wandering down a long straight stretch of trail, I saw a beautiful buck, about 200 yards away, running towards me. I stopped, fumbled to get my phone out and watched it in silence. It kept coming closer, and closer... finally when it was about 20 yards away, still charging full tilt towards me, I yelled out, "HEY DEER". It immediately froze and then wandered off into the woods.
As I continued down the path, I went to peek at the deer, and he turned back to look at me... I managed to snap a fairly awesome picture (if I do say so myself).
I kept plowing forward, and shortly after a break by the Triple Peak Fork of the Merced river, I started to climb the switchbacks towards Isberg Pass. My body still felt great as I wandered up, and I came to the tarns below the pass, there was still plenty of daylight and almost no clouds... and I briefly considered continuing with my plan of making it over the pass that evening.... but just looking around, I knew I'd found my campsite for the night.
He was on his way on a 5 day trip, wandering all over Yosemite, and he'd swapped keys with his brother, halfway while they were walking to one another's cars.
He knew the mountains the same way I knew Milwaukee. The peaks, the passes, everything. I wish I knew an area of the outdoors as well as he knew that area of Yosemite.
That day of walking was probably the most beautiful I'd ever experienced, and as the sun began to set it only became more spectacular.
My only regret is that I didn't snap pictures when I woke up in the middle of the night, the stars were simply incredible.