Sunday, August 21, 2011
I had yet another marvelous weekend hiking at high altitude. This time I hiked exclusively in Yosemite National Park near the eastern entrance of the park. I managed to escape work (with permission of my manager) at noon and drove to the Oh Ridge campground at June Lake on Friday.
I arrived at June Lake at about 5:30 p.m. and checked in with a friendly lady who was glad I showed up as "someone was Jonesing for my site" and she was glad she stuck to her guns and kept telling them someone had it reserved. That someone being me. I was at site 53 at Squirrel loop. This was a very well signed campground and it was very easy to find my site. I set up my tent and then had a lunchy dinner meaning I ate lunch food for dinner. I had salami and swiss cheese on crackers and a bottle of Super Food orginal. Yum.
As I sat eating I discovered the flaw of Oh Ridge campground. A stiff wind blows off of the lake in the evenings and it gets chilly quickly when the sun sets. Oh well. I wasn't really camping for fun but camping for a cheap place to sleep and this campground did the trick. I was warm inside my tent all night. It just wasn't conducive to hanging out at the campsite to read a nice book in my lawn chair. Instead on night two at the campground, I read my book inside my car where the wind didn't seep in and it was nice and cozy. Friday evening I did take a short walk to June lake and saw the beach where one is allowed to swim if one so desires. I never did because it was chilly when I got back from hikes.
Saturday morning I got up early and ate a quick breakfast and headed to the Mobile gas/store/restaurant at Lee Vining where I got myself a nice hot cup of coffee and sipped it while admiring the view of Mono Lake out the window. After coffee, I drove to Tioga Pass and into Yosemite to the Mono Pass trailhead parking lot. When I got there there were only about four parking spaces left. I snagged one and used the restroom there and then sat down to put on my hiking boots and find a nice spot to settle down and wait for the Ranger led hike that was set to start at 9:15 a.m. It was 8:15 when I got to the lot. I managed to wander around the lot and the trail head amusing myself by day dreaming and trying to find a spot where the mosquitos would not find me. I finally found a spot and sat there till Ranger Salli arrived. She arrived at 9:05. For the next twenty five minutes we chatted and she spoke to others at the lot and found one other taker for her hike, M. She gave both M. and I a chance to spray insect repellant on ourselves and we both accepted.
We set off on our hike to Mono Pass at 9:30 a.m. The first bit of the hike was through beautiful woods and meadows full of "spring" wildflowers in August! We had to cross two streams but with Salli's knowledge we had very easy crossings (she knew where the hefty log was located to get us across). The first portion of the hike was ever so slightly up hill. Salli told us all about the plants, the animals, and the history of the trail. It was an animal trail originally and then became a native american trading trail and then the Europeans arrived and started using it and hoped to find gold, silver etc. to mine. She told us about the ground squirrels, an animal called the pika, the birds we saw, and some stuff about geology. I got a little overloaded on information at times and tuned her out a little. But it was great for me, a very active hike leader for the Sierra Club, to have a chance to be a follower and not be responsible for anyone but myself!
The last bit of the hike to Mono Pass goes up hill. My heart got beating really fast because of the high altitude (the pass is at 10,599 feet). We reached the pass and it was beautiful. We could see a lake in a green meadow and great views of Mammoth Peak, Mt Gibb, and others whose names I forget. We hiked .3 miles past Mono Pass to Sardine lakes and a great view of Mono Lake. We had lunch here. Ranger Salli was accosted by a gang of men with tons of questions and while M. and I enjoyed our lunch she patiently answered all their questions. She did a very good job and loved being questioned by them. While she did her job, I borrowed her binoculars and scanned the hillside of Mt Gibb for Big Horned sheep. Salli has been told that they hang out there but she has never seen them. I did not see any either. Both M. and I finished our lunches and when Salli was done answering questions we retraced our steps back to the parking lot. On the way back we saw a deer and we saw an old miner's cabin that we missed on the way out because we were admiring an incredible meadow full of wild flowers across from the cabin! In the last quarter mile, my feet started to complain but not the rest of me. We arrived at the lot at 4 p.m. I did not dilly dally and talk more with Ranger Salli as the mosquitos were thick at the trail head so I wanted to pop in my car to escape them and start heading back to my camp.
I drove down to Lee Vining and decided to stop at the Mobile restaurant and have dinner there rather than cook something at the cold windy campsite. I had a big half pound burger, french fries, and a coke. Not very healthy but oh so satisfying. It felt good to sit down. I munched on my burger and fries while people watching. It was very crowded. The food was decent but I believe it was crowded because the location is so good. All those people streaming out of Yosemite and folks driving north and south along 395 stop there to eat on their ways elsewhere. After finishing I drove the 11 miles down the road to June Lake and spent a couple of hours in my car reading. At 8 p.m. I shifted to my tent and continued to reading. By 8:30 my eyes were closing so I put the book away and went to sleep.
On Sunday I was up at 6 a.m. I took down my tent right away and packed up the car with most of my camping gear. I then had a bowl of cereal and banana at the campsite picnic table while gazing at the lake. It was not windy in the mornings but was still cool until the sun came up. I finished up my breakfast and packed the rest of my gear in the car and left the campground. I again stopped at the trusty Lee Vining mobile station for another cup of coffee. Then I drove to Tioga Pass and parked in the little lot there. Just past the Yosemite entrance gate is a little lot that holds maybe 10 cars. At 8 a.m. there were several spots still left. I snagged one, stuffed my cooler into the bear locker, used the restroom, put on my sun screen, and headed off on the Gaylor Lake trail to, surprise, Gaylor lake.
I had the trail to myself. I went at a slowish pace as the trail starts at 9943 feet and climbs about 600 feet to a saddle of sorts just below Gaylor Peak. The views from the saddle were incredible and I took lots of pictures. I then descended to Gaylor Lake. It was so blue and so gorgeous. When I got to the lake I followed a trial to one end of it and then followed a use trail next to a creek. The mosquitos were thick there so I nicknamed the trail mosquito alley. If I kept moving, they didn't seem to land on me so I kept up a good pace on the trail till I reached what I think was middle Gaylor Lake. I took a quick picture of it and then continued my quick pace. When I reached the end of the first Gaylor Lake, I finally ran into another hiker. It had been a treat to have the trail to myself for the out portion of my hike. As I retraced my steps I ran into 4 other parties of hikers. But it didn't feel crowded like some of the more popular hikes at Yosemite feel. I reached the cars at 10 a.m.
I retrieved my cooler from the bear locker, used the handsome restroom a second time, and hit the road to go back to the bay area. I decided to stop at Olmstead Point on 120 to admire the view of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and Tenaya lake. Olmstead Point is this big old parking lot off of highway 120 within Yosemite with awesome views of the valley. A Yosemite conservation volunteer had set up a scope today aimed at Half Dome. I took a look through it and saw it was focused on the cables on Half Dome and I watched some people climbing up the cables for a little bit. I then snapped several pictures of the views and had one of the volunteers take a picture of me. Then I hit the road again. I made a few more stops: a bathroom break at a wonderful vista point/rest area just outside of Yosemite and a Starbuck's stop in Oakdale for an iced mocha to perk me up for the boring drive on highways 205, 580, 680, 237, and 101 to home!
I took scads of pictures and posted them here