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Re: Glen Aulin Reunion

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Glen Aulin Reunion
May 13, 2014 10:04PM
In what has become a bit of a tradition, we once more found ourselves wandering down the Tuolumne River towards Waterwheel Falls soon after the opening of the Tioga Road. A few years ago, under much wetter conditions, we encountered only a few parties: one who had turned back due to snow and high water, and another couple trying to use garbage bags as gaiters to stay dry in the flooded part of Glen Aulin. (Pro Tip: your feet are waterproof...)

Despite its late appearance, winter was reluctant to leave the High Sierra. A cold breeze greeted us on the top of Pothole Dome and other exposed viewpoints. There was less snow than last week, but not much less.

Our usual "Pothole Dome" route is to follow closely to the river; this time we were led over various domes which were mostly--but not completely--snow-free.


Other places looked as if the last glaciers had melted not too long ago.

From above the Tuolumne we could see that despite being near this year's peak flow, the river was low.

We did encounter a bit of snow near the river near the Little Devils Postpile portion, but it was soft enough for easy and safe traversal.

Eventually we regained the trail at the twin bridges, where the Tuolumne's series of falls begins, ending almost 5 miles later at Waterwheel Falls.

Water lovers may be disappointed towards the end of summer this year, but granite lovers will have nothing to complain about.

Tuolumne Falls itself was impressive despite the lower-than-usual water levels.

We had been doubting the forecast of clouds and snow flurries during the morning--the wind had been keeping the sky mostly cloud-free. But, as we continued towards Glen Aulin, dark clouds grew above us. Photosynth.

We were targeting a nice campsite with great views, but the strong, cold wind greatly reduced the appeal of such a location.

We eventually decided to camp a bit further down the trail, just before the flooded section of the trail. After dropping some gear--and one of our party--we continued downriver to LeConte Fall. The Mattie Lake outlet was flowing enough to flood the trail, although not nearly as deep as previous years. Still, the water was cold, especially given the chill in the air.

The sun appeared enough to bring out the reddish coloring in the rocks around California Falls.

LeConte itself was exhibiting some impressive waterwheels. Photosynth.

On the other hand, Waterwheel Fall itself was a bit of a letdown. Despite the strong up-canyon breeze, there was not enough water to create an impressive waterwheel effect.

After spending a few minutes taking pictures, we headed back to camp.

My wife had turned back at LeConte. Just above LeConte, the predicted snow flurries hit, and I rushed since I still had some important gear.

Near camp, the flurries turned to bona-fide snow.

We were able to set up our shelter and get out of the weather. We had dinner in the dark, but were in bed by 10 or so.

The next morning, the combination of the previous day's trail-wade and the cold nighttime temperatures was apparent. (My hiking shoes were similarly solid...)

We opted not to ice-climb the Mattie Lake falls.

After a leisurely morning in camp waiting for the sun to thaw out everything, we headed back to our cars. At White Cascade, we decided to split: one party would go up the river on the north, then cross to the Pothole Dome trail/route; the other would follow the trail to Soda Springs.

The north side was new to me and is definitely a recommended cross-country alternative to the normal trail--especially once the mule trains start stocking the High Sierra Camp.

Unlike the previous evening, the sky was clear, although the breeze that the forecast had said would end by morning continued throughout the day.

A few patches of ice here and there reminded us of the previous night's freeze.

After our party regrouped for lunch near the twin bridges, we separated again, and the "fetch the cars" party retraced its footsteps back up-river.

Well, perhaps not exactly....

..deciding instead to check out a different set of domes on the way back.

There's a lot of very interesting country just west of Pothole Dome that's certainly worth exploring. Photosynth.

After a bit of gratuitous mountaineering, we dropped back into the forest, where we quickly encountered a significant use trail that led more or less back to Pothole Dome. After enjoying the views a bit, we returned to our cars and drove to re-unite our party once more.

More Pictures
Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 13, 2014 10:30PM
As I mentioned in another thread earlier today, my only real gripe was that the water levels were so low and relatively warm!

I crave hiking through the cold water and I was only partially satisfied... Oh well!

One funny bit, at least to me: upon arriving home Sunday night, I checked on my dad (who is recovering in my house after breaking his hip 6 weeks ago. I gave him the nutshell story mentioning the lack of cold water, light snow flurries and snow patches we hiked over.

The next morning, when I was getting his breakfast ready, he said he was sorry I had a "miserable" trip. I must say I bristled. I asked him why he thought I'd had a bad time. Apparently, what I considered some of the highlights of the trip made him think "miserable"! Waaay different perspectives. I think I have a number of friends who think the same way though.

That's why having a few folks who share the same nutty love of this kind of stuff is so meaningful to me!
avatar Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 13, 2014 10:55PM

I always enjoy trip reports with lots of photos.
I kept saying "You're on the wrong side of the river!" smiling smiley
I'll have to try that Pothole Dome approach sometime. It must be easier than I thought. I've looked across the river from the trail and didn't like what I saw.

An alternative path I've done a few times is skip the boring thru the forest trail from Soda Springs:
  • instead continue down the road past Parsons Lodge to the sewage ponds
  • go past the first pond and on down the road to the second
  • go to the far side of the second and thru the forest in a NW direction and follow a shallow gully down to Tuolumne Meadow
  • head across the meadow in a NWish direction towards where the river exits the meadow. Stop and do a 360 a few times while walking across and take in the incredible views. Be prepared for a creek crossing in the middle.
  • follow the river down till you can see the trail off to the north

be carefull
know your limits
have fun!

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/13/2014 10:59PM by qumqats.
avatar Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 13, 2014 11:40PM
Even I have done the Pothole approach, and I have to be one of the laziest hikers around (meaning that I easily opt out of technical stuff for no other reason than being lazy) Nothing much technical about it (that I recall) A small amount of friction maneuvers, a couple of hand-steadying touches, but the route is quite nice.

The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/13/2014 11:42PM by Bee.
avatar Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 14, 2014 01:16AM

After a bit of gratuitous mountaineering, we dropped back into the forest, where we quickly encountered a significant use trail that led more or less back to Pothole Dome. After enjoying the views a bit, we returned to our cars and drove to re-unite our party once more.

More Pictures

Thank you for posting such a wonderful trip report!

As I had mentioned in another thread, I was around Pothole Dome (and a bit beyond) last Saturday afternoon.

Here's a Photosynth that I took around 6 PM on that day on top of a small granite outcropping overlooking the Tuolumne River located here.

As you can see in the Photosynth, Glen Aulin was already being inundated by the snow flurries your party experienced (and the snow flurries were soon to arrive (about an hour later) at Tuolumne Meadows as shown in the photo below, taken around 7:15 PM.)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/14/2014 01:28AM by plawrence.
Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 14, 2014 03:28AM
Thanks for the report. Nice to see the pink chicken again.
avatar Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 14, 2014 06:08AM
As promised:

(idear wuz der wood bee Z Perret goofball sittin on da rock der and den eye chick-on bomb im... but guess Z old stick n feather shy two git peekchure takin)

tongue sticking out smiley

And Mattie never looked so good.

w/r to Cupcake storie... eye tell er "you no like this... then u have to just go home"
(we have a blast btw)

Have fun out there

Garbage Bag Gaitors:
n da first time met z blop wuz in 2010:

N Joyz

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 14, 2014 07:35PM
Great to see the pink chick-on out there. All seems right with the world, knowing that he is still roaming the trails out there.
avatar Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 14, 2014 06:59AM
Nice report and lots of good pictures, thanks for posting!

Didn't mention the weather on my Snow Mountain post...it tried to flurry up there mid-day but just couldn't sustain anything - I saw scattered showers and/or virga across the Sacramento Valley. By about 4 PM or so Saturday everything was clearing out nicely, Saturday night and Sunday morning had very gusty, mostly easterly winds.

And welcome back to the pink chicken!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/14/2014 06:59AM by ttilley.
Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 14, 2014 07:00AM
Thanks for the report. Great pictures, nice to see people sharing some outdoor fun with each other, not to mention getting to see the great pink one.
Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 14, 2014 08:28AM
Cool tradition! Thanks for the photos and the report--made for a nice morning read.
avatar Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 14, 2014 07:31PM
Another great detailed report. Next best thing to being there.
Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 19, 2014 03:56PM
thanks for the fantastic pix. 2 questions: so how deep was the flooded area below the glen aulin HS camp? is the standard trail from lembert dome area to GA relatively snow free? we're going in this friday.
Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 22, 2014 03:54PM
The day we did it, I could barely get to my knee, and I was searching for deeper water. It's snowed since, but I've never seen it with more than mid thigh in pretty wet years.

(Sorry for delay in responding, forgot to follow topic, and pretty busy prepping for this weekend.)
avatar Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 26, 2014 06:42PM
This last weekend (pics coming later - Waterwheel was going) there were two flooded sections, the first up to my lower thigh, the second calf deep.
Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 27, 2014 09:16PM
Lucky you! Would have loved that water this past weekend! Cold, I hope?? the first section as you are heading down-river always seems coldest to me. Nummy!
avatar Re: Glen Aulin Reunion
May 27, 2014 09:18PM
Cold in the morning when I was walking down. Part-cold-part-warm in the afternoon.
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