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Re: Cathedral, Clouds, and More Mystery

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Cathedral, Clouds, and More Mystery
November 11, 2014 07:25PM
After we parted ways at Olmsted Point at the end of our previous adventure, it ends up the yahoo from Wasoo had stumbled over something most unexpected while daleing around en route to his car.



So when given the chance to explore this new find a week later, I couldn't resist. There is really not much more mystery surrounding the May Lake Mystery Trail: it connects May Lake to the Ten Lakes trail via a high wooded saddle, although most people use it to access Tuolumne Peak nowadays. It was created when the Tenaya Lake High Sierra Camp was moved to May Lake, and was abandoned around 1957 when the current Raisin Lake/Murphy Creek alignment was blasted through. So, why did it seem like there was a southern extension of this trail...?

I followed the faint trail of pink feathers down the well-constructed path to another "mystery" saddle, where the Wasoo yahoo first stumbled on this path.



From there south, the trail was a bit harder to follow as it wound its way down ledges and gullies towards, well, wherever it was going.



There was an occasional blaze and enough rock work to confirm this was a real, constructed path, not some climbers' access route or "social" trail.



There was some brush in places, but overall the route was fairly easy to follow--perhaps a bit harder than the (original) May Lake Mystery Trail south of the (original) Mystery Saddle, but easier than the segment north of said saddle.



Oddly, despite an estimated 20 years of being "in service" and having been closed for 50 years, one section where granite was crushed to smooth the path looked as if it could have been a year or two old.



I lost the path where it finally reached a flat, heavily-wooded area.


If you find yourself confronted with this view in the future, the trail heads towards the right. You should see more blazes in about 50 yards.

I looked around a bit more for stray blazes or rock work, but came up empty handed. Good news: the trail does continue all the way to the Tioga Road--a fact that a follow-up expedition would uncover weeks later..



Saturday afternoon we checked out a route that's been on our "to do" list for far too long, one with comparatively little mystery surrounding it.



There was a fair number of improvements given that we were not on a trail.



There was no mistaking our route for a former segment of the High Sierra Camps loop, but there are maintained trails that are worse.



We hung out at a lake for awhile enjoying a very mild October afternoon, but no matter how nice the late-season days in the high country are, they end far too quickly.



Despite the chill in the air, the late-season light has a certain warmth to it, even as the shadows slowly grew longer as we descended.



During our descent we could see so many places we'd been so recently: Tuolumne Peak, Cathedral Creek and Falls Ridge, Tenaya Lake, the Mt. Watkins area, and even Sentinel Dome in the distance.



For such a short route, it was an excellent sampler of the Tuolumne region.



We spent the night car-camping in the desert off 395. Despite the relatively warm day, the nighttime was downright cold--we saw as low as 16 degrees in the morning, too cold for our iso-butane canister to make hot coffee. Fortunately, nearby Lee Vining has a few establishments that offer hot coffee and more...

After breakfast and a return to the Tuolumne area, we found ourselves once more crossing Tenaya Creek, where several new signs seem to have sprung up recently.



The various aspens and other deciduous trees were showing their fall colors.



Up to this point we hadn't seen any real evidence of the Meadow Fire, but it was very clear that the Forsyth Trail was closed.



Not far past this junction, we could see the first signs of the fire. Although most trees were spared, the fire did scorch a few, and in a few places had even jumped across the trail. Those earlier fire perimeter maps hadn't been inaccurate.



Below us, where the now-closed trail descended to Sunrise Creek, the devastation was much worse. The trees in the central area had few branches and no needles; around them were trees with brown needles--almost all dead.









The fire in fact had made it almost to the summit of Clouds Rest--a tree near the bypass trail junction had burned extensively. There is some rationale for having the bypass closed.

The air was crystal clear as we approached the summit, providing crystal-clear views in all directions.



Previous destinations including Horse Ridge/Buena Vista Crest, El Capitain, and the Dewey Point area were all visible too.



Even the distant peaks appeared sharp and crisp. Photosynth

It was one of those perfect days where we could have spent hours on the summit--but as always we had to leave. Still, it was the perfect way to end a few wonderful days in the high country.



More Pictures
Re: Cathedral, Clouds, and More Mystery
November 11, 2014 08:34PM
Cool...

Next time you head up that trail to Cathedral Lakes you should loop back over the top of Medlicott...it's awesome up there by "Lake of the Domes" and there's a cool route down the outlet creek on the north side...
avatar Re: Cathedral, Clouds, and More Mystery
November 11, 2014 08:48PM
Andrew F is right.
I went up the outlet in June:



And Lake of the Domes is really cool:




Re: Cathedral, Clouds, and More Mystery
November 11, 2014 08:47PM
Also, depending on which way you came from you may have walked right under the Bachar-Yerian, one of the boldest climbs in Yosemite. If you haven't heard of it, it's worth a little googling to read the story of the first ascent... There was a fistfight involved. A good piece of Yosemite lore. My wife and I climbed a much easier route (5.8) up the center of the face of Medlicott a few years ago.
avatar Re: Cathedral, Clouds, and More Mystery
November 12, 2014 06:12PM
That mystery trail is super cool...did you ever find any documentation or information about it?
Re: Cathedral, Clouds, and More Mystery
November 12, 2014 08:33PM
Quote
Bearproof
That mystery trail is super cool...did you ever find any documentation or information about it?

Some kind person located an old article that discussed the "northern" May Lake Mystery Trail as a predecessor to the current Raisin Lake route between May Lake and Glen Aulin: http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/yosemite_nature_notes/47/47-19.pdf, see p. 9; you'll have to make it past the illustrated Mansfield Domes discussion to find the mention of the Mystery Trail...

My hypothesis is that both segments were constructed when the Tenaya Lake High Sierra Camp was relocated to May Lake in 1938 and were abandoned in 1957 (per the above article). What's important to realize is that at this time, the High Sierra Camps loop started and ended in Yosemite Valley, not Tuolumne Meadows; the present loop wouldn't exist until Sunrise was built 1961. This means that there would have originally been a route from the Valley to Tenaya Lake--via the Snow Creek and Tenaya Lake trails, perhaps with a layover at the Snow Creek cabin. (There was a lay-over camp in Little Yosemite Valley for those traveling from Happy Isles to Merced Lake...) After the Tenaya Lake camp was relocated, the southern Mystery Trail would have provided a route from the Tenaya Lake trail to May Lake. One complication: there was already a trail from Snow Creek to the Snow Flat survey cabin (the present "May Lake -> Snow Creek" trail), and it's on older maps--maybe it wasn't suitable for horses, or there was a desire for a trail farther from the road, or Olmsted Point was an important mid-hike stop...

Also, there are old maps that pre-date the May Lake relocation that have the southern half of the southern Mystery Trail, but have it dropping to the old Tioga Road instead of climbing to the current May Lake parking area. Odd... perhaps there was an earlier trail that was used when the Tenaya Lake trail was not safe for passage due to avalanches from Olmsted Point...?

We didn't find any signs of the trail south of 120 connecting it to the Tenaya Lake trail, but it's also possible that that trail was relocated to the south after the road was constructed; the old trail could have been under--or north of--the road in this area.
avatar Re: Cathedral, Clouds, and More Mystery
November 13, 2014 10:03AM
Quote
basilbop
Quote
Bearproof
That mystery trail is super cool...did you ever find any documentation or information about it?

Some kind person located an old article that discussed the "northern" May Lake Mystery Trail as a predecessor to the current Raisin Lake route between May Lake and Glen Aulin: http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/yosemite_nature_notes/47/47-19.pdf, see p. 9; you'll have to make it past the illustrated Mansfield Domes discussion to find the mention of the Mystery Trail...

I was apparently so distracted by the Mansfields I never got to the Raisin part. Have you seen the trail on any maps at all? I need a map visual to understand where this is.
avatar Re: Cathedral, Clouds, and More Mystery
November 13, 2014 11:18AM
You can find it here:
http://gisserver.princeton.edu:81/navigatorMapViewer.htm?map=912

Although the trail does not connect up with the now Old Tioga Road.



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Cathedral, Clouds, and More Mystery
November 13, 2014 11:35AM
OK I got it now, thanks!
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