Welcome! Log In Create A New Profile Recent Posts
Vernel Fall, Merced River, Yosemite National Park

The Moon is Waning Gibbous (99% of Full)



Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017

All posts are those of the individual authors and the owner of this site does not endorse them. Content should be considered opinion and not fact until verified independently.

28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 05, 2017 02:57PM
I live 10 time zones east of California. I got addicted to YNP on my first trip in 2008 and since then will use any excuse I can to get there. Still haven't managed an epic backpacking trip, and a few times I've just been able to come up for a single day, but as Chick-On says, it's all good.

Piggybacking on a business trip to the east coast and a brief visit to relatives in the midwest, this would be my 11th visit to Yosemite. On my last three trips, Tioga road had been closed, so I wanted to take advantage of the road still being open, as well as this being a mid-week off-season trip, by visiting one of the (many) popular sites I still hadn’t seen, under conditions where I was likely to see few other visitors. Since I’d be alone and overnight parking on Tioga road was prohibited starting from October 15, even a one-night backpacking trip was out of the question, so the plan was to day hike lower Cathedral Lake plus Medlicott and Mariuolumne Domes on Tuesday, and then other spots I’ve been wanting to see as time would allow. It’s not like there’s a shortage of things to choose from.

The flight in took us right over Mono Lake

with a view to the south of highway 120 and the lakes along Lee Vining canyon

as well as Tioga Pass and the Granite and Gaylor Lakes

But as Clouds Rest and Half Dome came into view

it became apparent that the fires – both natural and planned – south of Glacier Point Road were filling the Merced River Gorge with smoke from Little Yosemite Valley all the way down past El Portal

This just reinforced the decision to hike in the TM area.

I arrived in Oakland on Monday morning with the intention of getting up to Yosemite late in the afternoon and trying to get a campsite at Hogdon Meadow. But after two consecutive sleep-deprived nights, and finding a campsite that could be reserved in the valley for Tuesday night, I opted instead to nap at the relatives’ place in Oakland before swapping my business things for my camping gear, and to head out early – very early – on Tuesday.

I reached the BOFR entrance around 6:30. Saw a bear scamper off to the side of the road somewhere around Tamarack Flat. After stopping at several pullouts and breakfasting next to Tenaya Lake, I arrived at the trailhead at around 8:15. There were two other cars when I arrived, and I saw the occupant of one of them, but by the time I’d changed into my hiking boots and stashed my food in a storage locker, she’d disappeared. I took some photos of the meadow, glowing gold in the low-angle morning sunlight and dried grasses, and then hit the trail at 8:30.

Living near sea level, being fairly sedentary except when hiking, and coming straight from the East Bay to TM, I was a bit apprehensive about starting out at 8600 feet and going up. But having been through this routine enough times, I knew it was a just a matter of taking it easy on the ascent.

It wasn’t long before I saw the low promontory at the north end of the Cathedral Peaks complex.

Small amounts of the snow from the previous Thursday night persisted, and there were a few (but very few) parts of the trail that were still iced over at that hour.

Soon enough, Cathedral Peak came into view to the south

and then Fairview Dome to the west

Farther along, the southwest face of Fairview became visible, with granite peaks to the north jutting up behind

Ditto for some of the high peaks to the east

In planning this hike, I had considered first going cross-country to Mariuolumne Dome and then working my way down to lower Cathedral lake, but after reading of Balzaccom’s misadventure in ending up at the much-steeper Fairview when he’d planned on Mariuolumne, and still suspect of my cross-country abilities in forested areas, I decided to stay with the trail and hit the lake first. This didn’t stop me from losing the trail a bit where it branched from the JMT and descended toward the lake, but it wasn’t hard to follow since it all led to the same place, and eventually I found myself on the trail in the meadow to the west of lower Cathedral lake, with snow still holding on the slopes lining the lake’s southern shore.

The trail was muddy and clearly overused, but the meadow was fairly dry and the streams feeding into the lake low, so I worked my way northwest across the meadow to the lake’s northeast shore.

As I munched on a snack and admired the upper reaches of Cathedral peak, I marveled at being alone in one of the more popular spots outside Yosemite Valley. It always amazes me when in a country of 300,000,000+ people, I can have a spot like this to myself, even if only briefly. (My daughter and I had a similar experience a few years ago when we had Observation Point in Zion NP to ourselves for an hour.)

After a few minutes I noticed the woman from the trailhead a few hundred yards to my south, apparently doing yoga, so I guess it’s more accurate to say I had it almost all to myself.
After the rest, it was time to head up Medlicott Dome. In working my way around the north end of the lake, I came across this:

It was about 3 inches long, and seemed to be attached to the thick needle at the left of the photo. Part of a snake skin? I didn’t realize they can be found this high up.

Even before reaching the top of the dome, the view down to Tenaya Lake was amazing

and it got better with the ascent.

Soon enough the lower plateau on the west side of Medlicott Dome came into view

as did the peaks to the south of Cathedral.

With the northward/upward progression, eventually Half Dome peeked through as well.

Before completing the hike to the top of Medlicott Dome, I wanted a closer view of the small lake nestled below the dome on its western side. And there it was.

Circling back to the east and continuing the climb, Lembert Dome appeared. Being the first “dome” I’d hiked in YNP and thinking at the time that it gave commanding views of TM, it was odd to now be looking down on it.

Closer to the top, and peering around the east side of the dome, Fairview again became visible.

But now a minor challenge presented itself: how to get over a wall of granite 10 feet or so high.

I went around to the left, and after some contorting and boosting myself backward onto a ledge that reminded me it’s been a long time since I was 18, I was home free and on top of Medlicott Dome, with a westward view to Tenaya Lake and a now clearly visible Half Dome framed by Tenaya Peak and Mt. Hoffman

the park’s northern lands with Mariuolumne Dome directly to the north, including the small lake below that dome

and Tuolumne Peak featuring prominently off to the northwest

Looking northeast, Mariuolumne, Fairview and Lembert Domes, as well as Mt. Dana, appeared in alignment

and to the south the Cathedral Range as well as Tressider Peak reached into the sky

After lunching, I descended down not-too-steep granite to the saddle between Medlicott and Mariuolumne domes, and then up the obvious ascent to reach the top of the latter.

Fairview could now be seen in full, Mt. Dana towering over Lembert Dome to the northeast.

From the edge of the saddle the small lake between Mariuolumne Dome and the smaller unnamed dome to the northwest was visible.

Although the crevice between the two halves of the top of Mariuolumne looked passable at its north end, I decided to leave that part for another day and instead to test my x-country skills. Did I mention that I thought I’d packed my compass but found I’d left it at home? (I did have a cheap compass on my keychain.) Clearly, by heading in a generally easterly direction, I would eventually cross the JMT again, without having to go all the way back to LCL (which, I had noted while on the domes, was now entertaining more visitors than it had when I had been there two hours before). The issue was doing so in an efficient manner. I crisscrossed down Mariuolumne and then down the saddle between it and Medlicott, using Cathedral Peak itself as my sight. I eventually came to a meadow, which I crossed (and now regret not having photographed), and then started a very gentle ascent toward the JMT. Saw this bone (anyone know what kind of animal?)

and caught an afternoon moon rising over Cathedral peak

And then, as the ground leveled out, there it was – the JMT, right where it was supposed to be! I followed the trail back to car, enjoying the occasional views peeking through the trees.

And I encountered at least a dozen people making their way up to the lake.

What to do next – an easy stroll along the Tuolumne up to where the Lyell and Dana Forks meet? Meander along the river in the other direction, or maybe over to Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge? I decided instead to drive (slowly) toward Tioga Pass and just enjoy the views. And when I got there, noting the time and having already been to the Gaylor Lakes area in a year (2010) when there was still snow in late July, I decided to try to get to the top of Gaylor Peak, but I gave myself a cut-off time by which I’d need to be back at the car – I still needed to get all the way to Yosemite Valley to sleep, and I wanted to get there while I could buy some perishables, as I’d forgotten the cooler when I’d left the house.

From the trail, Dana Meadow looked a lot yellower than the last time I’d been up this way, but still lovely, with some snow from the previous week remaining on Mt. Gibbs, Mammoth Peak and the Kuna crest.

But the going was slower than it had been in the morning, partly due to the slightly higher altitude and being later in the day, but no doubt mostly from the trail being steeper than the JMT to Cathedral Lake. By the time I reached the saddle where the descent to the lakes begins, it was clear I was unlikely to get to the top of the peak, but I decided to forge on anyway.

I did get a bit higher, and the views toward Dana Meadow and the Kuna crest opened up more.

Great views to the south were also forthcoming, but between the sun being behind the Cathedral range and the schmutz (that's the technical term for it) that I discovered had been on my camera lens all day, and that would have to wait until I was back in civilization with a lens cloth to remove, good photos in that direction were not.

With the shadows getting longer, it was time to head back to the car.

I took the drive west on Tioga Road slowly, to enjoy color of the rocks in the low sun, accompanied by the finale of Mahler’s 2nd at full blast. Reached Tenaya Lake just before rehearsal number 48 in the score (around the 5:00 mark of the clip)

Got to the Olmstead turnout to get the last bit of Alpenglow on Tenaya Peak and Clouds Rest

The smoke near LYV was also visible.

And there was still enough light to get a nice view of Mt. Starr King at one of the next pullouts.

Among the things I had wanted to see on this trip were the leaves of the deciduous tree changing colors, as we get very little of that where I live, but I saw none of it in the TM area, and by the time I arrived in the valley, it was dark. It was, however, early enough in the evening that I got to see lots of climbers’ lamps on El Capitan. Very cool, even if my point-and-shoot camera wasn’t up to the task of recording what I saw. As expected, the valley smelled smoky, and I’ll never understand why under such conditions some campers still insist on making campfires. I picked up some things at the Curry Village store, had dinner, cleaned up, and was asleep before 9.

I woke up at what I thought was 4 AM and stared at the stars for a while, another thing I can’t enjoy at home in the city. I got out of bed and then discovered that it was now 3:30, not 4:30. I briefly contemplated trying to knock off another one of the spots on my to-do list, namely to go to the top of Liberty Cap via the JMT, but decided it was too much in the short amount of time available – I needed be out of the park by 11 to allow me to do everything needed to catch a flight home from SFO at 7:30 in the evening. In retrospect it was just as well: unbeknownst to me, the upper section of the JMT was closed, and there was no way I was coming down the upper part of the Mist Trail – too tough on my knees. So I packed up and drove back to Tioga Road in the dark, found a pullout with a better vantage of the sky and less man-made light around than my campsite had had, and enjoyed the view. Saw a few meteors to boot.

When it started to get light in the east, I continued on to the Olmstead turnout – I was the only one there – and then proceeded on foot up the ridge on the north side of the road.

one car in the parking lot!

There are some TRs on this site about this ridge, and someday I’ll follow the ridge all the way around, but on this trip the goal was just to get to the top of the part of the ridge closest to the road. Unfortunately, at this point the batteries on the camera started to go, and I had already gone through my spares, and the schmutz was still on the lens which meant photos with the sun in front came out poorly…which left me with my crappy cell phone camera. That didn’t detract from the views, including the lake between Tenaya Lake and Olmstead that’s not visible from the road.

Eventually I went back to the car in the now-very-windy-but-still-very-uncrowded Olmstead parking lot, ate some breakfast, and then continued up the road to the trailhead for this trip’s last adventure, an attempt to get to Mt. Watkins. I parked near the quarries, and had no problem finding the use trail that branches off the main trail when the main trail turns southwest down toward Snow Creek...but then I lost it. Thinking I could try any not-too-steep route down, I continued up the hill, and came upon this large rock, which reminded me of a cracked egg.

I then began making my way down, getting some nice views of HD and Starr King again, and I could clearly see my intended destination, but there was too much manzanita to get there in the time I’d allotted.

So I started back up the hill, leaving Mt. Watkins for another trip as well. On the ascent I encountered a pair of Mylar erratics, which I took with me,

and eventually I found the use trail I’d lost earlier, which, I discovered, is a snowshoe trail in winter.

I reached the plateau south of the quarries with a few minutes to play around. So I looked back at where I’d been the day before

and then wandered over in the direction of Snow Creek. This provided nice views of Mt. Hoffman

Coyote Rocks

and the whole upper part of Snow Creek canyon

and, in a different spot, North, Basket and Sentinel domes and part of Indian Ridge

Down in the now-dry creek bed, there were also a few yellow leaves to be found.

I went back to the car and reluctantly started the drive west. On the drive out, I got a better view of changing leaves by the bridge over Yosemite Creek.

I was out the BOFR exit by 11 and caught my flight home in time. As always, I wish I could have stayed longer, but I got to do and see much of what I'd hoped to do and see. Don't yet know when the next trip will be, but I'm already looking forward to it.

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 12/06/2017 05:12AM by Not quite The Geezer, but getting there.
Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 05, 2017 03:33PM
It IS all good, and so are those pictures.
Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 05, 2017 06:29PM
Great trip report - thanks for posting. Loved the pictures.
avatar Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 05, 2017 08:29PM
Cool stuff. Thanks for posting. What dates did you go? I tried to get up there a couple weeks ago, but couldn't time it right, with Tioga Road closing.
At least I got to see your pictures .Great view near Fairview looking north.
Great airplane shot above Saddlebag Lake. Took me a minute to get oriented. The Hall Research area looks a lot different from overhead.
Here are some videos from a few years ago.




Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 05, 2017 11:07PM
October 24-25. Wish the quality of the aerial photos was better.

Nice vids.
Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 05, 2017 09:39PM
Really nice. Despite not hitting all you objectives, you got your money's worth!

And I'm happy to hear that our misadventure helped you with your route-finding!

Check our our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 05, 2017 11:18PM
Well, the input from you and the other regular contributors on this forum is greatly appreciated (all the more so now that I see how much time it takes to do one of these TRs with photos), and there's no reason not to learn from others' experiences. As a man named Norman Frimer once said to his adolescent son, "I understand you want to make your own decisions, but do you have to make your own mistakes?"
Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 06, 2017 06:07AM
Nice report. Thanks for sharing.
You live 10 time zones east of Yosemite? That almost puts you half way around the world. And you've been there 11 times? Wow! Good Job!
avatar Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 06, 2017 07:17AM
Supa kewl

Tanks fur Sharon

Yup. Itz awl good baby!

So, how many times zones is that west of Yosemite?

tongue sticking out smiley

(for teen) ?

Next time ur on the "May Lake-Snow Creek Trail" after the "quarry" or
simply the real trail start... when it opens up... keep looking... you can
see A LOT.... even Lyell and Maclure are poking above the foreground
hills and such...

and a neat view of dis:

Have fun

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 06, 2017 11:33AM

So, how many times zones is that west of Yosemite?

tongue sticking out smiley

(for teen) ?

Should be for teen unless you consider the international date line smiling smiley
avatar Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 06, 2017 11:20AM
This is definitely a top-5 TR for me, (not quite the) Geezer. It's abundantly clear from your prose and photos how much you care about this place, and how eager you are to share your experiences with the rest of us. I'm so grateful for such a nice read to break up the monotony of the workday. smiling smiley

So having said that, I had no idea you could go up Gaylor Peak. Is there a use trail, or do you just sorta power up? I know you didn't quite get to the top, but the views of Mt Dana and its meadow are really striking, and I'd like to replicate them next summer.
Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 06, 2017 01:12PM
Well, seeing as how I didn't get to the top of Gaylor Peak myself, I can't testify from first-hand knowledge, but (a) there was what looked to me like a use trail that went part way up (until it got quite rocky), (b) I think I got the idea to hike up Gaylor Peak after reading in one of the books of hikes in Yosemite that it's a straightforward push to the top, and (c) looking at the imagery on Google Earth, there's a clear use trail along the ridge at the top (I'm assume there aren't enough big animals in the area for it to be a game trail). So apparently it's doable.

BTW, I don't think I included a photo of Dana itself in the TR, just Gibbs and southward, including the meadow. But yes, a nice view of Dana too:

And assuming there's average snowfall this year, if you get up there at the right time it will be a lot greener that it was in October (duh). The two photos below were taken July 26, 2010 (a heavy snow year):

avatar Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
January 01, 2018 01:30AM
. . . snip . . .
So having said that, I had no idea you could go up Gaylor Peak. Is there a use trail, or do you just sorta power up? . . . snip . . .

At that elevation there's not much of a use trail, it's all rocks that don't hold a trail very well.

Just do the hike to Gaylor Lakes that starts at the east entrance gate to the park. At the high point between hiking up from the road and going down into the Gaylor lakes basin follow the ridge line to the north to the top of Gaylor Peak.
Not far, pretty easy, AMAZING view. Well worth it.

Looking out across Tioga Pass, Dana Meadows, Gaylor Lakes, Tuolumne Meadows and the High Sierra peaks from atop Gaylor Peak
Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
January 07, 2018 08:55AM
Awesome pano, Qumqats. Thanks. Getting to the top of Gaylor Peak is now on my list of must-dos for a future trip.
avatar Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 06, 2017 05:35PM
Such a great trip report. Thanks for taking the time to post it. It's amazing what you can accomplish in a short amount of time, you probably saw more than a lot of people ever do.
Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
December 07, 2017 09:02PM
Thanks for the great report. You get more done in 28.5 hours being a million time zones from Yosemite than most people who live only 3 hours away. I'm making a mental note to get up there way more often (even for a day) and get more use from my annual pass.
Re: 28.5 hours in Yosemite - October 24-25, 2017
January 06, 2018 03:45PM
Thanks for taking the time to write up this report. I really enjoyed it and your storytelling.

Where do you live?
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login