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Re: Happy Holidays 2017 (A Trip Report)

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Happy Holidays 2017 (A Trip Report)
January 16, 2018 07:29PM
A near empty office, just-excused jury duty, and continued dry conditions conspired to persuade me to join the Great Pink One and his Mrs. on a four day Christmas romp through parts of Yosemite that would be considered inaccessible in winter to most. Unfortunately, JKW was still tending to her her injured foot and would not accompany us, but she graciously agreed to drop us off at our trailhead (Smith Meadow) and pick us up four days later at our hopeful exit point (Snow Creek/Mirror Lake).

After saying good-bye to JKW, we headed up steeply from the Hetch Hetchy road. For the first several miles we climbed through mostly open and recently burnt-out forest.



At Smith Meadow, a sign warned us that the trail to Harden Lake was hard to follow and would require expert navigational skills. We decided that we met this criteria and forged ahead. In a particularly burnt out area with views of Smith Peak, we stopped for lunch on a small rock, then after our specialite du chef continued up the faint and overgrown trail towards Harden Lake.



Near Harden, we encountered our first "significant" snow, although the deepest was still only a few inches deep, and coverage was maybe 50-60%. The end of 2017 was resembling the previous 5 drought years and not the deluge of 2016-2017. Harden Lake, however, was still full from the previous season's abundant rain and snow; it was also mostly frozen over.



Past Harden, we descended down through the Harden Gardens, where the only significant obstacles were some icy sections of trail and a few recently-fallen trees. Our goal for camping was a nice campsite near the trail's crossing of Morrison Creek. As we approached this, we got our first views of Pate Valley.



Looking down river, the wind was calm enough that Hetch Hetchy Reservoir barely had a ripple on it.



Once at camp, I called JKW to let her know we were still on schedule, our first 15 or so miles behind us. It ends up she had stopped at OD's on the way back to the Bay Area and ended up spending Christmas with OD and Bee. The evening was slightly overcast but the air was perfectly calm. The forecast had called for lows in the 20's, but after a filling dinner and some "TV", we slept well. Tomorrow would be a big day.





The next morning, we got what was probably a later start than would have been ideal, but after breakfast and packing, we continued our descent down into Pate Valley. The trail had a few icy portions and minor deadfall, and in one place had been washed out by the river--easily bypassed. We knew the Pate Valley bridge had not been repaired; fortunately, at least one of its stringers was both intact and mostly free of rot.



Once safely across the Tuolumne River, we began our hike upstream. Down low, the water was cold and clear with no sign of ice.



The walls of the canyon above us were flocked with recent snow, and the low sun and deep gorge kept us mostly in the shade.



Below the Rodgers Creek crossing, we passed up an opportunity for a lunch in the sun for a better opportunity at the crossing of Rodgers or Register creek, where we would have better access to water. While there was ample water in both streams, we were in the shade of "Gorge" (a/k/a "Jorges" to those "in the know" ) Mountain.



We filled up our water bottles and decided to hit the first, lower dome of the "Muir Gorge Bypass", which unfortunately was about 20' too low to receive direct sun. We were hungry and stopped for lunch anyway. After lunch, we climbed over the taller dome and returned back to the river. During this descent, we encountered what would be our last direct sunlight for the day.

We continued up river in the cool shade. As we climbed past the waterfalls of Cathedral Creek, the river became more and more icy.



Our original goal was to get close to Glen Aulin, but it was clear that Return Creek would be a more realistic goal. We were nearing 16 miles of hiking and were running out of daylight. However, once at Return Creek we decided to push on to the top of Waterwheel Fall; we didn't want to get too far behind schedule.

Waterwheel Fall was without its famous "water wheel".



At the top of the lack-of-Waterwheel Fall, we found a place with suitable camping for both a tent and hammock. Despite the icy nature of the non-Waterwheel Fall, we had no problem getting cold but still-liquid water for dinner and breakfast.

Unlike the previous evening, we had a breeze during dinner and "TV time", and gusts continued though the night.



We were facing another big day, so we didn't waste much time during breakfast or breaking camp. Before the sun had a chance to warm us, we were on the trail heading towards Tuolumne Meadows.

We took a few minutes to explore icy LeConte Fall.



The river above LeConte was almost completely covered with a thick layer of ice.



Once near California Fall, the winter sun finally began to warm us, despite the near-frozen nature of the river we were following.



The Mattie Lake outlet cascade was mostly frozen despite facing the sun.



We passed the first hiker we encountered in Glen Aulin--she was basically doing the loop that we were doing, but in reverse, and in one fewer days. Impressive. After providing some "beta" about the trail conditions, we quickly continued our respective treks; both parties faced the same constraint of limited winter daylight, which didn't provide much slack for leisurely conversation.

The slow-moving river in Glen Aulin was almost all iced over, with the nearby bare aspens casting long shadows across it.



Unlike the Pate Valley bridge, the Conness Creek bridge had been completely removed for (presumably) upcoming repairs.



From the still-intact main bridge, we took one last look down into Glen Aulin before we started our final climb to Tuolumne Meadows. Before commencing this ascent, we put on our microspikes, although the trail was mostly covered with grippy snow as opposed to ice.



White Cascade lived up to its name, although perhaps not in a way that the vast majority of visitors to this popular waterfall experience.



Tuolumne Fall was also more ice than water.



Past Tuolumne Fall, we continued to the "twin bridges", following a mostly snow-covered trail and frozen river.



We had hoped to have lunch closer to Tuolumne Meadows, but decided to stop at an open area near the river.



After lunch, we more or less bee-lined to Tuolumne Meadows since we still had several miles to our final destination: Tenaya Lake. Fortunately the snow in the meadows was never more than a few inches deep, so it didn't hinder our progress too much.



From Pothole Dome, we could witness the meager snowpack barely covering the meadows.



The long shadows emphasized that we didn't have a lot of time to enjoy the views (or even re-create recently-posted "views"), so after a few quick pictures we headed down to the road, following some recent boot, then ski, tracks.



The tracks continued along the road for quite awhile before a sudden U-turn back towards Tuolumne.

In the shade, the road had 1-2 inches of snow and several tracks--the hiker we had met earlier in Glen Aulin, a few skiers, and "snowshoe guy". Near Pywiack Dome, the road was completely dry, so we took off our microspikes.



Behind us, the late afternoon sun gave Cathedral Peak a warm glow.



We reached our campsite with maybe 45 minutes of sun left.



After our shelters were up, our sleeping bags expanded, and our warmer clothes on, we took a stroll to enjoy the sunset.





We called JKW to confirm that we were on schedule for being picked-up the next day. This evening was more like the first, with hardly any wind, so we slept well despite the chilly nighttime temperatures.



After a good night's sleep, we had a slightly more leisurely breakfast and packed. Our final day would begin with a few more miles of road walking before we would return to trails. We enjoyed the crowd-less views of Tenaya Lake.



At Olmsted Point, we called JKW to confirm our dinner pizza order and provide a more accurate pick-up time.



We left the road just past Olmsted Point and followed the trail towards the low saddle north of Mt. Watkins, where we stopped for lunch.



By this time, we were mostly out of the snow and had made good progress to the Snow Creek bridge, near where we encountered more and more hikers. Past this bridge, the descent down the 108 Snow Creek switchbacks was quite warm--almost summer-like.



Once at the valley floor, we were once again in cool winter air, and the final walk past Mirror Lake to the stables packing lot was chilly. Parking was surprisingly in short supply, but JKW had managed to find a parking spot at the stables, and we were soon in a warm car with cold beverages and the scent of pizza.



The next day, we returned to the valley for a short walk before the drive home.



It had been a wonderful way to spend Christmas. Special thanks to JKW for the logistical help!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/22/2018 06:55AM by chick-on.
Re: Happy Holidays 2017
January 16, 2018 07:33PM
You are most welcome!

You guys have helped me so much... I really love helping you out in return!!!

Besides, I get to see a bunch of gorgeous pics of beloved places! Thank you, thank you!
avatar Re: Happy Holidays 2017
January 16, 2018 08:49PM
Awesome, as always!

JKW Pizza...do you have their 1-800# to share for the next time I need a backcountry delivery?
Re: Happy Holidays 2017
January 16, 2018 10:23PM
Thanks for sharing. Love the sunset photo from east end of Tenaya.
Re: Happy Holidays 2017
January 16, 2018 11:20PM
Wow fresh pizza at the trailhead?? I would totally pay for that service!!

Trip looked great! I've been wanting to do a trip like this but worry about having to bring snowshoes in case it suddenly dumps :/
Re: Happy Holidays 2017
January 17, 2018 09:28AM
KevinD and Bearproof:

Limited time offer until I can join them!!! Best act fast if u want a pizza!!!

Torture for me tho, smelling tasty hot pizza for as long as I did! And then they weren’t too hungry when I picked them up, so we decided to eat it back in the room after they had showers!

Still... super tasty and it got demolished!
avatar Re: Happy Holidays 2017
January 17, 2018 08:30AM
Awesome. I loved reading this.
avatar Re: Happy Holidays 2017 (A Trip Report)
January 22, 2018 06:57AM
Thank you



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Happy Holidays 2017 (A Trip Report)
January 24, 2018 11:54AM
Love the frozen waterfall photos, as well as the rest of them...telling a great story...


edit: The Conness bridge was washed downstream, still in view of the foundation. So it is gone?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/24/2018 12:03PM by hikerchick395.
avatar Re: Happy Holidays 2017 (A Trip Report)
January 31, 2018 09:58AM
Quote
hikerchick395
Love the frozen waterfall photos, as well as the rest of them...telling a great story...


edit: The Conness bridge was washed downstream, still in view of the foundation. So it is gone?

It's been removed from Conness Creek and a lot of the hardware is nearby on a knoll...
(so yes)



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Happy Holidays 2017 (A Trip Report)
January 24, 2018 02:02PM
Great trip report with great pictures. Thanks again. Scary about the lack of snow this year. JKW you are a gem and I hope you are back hiking soon.
avatar Re: Happy Holidays 2017 (A Trip Report)
January 31, 2018 10:02AM
Quote
parklover
Great trip report with great pictures. Thanks again. Scary about the lack of snow this year. JKW you are a gem and I hope you are back hiking soon.

It's not getting any better either...

Yup. Gem.

smiling smiley

Seriously huge tanks to JKW for all the shuttle services! Just been a lot of fun hiking from The 120 to The 140 or The 140 to The 49 and
The 41 to The 140. Makes for some great one way adventures this winter. Not to mention The One above.

Last weekend we were even able to say hi from above... smiling smiley



smiling smiley

Manee Tanks JKW



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Happy Holidays 2017 (A Trip Report)
January 31, 2018 10:07AM
You are most welcome!!! I’ve been enjoying it very much!!!

It’s actually been quite rewarding to help u guys get some fun adventures in, seeing you at the end of the day all shrubbed up and hearing the stories! AND I get to drive mountain roads! Bonus!
Re: Happy Holidays 2017 (A Trip Report)
January 31, 2018 07:21PM
We have now learned that Chick-on is from Southern California. Nobody else uses the definite article when talking about numbered highways...



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Re: Happy Holidays 2017 (A Trip Report)
January 31, 2018 08:38PM
He and Basilbop have been doing that just to annoy me.

I’m native to the Bay Area. Neither were born in CA...
Re: Happy Holidays 2017 (A Trip Report)
February 01, 2018 06:11AM
Quote
balzaccom
We have now learned that Chick-on is from Southern California. Nobody else uses the definite article when talking about numbered highways...

Head roll



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/01/2018 06:12AM by The Other Tom.
Re: Happy Holidays 2017 (A Trip Report)
February 04, 2018 03:12PM
Thanks. I somehow missed that photo...



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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