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Tuolumne Peak Tarns

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Tuolumne Peak Tarns
September 26, 2011 08:47PM
This weekend we repeated a favorite trip: an overnighter to the small tarns on the northeast rib of Tuolumne Peak. Since chick-on had previously confirmed the existence of the hypothesized northern segment of the May Lake "Mystery Trail", we decided to start from May Lake instead of the usual Murphy Creek.

(For those who don't follow this site, the "May Lake Mystery Trail" is an abandoned trail that starts from about 1/4 mile north of May Lake, just past a trail sign, then climbs a wooded gully to a saddle before descending to the Ten Lakes trail between two trail signs that formerly marked the junction. There's really not much mystery left: the trail was the original route from Glen Aulin to May Lake, before the current trail past Raisin Lake was blasted out of open granite. The trail was very well-engineered--one of the better trails in Yosemite--with extensive rockwork and numerous switchbacks.)

The southern part of the "Mystery Trail" was in the best condition I've seen it: well-ducked and distinct all the way to the saddle, where we stopped for a snack and enjoyed the views of the Tuolumne Meadows area and the Cathedral Range. Although the forecast was for a 20% chance of showers, dark clouds formed and it rained briefly during our break.

It didn't rain while we descended the less-well defined, but still well-engineered and well-ducked, northern segment of the "Mystery Trail", but the dark clouds created appropriate atmosphere for traveling on a "mystery" trail.

Conditions worsened as we started climbing the northern rib of Tuolumne Peak: thunder echoed in the sky, and a few switchbacks from the tarns, cold rain and light hail started to fall. We quickly set up camp near the upper tarn and waited out the storm under cover. Fortunately, the rain stopped in time to enjoy dinner outside and watch the sunset. The night sky was clear, but clouds returned the next morning.

We returned by climbing to the summit of Tuolumne Peak, then descending to the "Mystery Trail" saddle.

By the time we descended the Mystery Trail to May Lake, dark clouds were forming again, so we quickly returned to the trailhead, which was surprisingly packed with cars.

More Pictures
avatar Re: Tuolumne Peak Tarns
September 27, 2011 10:44AM
Very cool. At the start of the descent on the northern portion... how was the trail?
(when we did it that portion was covered in lots o snow)
Were you able to follow it or did you have to search a couple hundred feet below for it?

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Tuolumne Peak Tarns
September 27, 2011 10:45AM
And this is a sweet little spot (camped there a few times too) wink

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Tuolumne Peak Tarns
September 27, 2011 11:28AM
The northern segment was faint for maybe the first few hundred yards, but once the gully starts getting steep, the switchbacks begin, and the rock work is still in good condition (the segment in the picture above was among the worst...) A few places are getting overgrown with small trees.

In a way, it's too bad: yes, it's an abandoned trail, but it's overall in much better shape than many Yosemite trails, and it seems that a single pass by a trail maintenance crew to clear the undergrowth and deadfalls would keep it usable for years. It seems that the southern segment gets a lot of use from those camping at May Lake, and it's probably one of the better day trips for the HSC guests who don't want to do Mt. Hoffman. I've seen evidence elsewhere (above Elizabeth Lake on the Nelson Lake trail and along the Pothole Dome route to Glen Aulin) of light maintenance being done on unofficial trails--mostly just cutting through deadfall to prevent use-trails forming around the obstacles.
avatar Re: Tuolumne Peak Tarns
September 27, 2011 01:48PM
Yup. It's pretty incredible how great of shape the trail is in. Wouldn't take a lot of work to clean it up.
I'll have to go back and check out the portion N of the saddle... I'd like to see what we missed.
Here's our set again from late June:

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Tuolumne Peak Tarns
September 27, 2011 07:00PM
Nice photos and good that a few of you got on the trail this year, added to the pool of shared information.

Question: between the turn-off from the main trail and the saddle in your first picture, did you come across any water? Earlier in the year there is both a creek heading towards May Lake, and later a neat little waterfall that drops into the valley. It was a big snow year but they might be dry by now. Just curious.
Re: Tuolumne Peak Tarns
September 27, 2011 08:29PM
The creek just north of the turnoff had a trickle, as did the lower part of the stream that the trail ascends. The upper crossing was all but dry. Also, there were a few pools of water just north of the saddle.
avatar Re: Tuolumne Peak Tarns
September 27, 2011 08:38PM
Thanks - that's kinda what I figured. I'd like to camp up on that bench sometime. It's huge, the sort of place you'd put a lodge. Probably one for earlier in the season when the snow is still melting down.
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