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Re: Waterwheeeeel Falls!

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Waterwheeeeel Falls!
May 23, 2013 08:31PM
The hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Waterwheel Falls makes a very nice overnight backpacking trip, a nice day-hike, or a wonderful "final 10" of a 30-mile death march stroll. Last weekend my wife (JustKeepWalking) and I chose the more relaxing overnight option.

Despite the high (for a dry year) water levels, the complete absence of bloodsucking insects, the almost-insignificant snow levels, and the generally nice and mild temperatures, we encountered very few people the entire weekend--nwhkr's group excepted*.

Despite JKW's desire for cold water, we decided to avoid the Dingley/Delaney crossings and instead go in via the scenically-superior Pothole Dome route.


There's something about this tree I keep photographing...


Yes, there is water


If you had stayed on the official trail, you would be on the other side... This would also be the first river-and-granite experience you would experience, three miles in.

Despite being an unofficial route, there were signs of recent maintenance (cut logs), especially between Little Devils Postpile and the bridges.


Little Devils Postpile

After rejoining the trail at the twin bridges, we dropped to Glen Aulin, where we stopped for lunch on the small dome west of the camp. A cool breeze blew most of the time, but when the air was calm it was warm.



To the delight of some, the flooded section was, well, flooded:


Yeah, you can try to avoid all this by skirting the fun through the maze of logs and rocks, and some nut-jobs have even tried to use garbage bags, but... why?

On the other hand, this meant that the nice waterfalls below Mattie Lake were flowing.

The section from California Falls to Waterwheel has three named waterfalls, but in fact there are few places where the river isn't somehow falling.

Below California Falls Photosynth

After scoping out some campsites, we took the spur trail to what a lot of the Internet--and many hikers--believe is Waterwheel, but is in fact LeConte Falls.


Just to screw up Google Image search, this is Waterwheel Falls... not.

At the real Waterwheel Falls, we tested our soles' friction on the downclimb to the observation ledge at the base of the waterwheel.


Waterwheel-bop!



Waterwheel, for a limited time only this year...sad smiley

Armed with some expert campsite beta, we stopped for the night on a nice granite shelf surrounded by raging water. It's clear in this section that past and present ice has shaped the canyon and watercourse, but water in liquid form has had little impact as it flows over, around, and under the resilient granite. The polished rock is not the recent work of the present river but an ageless remnant of long-gone ice that once filled the canyon to the top of the visible cliffs.



One particular rock balanced in the river's course could have landed on the river a week or a century ago.



The cool breeze continued into the evening, rested for the night, then resumed in the morning. After a brisk breakfast of coffee and breakfast burritos, we packed and headed back up canyon, in no hurry to leave what were almost-perfect conditions.





We ran into nwhkr's group at the top of California Falls. Not far past there, we encountered light ice on the flooded section.





Some like it ice cold...

Sunday was warmer than Saturday, but still very pleasant, even despite the ice.



I checked out some other excellent campsite beta in the middle of Glen Aulin.

It was tempting to stop at the nice beach just below the camp, but... there are tempting spots to stop all along this section of the Tuolumne and never enough time to stop at them all.




Tuolumne Falls

Many, many stops later, we made it back to the car, where someone had left me and JKW some wonderful treats:


This rock and stick looks familiar...

Unfortunately, it looks like parking enforcement has gotten a lot worse in Tuolumne Meadows...


Odd, our permit didn't mention the entry route, and it wasn't in the car anyway...

Yes, we did have a great trip! And thanks for the treats!

More Pictures



TL;DR conditions update: limited patches of snow from Pothole Dome to the twin bridges; no snow of note below the bridges. There is the usual flooding above California Falls, maybe 6" deep or so unless you go out of your way to find the deep spots.

* True stories: The first times I met chick-on, ttilley, and nwhkr were all along the Glen Aulin/GCT trail. It's the Grand Central Meeting Spot of this forum, it seems! Anyone else there last weekend?



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/23/2013 09:09PM by basilbop.
avatar Re: Waterwheeeeel Falls!
May 23, 2013 08:56PM
Nice pictures.

Did your car at least retain all its wires?
Re: Waterwheeeeel Falls!
May 23, 2013 09:03PM
Surprisingly, yes... but I will be rolling the dice again at Shingle Springs this weekend...
avatar Re: Waterwheeeeel Falls!
May 23, 2013 09:23PM
Quote
basilbop

* True stories: The first times I met chick-on, ttilley, and nwhkr were all along the Glen Aulin/GCT trail. It's the Grand Central Meeting Spot of this forum, it seems!

Huh, I thought the Grand Central meeting spot for forum members was the world famous Curry Pizza Deck!

Anyway, thanks again for another great trip report and all the associated photos.

.
avatar Re: Waterwheeeeel Falls!
May 24, 2013 07:25AM
Don't know if I'll ever be headed to Glen Aulin again but I've got to try the Pothole Dome route for a welcome change.
avatar Re: Waterwheeeeel Falls!
May 24, 2013 07:51AM
Bowing to his greatness

Awe-sum! Awe-sum! Awe-sum!

If could have been at two places at once... woulda loved to have been there!

Tanks

Question: if someone knows they're koo-koo does that make them less koo-koo or more?
(i gave up on the garbage bag gaiters though... so much for makin millions)



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Waterwheeeeel Falls!
July 11, 2013 03:16PM
Don't mean to bump tons of threads, but thanks for this trip report! I'm going to try to exit the GCT and GA via Pothole dome on this upcoming trip.
Re: Waterwheeeeel Falls!
July 11, 2013 03:33PM
It was a treat to see that TR come up again. I LOVE walking through the flooded trail. Only happens early on, sadly.. You have a GREAT time out there and have fun exploring! And definitely come back write a nice TR for us! Cannot get enough...
Re: Waterwheeeeel Falls!
July 11, 2013 03:49PM
Quote
JustKeepWalking
It was a treat to see that TR come up again. I LOVE walking through the flooded trail. Only happens early on, sadly.. You have a GREAT time out there and have fun exploring! And definitely come back write a nice TR for us! Cannot get enough...

Thanks, will do!
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