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Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)

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Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 21, 2015 08:53PM


Well, he has a strong chin and a stern, thin-lipped mouth, but he is solid granite. Not like the wired-together Old Men back in New Hampshire and South Dakota...

I booked some nights up at Tuolumne Lodge last week, and on Monday had a couple of hours to kill before it was time to arrive there and check in to my tent cabin. So I decided to check out the mile or so of off-trail terrain going north from Olmsted Point, connecting up there with the old Tioga Road (which is currently used as a trail between the May Lake trail head and Tenaya Lake). The idea was to hike up to catch the old road and then follow it to Tenaya Lake.

That was fine. It only took an hour and a half, including walking back to Olmsted Point along the new highway after being snubbed by the shuttle bus....it only stops at the trail head when going eastbound! That section of the old road was new to me. There are still bits of the asphalt paving along the trail, and an interesting uninsulated solid copper wire that was buried under the paving. It is fairly thick, gauge 8 or 10. It seems odd to see a ground wire, since the old telegraph systems used a single iron wire strung on poles, and an earth ground at each station (so that the return current could flow back to the source through the earth).

The bare granite in this vicinity is such a poor electrical conductor that making an earth ground could be problematical in places. A comment I saw in an old telegraphy journal states that linesman needed an occasional ground contact along the route in order to test for faults in the overhead wire, or as a place to clip in for talking to the station operators. In those rare cases where ground contacts could not be provided at the poles, it would be necessary to provide a ground wire for that purpose. It was rarely done, because that more than doubles the cost of wire and because an occasional short piece of buried wire near a pole would be a sufficient ground contact in normal soils. Iron is used for the overhead wire for its strength, but copper would be buried as the ground wire because it doesn't rust. Indeed, the buried wire has turned gray, but otherwise looks like new.

The following day we did a big off-trail loop hike: Over Pothole Dome, then down the escarpment at the next dome, to look at the Little Devils Postpile, then south cross country west of Daff Dome, in order to pick up the main hiking trail back to Tuolumne near the highway. That trail is, of course, also part of the old Tioga Road, running over granite and showing the same ground wire where the old pavement exists and is broken.

But the real surprise on Monday had appeared near the saddle above Olmstead Point. I came across a fine old mule trail that was not on my map or gps. Those of you who have read my thread on abandoned trails near Yosemite Valley (see: link) know that this is my favorite sort of thing to find. On Friday's return home, before lining up to sit and wait for the highway construction, we left a car at the May Lake parking area and went back to Olmsted Point to trace out the whole trail. And to check out the local Old Man of the Mountain, which is on the adjacent peak called "9203", or "9125" depending on which map you have.

Here are the two hikes:


The red gps trace is the old trail, except for a bit near the lower left, where its connection to the "Snow Creek to Tenaya Lake Trail" is shown as dots. More about the old trail later. The green and blue traces are Monday's and Friday's continuations. You will see highway 120 Tioga Pass Road on the map. In white is the old Tioga Road, which is the auto access road as far as the May Lake parking lot / trail head at Snow Flat. Beyond that, the old road is used as the hiking trail between May Lake and Tenaya Lake. The dashed line near Snow Flat is the (newer) pack trail from Snow Creek to the May Lake Trail Head. It goes past the quarries (see link). X marks the Olmsted Point Parking Lot.

Here is a google earth view of the critical part of the route finding. It's easy, but if you hike up the center of the drainage, you will find yourself blocked in places by various obstacles which force you up onto a series of ledges up on the right hand side. The old trail just stays up on those ledges the whole way.


If you pause on the old trail, near the middle of this photo, and look up towards peak 9203, you will see the old man:


Well, it looks like a face to me....

We walked up the peak to get some fabulous views (there is an easy route up the northwest corner of the summit) and then hiked the mile or so over to the May Lake parking lot. Either version of the hike is less than three miles long, and will be added to my list of short hikes "to do when you have only a couple of hours to kill". As usual, my buddy had to climb the wobbly boulder on top of the peak.


Of course, from up there you get all the views that Olmsted Point gives you, plus a full face view of Mount Hoffman, a fresh look at Tenaya Lake, and many peaks off to the north and east.... And no people. No signs of people. No litter. No footprints. It's pristine. The mob scene at Olmsted Point is just an easy mile away.

So, how can it be that a substantial mule trail could be missing from all the maps? When I got home, I looked it up. It's an interesting story. The Indians and the cavalry did it. I will put that stuff in a later message on this thread, for the handful of you who are not bored by all that history if somebody asks for it.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2015 09:13PM by wherever.
avatar Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 21, 2015 09:22PM
Um... you missed this .... found this trail last year...

http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?17,77767,77767#msg-77767

Northern part looks off by quite a bit...



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 21, 2015 09:28PM
Trail in entirety looks like this:


Props to Stick N Fedders for the fun of finding the lower (southern most portion)

Have fun



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 21, 2015 10:10PM
Quote
chick-on

.....Northern part looks off by quite a bit.....

Trail in entirety looks like this:


Props to Stick N Fedders for the fun of finding the lower (southern most portion)

Have fun

Nope. Got you this time. Here is what the US Geological Survey showed after the troops fixed it up:


That's the trail that I followed.

For those others of you who don't know this area like the back your cockscomb, note that Olmsted Point and the new road didn't exist yet at that time.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2015 10:11PM by wherever.
avatar Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 21, 2015 10:32PM
My track there ... if you follow.... you will find rockwork the entire way...
I was fully expecting it to loop down .... but it never did...
But I will gladly go look at how you went from that saddle too...

I look at the Old Man as more of a Sphinx...

a la...



Hey... but it's all fun, no?



tongue sticking out smiley

Tanks



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 22, 2015 04:24PM
Quote
chick-on
My track there ... if you follow.... you will find rockwork the entire way...
I was fully expecting it to loop down .... but it never did...
But I will gladly go look at how you went from that saddle too...

I look at the Old Man as more of a Sphinx...

Hey... but it's all fun, no?

Tanks

A thousand pardons. You did report that trail last year. But with no map shown, and all your words about the May Lake Mystery Trail, which is farther north, it never registered in my brain about the part down by Olmsted Point. You obviously also climbed peak 8203, since you posted this photo of that same boulder at the top:



But "rockwork the whole way" to the May Lake parking at Snow Flat, does not apply to the original trail, as shown by the 1929 map segment shown above. And it doesn't make any sense to move stones north of the saddle for a pack trail which was headed to hook up with the old Toga Road. That bit is over flat open ground with scattered trees and very few rocks. Mostly earth. No cavalryman would have ever looked for some rocks to pile up, when a few blazes on the trees are all you need to mark the trail there. Today, all that remains of the oldest trail in this area is a faint depression on the ground, like a game trail. Note however, that I didn't see that 1929 map until I got home, so I think that my instincts while following the original trail were accurate. The newer leg going more directly towards May Lake, that you found, could have come after the May Lake camp was built in 1938. Maybe they needed a fancier and more direct trail for the greenhorns to follow after that. In any case, the trail itself was superseded no later than the 70's by the present trail, which runs past the quarries and then alongside the entrance road to the parking lot, i.e., the old Tioga Road.

I cheerfully give you full priority for finding this abandoned trail before I did. Now, to pull together a separate posting about the history of this thing....
Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 22, 2015 07:19PM
This thread is about another of the abandoned trails around Yosemite Valley. See link abandoned trails

This post is about history of the short trail from Olmsted Point to May Lake: First, let me correct a misapprehension about there being only two old Indian trails up the north side of Yosemite Valley to connect with the northern leg of the Mono Trail. Those being the one which became the Old Big Oak Flat horse trail (which preceded the Old Big Oak Flat Road) and the other up Indian Canyon (which was also developed into a horse trail for a few years until it was put out of business by the newer Yosemite Falls Trail. See link horse trail and link Indian Canyon Trail

The third Indian route was not suitable for a horse trail right away, but Chief Tenaya led some of the Mariposa Battalion up it at the very beginning:
"In June, 1851, Captain Boling, Bunnell, and party with Chief Teneiya, left the valley via an old trail above Mirror Lake and arrived at Tenaya Lake
that same night. This appears to be the first recorded trip over what later became the Tenaya Zigzags."
link: Ref. 1

The Tenaya Zig-Zags, of course, are the 108 switchbacks of what is now the Snow Creek Trail. Note that they got to Tenaya Lake in one day, which would have been difficult taking the 1851 Indian trail up Indian Canyon.

If you have ever hiked those switchbacks, you will agree that those soldiers must have left their horses behind while following the Indian version of this route. However, the idea lingered for sixty years or so, and in 1911 the Sixth Cavalry spent $6,641.43 to build the switchbacks. The trail was an immediate success. It was called the Mirror Lake - Tenaya Lake Trail.

A year later, "In 1912 a new trail branching off from the Mirror Lake - Tenaya Lake trail at Snow Creek was built to the North Dome, and thence to Yosemite Point. Also a new trail from Tenaya Lake to Clouds Rest, passing between Clouds Rest and Sunrise Mountain." (same ref.)

Prior to that, in 1883, the old Tioga Road to the pass was finished. So the new cavalry trail had two choices as they approached Tenaya Lake. They could head straight for the then-existing road, or they could follow the old foot path below what is now Olmsted Point. They did both. No doubt, the horses preferred the trail we trod last week up to the Tioga Road, rather than the shorter slick rock of the foot trail.

So, in 1911 the Snow Creek trail was built. The 1911 Yosemite topo map doesn't show it, but the 1929 revision does. May Lake is just over the edge onto the Mt Lyell quadrangle, but the story there is similar. The only two copies of the Mt Lyell map that I can find are 1901 and 1929. (see link historical topos)

In 1901 there was no trail to May Lake at all, nor any trail to Tenaya Lake south of the old Tioga Road. The trail coming up past Yosemite Falls goes straight to the old road at the current Porcupine Flat trail head and ends there. You were expected to take the road to Tenaya Lake, where the next side trail goes north up Murphy Canyon, or you could stay on the road to get to Tuolumne Meadows.

By 1929 the situation has altered. With the new Snow Creek Trail open, and a side trail from there to North Dome and Yosemite Point, there was plenty of traffic towards Tenaya Lake. There was by then trail access to May Lake, but only as a spur from the current trail head on the old road. The new trails from the Valley didn't go to May Lake, and there was no trail from that lake going north towards Galen Aulin Camp (it was established 1927, but there was no May Lake camp until 1938). So by 1929 you had this situation (I have tried to paste together fragments from the two 1929 maps, please excuse the seam down the middle):



At the bottom of the figure is an arrow pointing to the trail coming up Snow Creek. By then it was called the Tenaya Lake Trail. The arrow points at the saddle behind Mount Watkins, where the trail still runs today. The second arrow points to the spot below what will become Olmsted Point where the trail split. Branch 2 is the trail that this thread is about. Branch 3 is the still-existing foot trail to Tenaya Lake.

Branch 2 may have been the preferred stock trail before the new road was built, but even before that hiking down the road was no longer attractive. Plus, people wanted a more direct route to the new camp at May Lake. Some time after 1929 trail branch 2 was decommissioned, and a new stock trail that goes past the quarries to the May Lake trail head was built instead. (see link map and link Watkins) The oldest map in my possession that shows the new trail layout is dated 1979, 18 years after the new road past Olmsted point was built.

The old and new trails split near the Snow Creek ski cabin, which was built in 1929 by the Curry Co. as "an experimental ski cabin on the shoulder of Mount Watkins above Snow Creek, initiating the first hut system for ski-mountaineering in the Sierra. The cabin was enlarged in 1930. The hut would function as a starting place for tours of the High Sierra camps, which would also be developed with a series of ski huts similar to those used in the European Alps. Eldridge T. Spencer of San Francisco drew the cabin plans, with Dr. Tresidder making suggestions drawn from a book of pictures and plans of Swiss mountain huts. Visitors arrived at the cabin on horseback, snowshoes, foot, and skis for the start of ski tours, which ran from Mount Watkins to Snow Flat and from the cabin to Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows. The Park Service allowed the Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows ranger cabins to be stocked and used in the winter as bases for those skiing expeditions. A ski school started at Yosemite in 1928, with professional instructors and ski guides providing competent ski instruction. As it turned out, ski touring did not catch on as expected, while downhill skiing on packed slopes became ever more popular. The park even made a bid in 1929 to host the 1932 Olympics, but was turned down in favor of Lake Placid." see link ref 2

The road past Olmsted Point was completed in 1961. Actually, it was called "Olmsted View" at the time, but after a few years the need to make it a "point" took over. It's like Artist Point or Inspiration Point on the old Wawona Road . There is no point there, but "point" sounds better, especially since there really was a point years before at the old Inspiration Point.... And people came to expect one. But Old Inspiration Point is a whole other topic.

Finally, here is a description of the trail written in 1920:
"The trail starts at Mirror Lake, three miles from Yosemite. One should plan to see sunrise there (about 8 a. m. in summer). Skirting the west shore
the trail follows up the canyon about one mile, thru a dense forest of oak, laurel, yellow pine, Douglas fir and incense cedar. Then begins a long,
hard climb of 2500 feet up 108 switchbacks (one and a half miles—two hours). Above the rim of the canyon the trail follows the west bank of Snow Creek. Fishing is fair but the trout small. Further down stream are picturesque cascades. After passing thru a forest of Jeffrey pine, lodgepole pine and fir for about one mile the trail to North Dome and Tioga Road (Trail Trip 4) branches to the left. Our trail turns right and crosses Snow Creek (foot-log) about 300 yards beyond. We then climb 1500 feet by zigzags up an east branch of Snow Creek thru scattered timber. At the headwaters of this creek is a small meadow at the right of the trail, a good campsite with forage fairly abundant. Rising over a spur ridge, the trail drops abruptly about 650 feet to Tenmile Meadow (Alt. 8400) on a small tributary of Tenaya Creek. This is a good place to noon. It is a fine camp and horse-feed is abundant, but there is no fishing. Climbing to the northeast thru timber the trail passes Hidden Lake (Alt. 8400-picturesque, but no fishing), which is a short distance to the right of the trail but not visible from it. About two and a half miles beyond Tenmile Meadow the trail forks. The left branch leads to the Tioga Road, about one mile distant, which may then be followed to Lake Tenaya. The trail to the right is far more scenic. It follows an open granite ridge revealing the wonderfully glaciated canyon below and Clouds Rest opposite. Down the canyon are Half Dome and the head of Yosemite Valley. Descending about 300 feet the trail passes a beautiful little unnamed lake, where are good campsites and abundant pasturage, but no fishing. From here the trail traverses almost level meadows and a scattered forest of lodgepole pine one mile to Lake Tenaya (Alt. 8141). This large, deep glacial lake is beautifully surrounded by granite crags and domes and is a splendid place for a permanent camp. Its Indian name was Py-we-ack, or “lake of the glistening rocks,” because of the glacier-polished granite pavements near the north end. On June 5, 1851, when the last remnant of old Chief Tenaya’s Yosemite Tribe was captured here by the Mariposa Battalion, the lake and the dominant pyramidal peak at the east were renamed “Tenaya.” Forage is abundant in the vicinity but it is not liked by horses, so stock should be hobbled. The lake was stocked with Loch Leven trout in 1911 and with rainbow, eastern brook, black spotted and steelhead in 1917, 1918 and 1919, but fishing is only fair. The Tioga Road follows around the western margin of the lake to Tenaya Lake Lodge, about one and a half miles distant, where good accommodations will be found. The road continues up the canyon to Tuolumne Meadows, seven and a half miles distant, and to Mono Lake. "
(see link 1920 map) and (1920 guide)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/29/2015 11:04PM by wherever.
avatar Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 22, 2015 11:30PM
Thanks a billion for taking the time to do all this research and posting your findings. It's a fascinating read, all of it!

Bowing to his greatness
Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 25, 2015 09:49PM
Here's some history to narrow down the time of the switchover from the trail talked-about above to the current trail from Snow Creek up to May Lake. As mentioned above, the May Lake High Sierra Camp opened in 1938. But work was afoot before that. CCC workers in the park were busy in anticipation of the camp opening, and of the desirability a connection to Glen Aulin. "In July 1936 construction took place on the May Lake trail from the top of the Tenaya zigzags to the junction of the [existing Tenaya-Lake-to-Murphy-Creek-to] McGee Lake Trail." McGee Lake is a fraction of a mile before the trail gets to Glen Aulin. ref 4. It would appear this is when an unfortunate choice was made to run the new trail up the west side of the ridge instead of up from the Watkins saddle, where the current ski trail goes. It resulted in a much inferior route that we are stuck with today. Perhaps there was once a water source somewhere on the side of that ridge. Even now it would make sense to just abandon that piece of trail and switch over to the ski trail instead.

The current bridge over Snow Creek was built in 1938-39 during the extensive bridge replacements occurring all over the park as a result of the great flood of December 1937.

Anyway, the 1956 USGS maps of Hetch Hetchy and Tuolumne Meadows show the current trail setup. They also show the new Tioga Pass Highway, although construction wouldn't start until 1957, and a public furor over the blasting going on at the to-be Olmsted Point occurred in 1958. see historic maps and blasting

Therefore, the trail that this thread is about was abandoned between 1936 and 1956. Probably closer to 1936.

As an aside, here is a paragraph from the same reference about the Snow Creek ski:

Winter Sports Move to Badger Pass

As skiers began to gravitate toward the Badger Pass area, the Snow Creek cabin continued to provide a more extensive ski terrain than the valley floor offered. Skiers often used a small hill near the cabin as a practice slope. The cabin served for five seasons for skiing, until the spring of 1934. Although park visitors did not use the cabin much after that, rangers en route to Yosemite Creek or Tuolumne Meadows on snow surveys would occasionally stop overnight, and, during the spring, men sent by the concessioner to fill the ice houses at Tuolumne Meadows and Merced Lake, which were used for refrigeration purposes for the high country camps, would stop by. Ansel Adams visited the cabin several times to take pictures of the high country in winter. The cabin was basically abandoned by the Curry Company after that time, although it was occasionally used as an overnight refuge by backcountry travelers. Volunteer “rangers” occasionally lived in the building, which has had some use as a backcountry patrol cabin.


Sorry, that's more than you wanted to know...



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/26/2015 07:25AM by wherever.
avatar Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 25, 2015 11:21PM
Quote
wherever

Sorry, that's more than you wanted to know...


Not at all!

In fact, it got me thinking about what was Bowers's alternative alignment of Tioga Road compared to the one that was adopted that he and Adams so vehemently opposed (for very good reasons).

,
avatar Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
August 04, 2015 05:58PM
Great research, thanks! Its fascinating (to me anyway) to think about all that must have been going on at that time...new road, new trails, Snow Creek cabin being built, and the High Sierra Camps being set up. The roaring 20's indeed!
Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
May 24, 2016 11:10AM
So now I've gotten sucked into this thread. I've read what I can find, including links to links. Still, I can't find anything concrete on what the alternate route for Tioga Road that would have avoided dynamiting (defacing? destroying? desecrating? some have opined) the granite domes there. I did read a vague reference to an early option (before WWII) of something north of Polly Dome, but that was quickly ruled out as having too much impact on an otherwise pristine wilderness area.

Does anyone have information about what the Sierra Club and Brower/Adams proposed alternative route was?
avatar Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
May 24, 2016 12:20PM
I think Adams wanted to keep the old (original) alignment of Tioga Road (or close to it) via Snow Flat and widen the old road to modern highway standards versus rerouting it via Olmsted Point as it currently is.



Leave No Trace



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/24/2016 12:35PM by plawrence.
Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
May 24, 2016 03:22PM
Looking at the old and new routes (in maps above) it looks like the old Tioga Rd was routed around Tenaya Lake just as it is now - or close to it - as shown on Google Maps. That's far east of the portion maligned for scarring the granite dome (leading to Olmstead Pt). I can't reconcile that with the claims that someone's (can't remember who - Adams or Brower?) wife cried when she saw the new road running alongside the lake. Compared to what? Perhaps it was not right up against the lake but closer to the granite slopes? I would imagine that would present a lot of rockfall hazard (against the domes) but haven't seen any maps indicating another route that did not run along the north shore of Tenaya Lake.

One historical document (of unknown veracity - though it was on the internet so it must be true...) I saw indicated that a proposed alternate route was lower on the slope (below Olmstead?) than the current alignment (to avoid blasting the granite dome I presume). It was rejected as being too steep a grade. Included a quote "you might as well build a hospital at the bottom while you're at it" - or something close to that.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/24/2016 03:25PM by ags.
Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 29, 2015 05:27PM
Many thanks for the write-up. All the more interesting to me because I just finished reading that 1920 guide and was trying to make some correspondences between the old trail names and their current versions (or, more to the point, trying to figure out if it was just the name that changed or also the trail itself).
avatar Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 21, 2015 09:22PM
Fantastic! Can't wait for the follow-up!
Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 22, 2015 05:24AM
Although hikes/discoveries like this typically go on my "Oh my god, I'll never get caught up!" list of places to go in Yosemite, I LOVE reading about them. hot smiley Thanks for posting, wherever!
Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 22, 2015 08:36AM
nice find! I'd be interested in the history behind this trail!

-Kevin
Re: Another abandoned trail, and a new "Old Man of the Mountain" (long)
July 22, 2015 01:21PM
This trail was most likely created when the Tenaya Lake High Sierra Camp was relocated to May Lake. In fact two well-engineered segments of trail were created due to this relocation: the one mentioned here from near Olmsted Point to the current May Lake parking area, and one from just north of May Lake to just west of the Ten Lakes/Glen Aulin trail junction--the latter has been informally called the "May Lake Mystery Trail" on this forum. Keep in mind that back then May Lake was between Yosemite Valley (or possibly the Snow Creek ski cabin) and Glen Aulin in the High Sierra Loop, which included Yosemite Valley but not Sunrise, which wasn't built until much later.

The southern trail would most likely have been abandoned when Yosemite Valley was no longer considered to be part of the High Sierra Loop--probably around the time Sunrise HSC was built. The northern "mystery" trail was abandoned when the current Raisin Lake route--which has less elevation gain and doesn't hold nearly as much late-season snow--was blasted through the granite slabs northeast of Raisin Lake.
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