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Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park

The Moon is at the Last Quarter


Re: Old horse trail, Sunnyside Bench, Old Big Oak Flat Road Trail, etc. (long)

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Old horse trail, Sunnyside Bench, Old Big Oak Flat Road Trail, etc. (long)
June 18, 2021 03:37PM
It's been a long time since I posted on this forum. I've been mostly grounded by the pandemic, of course, but also have focused my attentions elsewhere. I did manage to get in a brief trip to Yosemite last October, and a couple more just recently. This post is just to update info about a few of the previously mentioned hikes. Much of this stuff has been previously been discussed in my abandoned trails post. See link

My buddy and I visited the park for a few days in October. On arrival we did the hike along Sunnyside Bench, which is in good shape and just like it always was (see link). My buddy continued up the slickrock to the base of dried-up Yosemite Falls, and out via the Falls Trail.

The next day we hiked up the old horse trail to Fireplace Bluffs, then back down the abandoned Big Old Flat Road to the valley. The old horse trail was fine, just like always, as far as we went. (see link) It's an old indian trail, and those guys really knew how to pick a route that doesn't require any maintenance. Once in a while there are bushes to go around. If you follow my gps map you should have no trouble.

At Fireplace Creek we just bushwhacked up the hill to the old road. This time we went up on the west side of the creek, having done the east side previously. It gets pretty steep, with some interesting boulders and outcrops, but nothing you can't get around easily with basic route-finding skills. If you just wanted to get up to the old road, the east side of the creek would be easier. After putzing around in that area for a while, I made the fateful decision to head back down on the abandoned old road (see link and link. Big disappointment. This old road/trail was one of our family favorites. Kids and grandkids loved that hike down from the intersection with the El Cap Trail. Not any longer. The washouts are much worse, as are the fallen logs, no surprise, but the big difference now is the poison oak. Climate change, I guess, but I can no longer recommend this hike. Until and unless someone sneaks some poison oak spray onto this route, I would declare it off limits.

Not much else to report from that October trip. A day hike up the Four Mile Trail and onward to the top of Sentinel Dome, then back down again, was fine but left me feeling a bit creaky. Some hiking around Mirror Lake and Hidden Falls (see same link as for Sunnyside Bench) set us up for an early departure back to San Jose.

In this year's Spring Lottery for Half Dome permits I won Sunday June 6 for a party of four. A couple of weeks before that some of us went to the valley to see if we were in good enough shape. Not much to report. We did some stuff in the valley, hiking from Curry Village (no shuttles, and the parking situation in the valley was dire on this last week before entrance quotas went into effect). We hiked a short way up the Snow Creek Trail to get the view, while two younger members of the party split off to look at Hidden Falls. One of the potential Half Dome hikers wanted to go up to the subdome to check out his fitness, so we did that the next day. We learned plenty. The lines at Curry were extreme that week. 40 minutes in line just to pick up a room key (we had registered when we arrived, but the rooms weren't ready) 40 minutes in line to get a pizza. Most importantly, even though the coffee addicts were in line when the coffee corner opened at 6:30 am, they didn't get back to the tent until 7:30. At this time the Curry Grill was closing at 6 pm and the pizza deck at 7. After that, no food. So with the late start and some photography we had to turn around at the lookout into Tenay Canyon before the subdome (the two younger members went on up the cables (they had gotten a last minute permit), but they are faster than us and depended on us to get beer and pizza before they closed.

The next update I want to make concerns another half day, leaving-the-park hike: The Old Couterville Road (see link). Another old family favorite. This normally starts in the boulder field on route 140, but it is also suffering from poison oak as you get onto the trail. Fortunately, there is a use-trail along a half-buried old telephone cable that goes up to the real trail from just a few hundred feet west on the highway. Once you get on the old road, the first quarter mile or so is soon to be engulfed in poison oak, but it is still possible to dance through it without touching any. Someone has been trimming the worst tree branches and the washouts haven't gotten any worse, so the rest of the route is fine. We really need enlist a rogue poison oak poisoner if this route is to stay open.... Darn global warming.

As for the actual Half Dome cables trip, it was fine. We arrived a few days early, and the valley was brutally hot. We got there about noon, and had brought bicycles. Things are cooler on a bicycle and there are places to swim in the creek. The next day we acclimated with a trip up and down the Four Mile Trail.

The following day we got some easy acclimation on the Mt. Watkins hike (see link). That hike is also still fine.

There were five of us on the hike. The average age was 72. At 80, I was the patriarch. We biked to the trailhead, arriving at 6 am. Went up the Mist Trail because it was shorter and the river already shrinking in the heat. We were on top at noon, taking it easy, and were easily down in time for dinner. The two who had never been up the cables were happy to use a safety line and carabiner, which I am willing to comment on if anyone cares.

I don't expect to be doing this in another 20 years. Only 2% of people who reach age 80 also reach age 100 (see link). It's good to do this stuff while you still can. My hiking buddy is already thumping for a Tenaya Canyon traverse this Fall. We'll see.
I was already impressed with the rigor of your hiking, and THEN I saw you are 80! Now I'm super impressed and pray I will be able to do 1/2 of that in 23 more years!
Great Job!
Wow! I'm impressed too, and thanks for the great report.
avatar Re: Old horse trail, Sunnyside Bench, Old Big Oak Flat Road Trail, etc. (long)
June 21, 2021 01:00PM

No Indian Canyon Trail?

smiling smiley

Wow. We last do 11/25/2017 (time flies!) and it needed some serious lopping then!

Glad to see you are still out and about!

Kindest Regards

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Old horse trail, Sunnyside Bench, Old Big Oak Flat Road Trail, etc. (long)
June 23, 2021 08:16AM
I don't expect to be doing this in another 20 years. Only 2% of people who reach age 80 also reach age 100 (see link). It's good to do this stuff while you still can. My hiking buddy is already thumping for a Tenaya Canyon traverse this Fall. We'll see.

You were already one of my heroes (and I didn't realize just how much I missed your incredibly detailed posts until I saw this one) but I'm even more inspired to realize just how "experienced" you are! As Tom Lehrer once said "When Mozart was my age, he'd been dead for 14 years" so you've got me rather gleeful with the thought that at any age when many people have, indeed, been dead (figuratively or literally) for several years, you're not only still out there, you're contemplating whether you'll still be doing it at 100! Rolling on floor laugh Here's to being part of the 2% of the 2% (actually, if you're still hiking like this at 100, I think you're more like the 0.2% of the 2%!)
This was a really wonderful post and I'm glad to have you back. Thanks so much for the info on the old trails, too!
Informative and inspiring as usual. Really glad to see you posting again.

I've already tried out Mt. Watkins and ribbon fall amphitheater in your list, both were wonderful. Bowing to his greatness
Re: Old horse trail, Sunnyside Bench, Old Big Oak Flat Road Trail, etc. (long)
June 27, 2021 03:40PM
Thanks. It was good to get back to Yosemite after a long absence. Since my wife died and the kids and grandkids are firmly located on the East Coast, I don't have as many excuses to get to Yosemite as I used to. My regular hiking buddy is around, but tied up in a lot of golf commitments. My other hiking friends are based in Tahoe. There is plenty to do there, too, but Yosemite is still the best. After a couple of days on the amazing but crowded regular trails, it's fun to do stuff where you don't see anyone. Like Mount Watkins, Inspiration Ridge, the El Cap Ridge, the abandoned Mono Trail, Indian Canyon, the Old Horse Trail that preceded the Old Big Oak Flat Road, and many more. Some of them are easy and suitable for beginning bushwhackers, like the ridge across the road from Sentinel Dome, and some have turned into impenetrable bush crawls after forest fires, like some of the stuff below the Devils Dance Floor. Another easy one is the Old Wawona Road from New Inspiration Point down to the base of Bridalveil Falls. That used to be a perfect hike for the grade school aged grandkids. It would be interesting to see if the poison oak plague has hit that side of the valley yet.

I do have a question for Chick-on. Since I am being pressured to do Tenaya Canyon again in the Fall, I went to look at the Tenaya links in my old off-trail directory. They're dead. It seems like a lot of the links more than ten years old are gone. Is there some place to find and download them for archiving?
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