Grounded Graphics -- Scott Sanders
|Photographs and Images of National Parks, State Parks, Lighthouses, Nature, Structures, Art|
Yosemite National Park August 2008
We’ve all seen Ansel Adam’s iconic pictures and heard the legendary stories from our friends. They’re all true. Yosemite is everything it’s reputed to be and more. The first thing you notice on the way into the park while driving in on highway 140 from Merced is the immensity of the canyons and granite walls. Make sure you’re a passenger in the car at this point; you won’t want to be driving. Tourists are everywhere in Yosemite Valley. It was chilling for this Georgia backpacker to drive past Inspiration point, Bridal Veils Falls, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Rock, Glacier Point, and see Half Dome calling in the distance. All these Yosemite Legends can be seen on the way to the backpacker’s campground in Yosemite Valley, and you haven’t hiked a step. Just being in the valley is a rush, but the back country is a special world of its own, devoid of the masses. You’ll need a permit to get to the backcountry unless you’re day hiking. If you have time, spend an extra two or three days.
Our backpacking trip went through some of the parks most spectacular well known areas. We started out hiking up the Mist trail past Vernal Falls and then past Nevada Falls. The throngs of over weight tourists, small children, and international visitors with big lens cameras are everywhere along the Mist trail up to the Emerald Pool area. After Emerald Pool, there’s the reduced, but normal assault of Peak Baggers headed to the top of Half Dome. Past Half Dome, virtually no one is on the trails. Solitude and breath taking scenery is along every step of the rest of our 65 Mile loop hike.
Take your Best Camera, tons of extra batteries, a good portable storage device (40 MB or bigger) and a light weight tripod. When you get home, you won’t remember the burden of carrying the extra 10 pounds of photo gear, but you’ll have amazing pictures to last a life time. I didn’t notice the weight. I shot over 1,000 photos and could have taken another 4000 photos. At some point on the trail the immensity of the beauty and it’s ever persistent presence tends to dull your shutter finger. There simply are too many “Nikon moments”, as I call the photograph opportunities (sorry Kodak) and you can’t take the time to shoot them all and hike the miles you’ll need to complete the trip. I could have spent an entire day taking photos just in the area around Vogelsang Lake – unbelievable. How come no one ever mentioned Vogelsang to me before?
Day One. Stay in the Backpacker's camp near North Pines campground. Drop a car in the backpackers parking lot at the base of of the canyon below Glacier Point. Remove all smellables. Even trash. Store smellables in the metal bear boxes.
Day Two. Follow the Mist Trail past Vernal Falls, Emerald Pools, Silver Apron, and Nevada Falls. Take the John Muir Trail to the East. Make camp the first night in Little Yosemite Valley, and take a dip in the Merced River nearby.
Day Three. Get up early and summit Half Dome for amazing sunrise opportunities. Leave around 3:00 am to get a good seat and avoid the traffic on the trail. The crowds start showing up for the climb after the sun rises. Some crowding can happen on the "ladder" to Half Dome. After Half Dome, continue following the John Muir Trail towards Sunrise Lakes, your third camp. Take the optional hike over Clouds Rest, if you’ve got the legs and the time. The payoff from the vies will be worth it. If you don't go over Clouds Rest, take the left off the John Muir trail and follow the metal signs towards Tenaya Lake. This third day is a “big day” with some big climbs, and long miles. Make sure you get to the first Sunrise Lake (the most Southwestern of the three Sunrise Lakes) before sunset. I got some amazing photos from the base of Sunrise Mountain looking west. A great campsite is at the base of Sunrise Mountain, at the most Southwestern Sunrise Lake.
Day Four. Is a welcomed reprieve from Day Three, with a much shorter hike and views so beautiful you won’t notice the soreness in your muscles. From your campsite, continue to the Easternmost of the Sunrise Lakes, turn to the right, and hike through the Gap and descend to Sunrise High Sierra camp. Turn left and rejoin the John Muir Trail headed North. Keep your camera ready for the rest of the day. More legendary peaks wait along this stretch from Sunrise Camp to Lower Cathedral Lake. First it’s Columbia Finger, then Matthes Crest to the right in the distance. Then Tressider peak, Echo Peaks,and Cathedral Peak, and Medlicott Dome off in the distance to the North. With Cathedral Peak on your right, hang a left onto the 0.5 mile trail to the Lower Cathedral Lake. Make sure you walk around the North side of Lower Cathedral Lake to a point in the bend of the lake I named “Photographer’s Point”. When you get there, you’ll recognize it. Cathedral Lake sweeps 300 degrees from this point. This is a place I’d want to live, if they'd let me put up a cabin. The setting sun lights up Cathedral Peak and awesome views are in every direction. Take a short hike up the hill (towards the summit of Medlicott Dome) and you can watch the sunset with Tenaya Lake to the Southwest far off in the valley. It's simply an amazing place to spend a day - one of my favorites at Yosemite. Did I mention there are no crowds here? Day hikers leave early and it’s just the backpackers for supper and sunset.
Day Five. This is a long descent to Tuolumne Meadows through a heavily forested area. You'll get peeks of Fairview Dome on the way down. Check your Map. The old National Geographic Map they sell in the park shows the John Muir Trail going to the south of the congested area in Tuolumne Meadows. I understand the JMT has been re routed to go to the North of Tuolumne Meadows and reconnects back on the South side of the road around the Lyell Fork area. Check out the Cheeseburgers at the grill next to the Post Office and Country Store. Breakfast is good at the grill also. The Country Store on the other side of the Post Office has the normal Yosemite souvenirs, and food, fruit, beverages, some alcohol, and some gear for sale. This is where you drop ship food for the second half of the trip. Walk across the road from the Post Office, towards the Tuolumne River. Just up stream from the bridge is a great spot to watch sunset with Lembert Dome to the East and Cathedral Peak to the South. The backpacker’s campground is a short walk from the Post Office. Be prepared. This area is swarming with car driving tourists.
Day Six is another easy day, but it has a long climb up Rafferty Creek Trail next to Rafferty Creek through a forested area with the most interesting trees. One I found looks like a Panther is morphing out of it. Get an early start. You’ll have a long climb (five miles uphill) to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. Fletcher Mountain, Fletcher Creek, Vogelsang Mountain and Vogelsang Lake are waiting for you at the next campsite. For me, it was worth the trip to Yosemite just to visit this area. I could spend a week in this area. If you wanted to spend an extra day on the trail, this is a spot I would recommend. Vogelsang Lake is deep sapphire blue, accented with white granite rocks in and next to the lake, green juniper looking trees line the shore, and everything is covered with a High-Sierra Blue Sky – the name I’ve given to describe the unique color of the Yosemite sky in Summer. The view of the lake from Vogelsang Pass is memorable. It’s a post card view.
Day Seven goes over Vogelsang Pass and you'll have views of Bernice Lake. The trail (I believe is Lewis Creek Trail) follows Lewis Creek for miles downsteam and eventually runs into Merced High Sierra Camp just before Merced Lake. An alternate route is Vogelsang to Merced via the Fletcher Creek Trail. I’ve never heard of Lewis Creek, but this long trail down the valley is beautiful too. "Remote" is a good way to describe this Lewis Creek area. The Merced High Sierra Camp is like an oasis in the desert. All the High Sierra Camps have a dining tent, with hearty food, and comfortable two-man tents for hikers to stay in. I believe they're available on a reservation basis only. Sometimes, they have extra meals available for the backpackers to purchase, but don’t rely on the meals being available. The backpacker's campground is just to the West of the Dining Tent. These High Sierra Camps attract a diverse group of hikers. I met a lot of “old timers” in these camps who had been coming to Yosemite for years. The High Sierra Camps are a kinder, gentler way to travel - a sleeping bag and the normal day hike items are all that's needed. I met "Ranger Dave" Carrying a Nikon D300 at Merced. Turns out he has MY JOB that I've always wanted. Unlike most Rangers who police the area and give out tickets, he's the one who leads the visitors from one High Sierra Camp to the next. One night he gives lectures on the constellations and the next he might talk about BEARS! Dave told me "no one get's Ranger Daves' Job!" Merced Lake is beautiful at sunset. Make sure to spend some time walking along the sides of the lake and do some exploring. Plenty of deer visit the area.
Day Eight. After leaving Merced Lake, you’ll be following the trail downd stream following the Merced River and pass Bunnell Point on the way back to Yosemite Valley. About a mile after the lake, you’ll see a North facing rock next to the trail with a “natural bench” at the appropriate level for sitting. The Legend I heard from Ken and his brother who have been coming to Yosemite over 40 years has it that this is “Bob’s Bench”. A guy named Bob, last name unknown to the writer, reportedly visited this bench, meditated, met friends, and made new ones at this bench. The rock stays cool throughout the day and makes for an excellent place to contemplate life and meet some nice people, like Ken and his brother. The Merced River has a never ending series of water falls, plunges, slick rock sections, and pools to swim in. Eventually the Merced River creates Nevada Falls near Liberty Cap, and then Vernal Falls before descending into Yosemite Valley.
We hiked from Merced to Yosemite Valley in one day (about 13 long miles downhill) but you could easily hike to Little Yosemite Valley, camp, and return to Yosemite Valley the next day.
At the junction of the Mist trail and the John Muir trail near the top of Nevada Falls, take the John Muir to the left to avoid the steep steps going down the Mist trail. A classic view of Nevada Falls and Liberty cap and Mount Broderick waits along the trail which has been cut in on the side of a steep cliff. This section is used by the pack mules and is full of rock steps and cobblestones. The switchback descent will seem never ending.
When you get back to the valley floor, your car should be safe at the Backpackers parking lot, if you left ALL the sellable out of it. Rangers reported to me that the bears will break windows out of cars and go after anything, even food bags with the food eaten - they attact bears. Get rid of all trash in your car. The Rangers showed me the broken glass from a car on the ground from the day before.
Bears. Yes there are bears in Yosemite and plenty of them. I saw six on my trip. Most of them in Yosemite Valley. A mother and two cubs were below Vernal Falls on the opposite side of the river. They appeared to be watching the tourists, while the tourists frantically took photographs. The bears went back in the woods after a few minutes. Two more bears were spotted near Curry Village and Yosemite village. I image they were hanging out in the valley following the tourists, looking for an “easy meal” from food being left out in the open. On our first night, our neighbors had a bear come into their campsite, looking for food but the bear was run off before I saw him. The only other bear I saw was along the Merced River to the East of Little Yosemite valley, before Bunnell Point. Use good Bear Protection practices in Yosemite. Carry the “required” bear canisters, and keep them away from your campsite. Lock them in the metal bear boxes that occupy many of the campsites.
This trip to Yosemite was a sensory overload. Try to build in extra time to stay in Yosemite Valley and visit the tourist spots. Visit Curry Village and eat at some of the food spots. Their Veggie Pizza was good. I found the old Yosemite Cemetery and read some plaques. The museum is interesting. The Girls Club that has internet connections, and bunches of other cool places in the Valley are an easy walk. Souvenirs are plentiful in the Yosemite Country store. If you like hanging with Climbers, they stay along the Merced River near the base of Yosemite falls in Camp 4. Climbers are interesting people.
There are day use trails on both sides of the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Nikon Moments are everywhere. The trails are an easy to walk and you should spend a day or longer in Yosemite Valley if you can make time.
Another area to explore is the road over to Tuolumne Meadows. One of the best views in the park is at Olmstead Point. Many of the classic sites can be seen from here – Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Tenaya Lake. The western end of Tenaya Lake has some beautiful spots to have lunch, and take a swim.
Tuolumne Meadows is a great place to explore also. Deer come out into the meadows before sunset. From Tuolumne Meadows you can hike to Lembert Dome, or over to the Tuolumne River. Cathedral Peaks can be seen from the Meadow.
We didn’t make it to Ansel Adams Wilderness, Lyell Canyon, or Donohue Pass, but I hear they’re awesome too. Maybe next trip I'll visit them.
Too many trails and too little time.
Yosemite’s treasures are waiting for you.
Vogelsang Pass Images
Bears in Yosemite
Sunsets in Yosemite
Thanks for looking at my Photos.
I found this friendly rock along Lewis Creek
Bridalveil Falls Images
Clouds Rest Images
Quick reference to Yosemite National Park
Images and Photographs of
Yosemite Falls Images Yosemite Lodge Images Yosemite Valley Visitor Center Little Yosemite Valley
Bears and Cubs in Yosemite Bob's Bench Bridalveil Falls Images Bunnell Point Images Cathedral Lakes Images Cathedral Peak Images Clouds Rest Images Echo Peaks Images El Capitan Images Emerald Pool images Fern Grotto Images Fletcher Creek Fletcher Lake Fletcher Peak Gacier Point Images Half Dome Images John Muir Trail Images Johnson Peak Images Lembert Dome Images Lewis Creek Images Liberty Cap Images Matthes Crest Images Medlicott Dome Images Merced Lake Images Merced River Images Nevada Falls Images Rafferty Creak Rafferty Peak Sentinel Rock Images Sunrise Lakes Images Sunsets in Yosemite Tenaya Lake Images Tenaya Peak Images Trees in Yosemite Tresidder Peak Images Tuolomne Meadows Images Vernal Falls Images Vogelsang Lake Images Vogelsang Peak Images