Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Yosemite Ramble

Hike track link

Day 1

All the stars aligned so we could take Hikin' Bill on an adventure for a few days before we leave for Australia. Susan and Bill chose the Vogelsang area because the epic winter prevented the Park from opening any of the backcountry camps this summer. We knew the trail would be much better than usual with no mules going in and out every day and the traffic would be light. 

We took the Rafferty Creek trail in and enjoy the pedestrian grade for most of the way. By just after lunch we had made Vogelsand Camp. But that wasn't our destination as we'd much rather camp somewhere a little off the beaten path. We cross-country ambled up a short climb and found ourselves at the lovely Townsley Lake. A short time later camp was secured. 

With the rest of the afternoon to kill we trekked to the nearby Hanging Basket Lake. Meandering along the Townsley shoreline and across the inlet stream we approached the nearly vertical scramble up to our goal. It was steep and full of loose sand and talus but we managed. Hanging Basket looks like you would expect from such a name, a lake locked in a glacial carved bowl with little room for anything else. After the obligatory photos we managed to survive the descent on a little better route that Susan found. 

A fun day had by all!

And then the rains came...

Day 2

We had no plans for today going into the trip. With a blue sky morning we headed for Vogelsang Pass and beyond. The climb to the pass wasn't much, passing Vogelsang Lake, and a few hundred more feet and we were there. The smoke from the fire in southern Yosemite was far to the west so we had great views. To the north was Mt Conness, to the west the Clark Range. 

Our destination became clear as we crested the pass with two high elevation lakes on a bench across the Lewis Creek canyon. We dropped several hundred feet until the terrain allowed a cross country escape from the trail toward Gallison Lake. What a beauty! Surrounded by high peaks of the Cathedral Range, this lake has no trees and gorgeous grass and flowers all around. We spent quite a lot of time wandering around flower peeping and photographing. 

Then it was off to Bernice Lake next door through a notch in the ridge and a descent to the lake. The wind pattern had change and we were getting some pretty heavy smoke by this point. We took a few photos and beat feet for the trail. Dropping down to Lewis Creek we intersected the Vogelsang trail and trudged up to the pass. Susan spotted a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan just over the pass which was very cool. Smoke pretty much obscured everything by this point so it was on to camp. As I write this the wind is shifting again and our skies are clearing. Hopefully another good day tomorrow!

Day 3 

We didn't go far today, only about six miles, but ended the day at Ireland Lake - a spot we had visited before on a day hike and said we need to camp there! And here we are. Hopefully some of the forest fire smoke moves out later and improves the view but it's still pretty special. 

The hike out of Townsley Lake this morning took us up and over a mesa that friends Chris and Rosie call 'Indian Trading Mesa.' There is obviously more history here than we know about. It was a lovely spot. Dropping off the mesa we passed Evelyn Lake and hit the trail. Up and over a ridge and we were on the Ireland spur trail. 

This lake sits above treeline in a bowl protected by Parsons and Amelia Earhart Peaks. We need to learn more about how the famous flyer got her name on a peak here. [Kind of boring, but from the book, “Yosemite Place Names,” The name was proposed by the Rocketdyne Mountaineering Club for Amelia Earhart Putnum, who disappeared over the Pacific on an around-the-world flight in 1937. Approved by the BGN in 1967. The name is not on early editions of the Tuolumne Meadows 15’ quad; it first appeared on the 1968 edition.]  Camp is on an exposed grassy hill with some afternoon breeze. Hopefully that will keep the dwindling mosquito population at bay. 

Day 4

All great trips must end (or you run out of food and starve...) and today was walk out day. We left the stark but beautiful Ireland Lake under smokeless blue skies. It was a quick trip down the long hill into Lyell Canyon and then the nearly flat 5 mile walk to Tuolumne Meadows and civilization. With cheeseburgers waiting at the Whoa Nelli Deli in Lee Vining, it wasn't all bad!