First Days in Yosemite

Late Summer Wildflowers ©David Gardner

We find ourselves in Lee Vining today. After a somewhat hectic few days of preparation, we managed to get up to Crane Flat in Yosemite National Park on the Thursday before Labor Day weekend. This worked out well for us as there was still plenty of spaces in the campgrounds. We only had one day reserved, but were able to extend the stay through the entire weekend. We could enjoy the surrounding area instead of having to find somewhere else to stay over a very busy holiday.

Tuolumne Big Tree Grove. ©David Gardner

Giant Redwood trunk detail. ©David Gardner

In the five days we’ve been here, we’ve hiked every day. First we hiked to the Tuolumne Grove of giant redwoods. This was a fairly short 3 mile hike, but helped acclimatize us to the 6000 ft. elevation. The grove has a small number of trees, but they are impressive. The original tree tunnel is here, but the tree is dead and covered with carved graffiti – the victim of stupid human interventions, and fire. Next morning we hiked to a lovely little sub-alpine lake called Lukens Lake – another 4 miles or so. On the way, the trail showed many piles of bear scat. This always makes us a little nervous, but really, just making noise is usually enough to scare them away if there is a chance meeting – which there was. It was on the way back to the campground and up ahead I noticed a strangely shaped tree stump. It had the vague shape of a bear head, but when it moved I knew it wasn’t a tree. It was a small bear, maybe 2 or 3 years old. Technically, all the bears here are black bears, but it doesn’t mean their coats are always black. This one in fact was quite brown in color and very shaggy. Haven’t seen that before. Anyway, it took off pretty quickly when it got wind of us.

We moved our camp up to the Tuolumne Meadows campground on Monday and watched the crowds pile out of the area. We took a stroll with our cameras along the Lyell fork of the Tuolumne river in the evening and were again seduced by movement of the stream. Moving water is such a photographic cliche, but I cannot resist the effect. It is just magical and for a cliche, I think it is the most effective one.

Lyell River detail 1. ©David Gardner

Lyell River detail 2. ©David Gardner

Lyell River detail 2. ©David Gardner

Lyell River detail 3. ©David Gardner

Lyell River detail 3. ©David Gardner

Lyell River detail 4. ©David Gardner

Morning three we took a somewhat more difficult hike up to Elizabeth Lake. It was a steep 800 ft. rise to the lake. The trail rose through forest into a lovely meadow area and eventually to the lake. As we got close, it go very windy. We hiked around the perimeter and found a nice protected spot for lunch in a granite boulder pile. After we finished, we picked up and began to leave. As I got up, I got a glimpse of fur. Looking closer I discovered a marmot on the boulder above us. It was watching us the whole time, so we decided to watch it for awhile.

Marmot at Elizabeth Lake. ©David Gardner

I think the 9000 ft. altitude got to me a bit. I had a headache and was very fatigued. It wasn’t that tough of a hike to make me feel the way I did – even a big coffee and cookies didn’t help! But a nap did, and we vegged the rest of the day. Dinner at the Tuolumne Lodge was a really nice to finish off our stay in the high country.

Our upcoming activity today is a trip to Bodie – a ghost town we have visited several times before. We often pass this place as we come and go to other locations. We usually have to pass it by because the road in becomes impassable in snowy or wet weather. There was a bit of rain yesterday, but not enough to cause a problem with the road and it looks to be an absolutely gorgeous day today.

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