Monday, September 22, 2008

Yosemite Adventure - Lyell Canyon and Beyond...

I love Yosemite and have always wanted to take a trip to and through Lyell Canyon. Lyell Canyon is connected to Tuolumne Meadows in the High Country of Yosemite. Last week I finally got out there and know why this was one of Ansel Adam's favorite places in Yosemite.

The plan for the week was to arrive in Yosemite Valley on Monday, drop of the car at the Trailhead parking and take a shuttle up to Tuolumne Meadows. The only problem was that the shuttle schedule changed and they only left at 8:00am. Oh well, we went ahead and drove to Tuolumne Meadows and prayed that we would find a way back to the car Friday (Prayers were answered with special thanks to Dale and JoAnne!).

With car issues out of our minds, we (my hiking buddy Tim and I) headed east on the John Muir Trail into Lyell Canyon. The hike into the canyon was easy and mostly flat with a 400 ft elevation gain over 6 miles. The canyon is really a large and long meadow with the Tuolumne River snaking through it. Tall grasses, fallen logs, tall trees, trickling sounds encompassed us along the trail.

Our six mile journey took longer than usual as I attempted to drain the batteries on my camera. We finally arrived at our destination, just past the trail junction that heads to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. After setting up our trail camp, I went to work on the camera batteries again, took a break to eat dinner and then headed back to the river. While pumping water, I encountered a White Tailed Deer across the river and watched her for a while.

It was a full moon that night and I was excited to try my hand at some night time photography. The moon crested over the eastern ridge of the canyon and lit up the whole valley. It was a clear night and the stars shown brightly even with the the bright orb in the sky. The photo to the right shows the big dipper above Lyell Canyon. This was a perfect ending to a perfect day!

BACKPACKER magazine's writeup for the entire 5-day trip is now on-line. Check it out here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Emigrant Wilderness - Chewing Gum Lake

I just finished my second trip to Chewing Gum Lake (8700ft) in Emigrant Wilderness. Six weeks earlier, I enjoyed the abundant wildflowers of Emigrant Wilderness, the reflective waters of Chewing Gum Lake and the voracious blood thirsty mosquitoes. Now that September is here, most of the wildflowers are gone but so are the mosquitoes. The skies were clear for the weekend, but a steady wind met us at the lake Saturday evening and blew harder on Sunday. One advantage of all that wind is it provided incredibly clear skies and the best stargazing I have ever experienced in the back country. The photo below is an eleven minute exposure taken Saturday evening before the wind started to blow. The tree was briefly highlighted by my son's headlamp.

(click on image for a larger view)

Why hike to Chewing Gum Lake? At 4.5 miles, this destination is perfect for those who would prefer a leisurely hike (700ft elevation gain, 600ft elevation loss) as opposed to a death march! Hiking in early to mid summer will surround you in the wildflowers (vibrant Mule Ears pictured left) of Emigrant Wilderness. Even though the lake is a popular destination spot, it is a big enough lake that you can find isolation even on a busy holiday weekend.

Trailhead: HWY 108 East towards Pinecrest. R on Pinecrest Lake Rd. R on Dodge Ridge Rd. R on forest road 4N26 toward Aspen Meadows. Turn L at the signed junction for Gianelli Cabin and Crabtree Trailheads. Continue on dirt road approximately 2.5 miles to Trailhead. Note: Free Wilderness Permit must be obtained at Summit Ranger Station (Corner of Hwy 108 & Pinecrest Lake Rd) for any overnight stays. Also, there are no services at the trailhead, water or toilets. Plan accordingly.