We drove up to Yosemite on Friday (7/14) night, enduring the usual traffic irritation. I am generally skeptical of the "leave friday/hike saturday" approach, since it doesn't really bother me to leave at 4 am. Kim, however, is bothered by the 4 am part, so we are still finding the best approach. Our campspot for this trip was Yosemite Creek Campground, about halfway between Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows. It is first-come-first-served, costs only $6, and is quite nice. The downside lies in the fact that the campground is 4 miles from Tioga Road, at the end of a very windy road. But this cloud is lined with silver, since the road is effectively inaccessible to RV's. In any case, we arrived at 1:15 am(!), but had no trouble finding a nice campspot and settling to a relaxing sleep in the balmy 50-degree night. In closing the camping discussion, I wholeheartedly recommend the Yosemite Creek Campgound if you are arriving friday night and don't want to camp illegally (funny, but most "illegal" campers are far lower-impact than "legal" campers). Much better than the place we stayed last trip; 100 feet from Tioga Road, $11/night.
We had to first drive to the Dana Meadows trailhead to retrieve some personal items left in a bear box from our Koip Peak trip, so we ate a nice breakfast at the Tuolumne Meadows grill, then stopped at Tioga Pass for a quick hike to Gaylor Lakes. It proved to be a great warmup - 600' climb in a half mile or so. Mosquitoes were voracious in this region, as they were in most other spots around Tuolumne Meadows. Still, the scenery here tempted me to plan a future trip. I've always wanted to climb Mount Conness, and an approach from Tioga Pass would be nice, since it starts at 10000'.
After the initial interruptions, we set forth from the Sunrise trailhead around 11 am. The trail dawdles aimlessly through unspectacular meadows for 1.5 miles or so, then begins to climb in earnest, gaining 1000' in a mile or so. Sadly, after cresting the ridge at 9200', the trail quickly loses 300', then winds through relatively flat forest for another 2 miles. On that irritating descent, we were passed by a backpacker who cockily dismissed us with a "see you at the top" when we told him we were on the way to Clouds Rest. The last 1.5 miles of the trail are quite steep, gaining about 800'. The trail disappears on the knifelike ridge of Clouds Rest itself, giving way to a fun boulder-hop. "Exhiliarating Class 2"? The closer one gets to the top, the more apparent is the majesty of the panorama from this point. From the top, the view is nearly incomparable: Half Dome/Yosemite Valley to the west; the 5000'+ drop into Tenaya Canyon to the north and west; the Matterhorn spires at the northern boundary of Yosemite; mighty, omnipresent Mount Conness to the northeast; Mts. Gibbs, Koip Peak, Lyell and the Ritter Range to the west; and most impressively, Mt. Clark and the Clark Range to the south. The weather was perfect: 65 degress, light cloud cover, and no wind. We had a nice conversation on the summit with a Caltrans geologist, among the 50-or-so other people who occupied the summit with us! And most humorously, we'd been on the summit for about a half hour when Mr. "see you at the top" arrived! We made pretty good time, arriving at 2 pm, for a 3 hour trip.
Usually, I find that I see many new things when I retrace my steps, but not this time. I think the
extraneous weight of my pack (about 20 lbs.) was beginning to take its toll. I packed a tripod, but forgot
the attachment that would have actually allowed me to use it with my camera. I also packed my entire
camera bag, complete with three extra SLR lenses and a flash - none of which I ever used! The aforementioned
300' ascent to the ridge at 9200' really hurt. [Ed. note, 17 June 2002: It didn't help that
I was out of shape!] Our return trip took about 2h35m. We soaked our sore
feet in Tenaya Lake and rinsed off a motley layer of dust, bug repellent, and sunscreen, then drove home
to San Bruno.
Department of Geophysics