Yosemite & the High Sierra 13/22-Jul-2013

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

After the LovedOne tweaked a disc in her cervical spine our ability to do multi-day backpacks pretty much came to an end (this was before we discovered ME-2 Packs). I despaired at ever being able to share with her the High Sierra – where I had spent almost all of the 1980s backpacking and climbing. Then it dawned on me (duh!) that the Yosemite High Sierra Camps offered us another chance. With these, you carry just your personal gear – which I can do for both of us – and the camps supply tents and food. There are a total of five camps and the ideal trip is to hike them in a continuous loop. But access is limited by a lottery (which this year had 3900 applications for 900 spaces), so we weren’t able to score a loop but did score the highest (Vogelsang), lowest (Merced Lake), and most remote (both) of the five camps.

So we made it in to a combined backpack and road trip,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Busted truck, Bodie State Historic Park

by first visiting the old mining town of Bodie, California (now Bodie State Historic Park),

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Bodie State Historic Park

then doing an acclimatization hike to Fern Lake above the June Lake Valley,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Hiking above June Lake, California

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Fern Lake, California

and then wandering out to the see the tufa columns at the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve, California

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve, California

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve, California

Finally, we entered Yosemite National Park at its Tioga Pass entrance,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Entrance station at Tioga Pass

where we did another little warm-up hike to the 12,900’ level on Mount Dana,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Climbing the use trail up Mount Dana

with views of Mono Lake to the east (smoke from wildfires in Nevada obscured any distant views),

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Mono Lake from Mount Dana

and the northern Sierra and Yosemite to the west. The pointy peak on the left horizon is Cathedral Peak, which I climbed back in the mid-1980s.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Looking west from Mount Dana

We spent our first night in the Park at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

The main lodge and dining room at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge

so we could practice not sleeping on the ground. These canvas cabins are taken down each winter and stored. Their continued use harkens back to the founding of the High Sierra Camps in 1916 – they beat the heck out of sleeping on a thin pad in a cramped tent!

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Our canvas cabin

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Inside our canvas cabin

Next morning, we were off to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp (HSC) on the John Muir Trail,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

We used part of the John Muir Trail for our hike to Volgelsang HSC

across the Tuolumne River,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River

up Rafferty Creek toward Fletcher Peak,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Fletcher Peak

and on to the camp at its base,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Vogelsang HSC with Fletcher Peak as a backdrop

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

The office, kitchen, and dining room at Vogelsang HSC

where, after a hearty dinner (cooked by someone else and cleaned-up after by someone else), we settled in for the night.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Moonrise at Vogelsang HSC

Next morning,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Vogelsang Peak

we headed toward the Merced Lake HSC via Vogelsang Pass and Lewis Creek.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Vogelsang Lake from Vogelsang Pass

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Lewis Creek Valley from Vogelsang Pass

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Lewis Creek

Halfway down to Merced Lake, we passed where Florence Creek cascades down over bare granite in a style so typical of the Sierras.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

The Florence Creek cascades

Further down, we started seeing Half Dome in the distance, with Merced Lake in the foreground.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Merced Lake below, with Half Dome beyond

And then, hot, dusty, and a little tired, we arrived in the Merced Lake HSC.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

The office, kitchen, and dining room at the Merced Lake HSC

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Cabins and giant pines at the Merced Lake HSC

We spent two indolent nights here, just hanging out and enjoying the Sierras at this, the most remote, of the HSCs. We did get motivated to visit Merced Lake,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Granite swells above Merced Lake

but, after that, inertia won out and we just read and waited for dinner and moonrise.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Moonrise above Merced Lake HSC

After two days of slacking, we had to get back up to Vogelsang HSC – now 7.5 miles and 3,000 feet above us.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

It’s a sign!

To make a partial loop out of our hike back, and for a change of scenery, we returned via Fletcher Creek, which is bordered by huge granite domes and cliffs,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

The view from along Fletcher Creek

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Fletcher Creek cascades over granite

with the creek running down a long series of granite stairsteps.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Fletcher Creek cascades over granite

One of the most amazing features of this trail is Emeric Meadow, which stretches level for about a mile at 9,300 feet.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Emeric Meadow

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

A small pool in Emeric Meadow

We reached Vogelsang HSC in time to enjoy a cold (hence brief) dip in Fletcher Lake,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Fletcher Lake

a passing thunderstorm, another great dinner, and the close of the day.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Storm clouds over Vogelsang HSC

Next morning,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Morning at Vogelsang HSC

we very reluctantly bid farewell to Vogelsang HSC, Fletcher Peak, and the High Sierra Camps,

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Leaving Vogelsang HSC

and headed home.

Sierra Nevada Yosemite High Sierra Camps

Back! Back, I say!

In 2015, we would finally win the five-camp loop lottery and be able to visit all of the camps (with another two days of indolence at Merced Lake) with Wayne and Diane, our oldest and most excellent fiends. 

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