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I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Over Tioga Pass on Opening Day

When I heard that a) the Merced River was about to reach its peak flow and b) Tioga Pass Road was scheduled to open on June 5 I quickly put together a one-day quick trip to Yosemite last weekend. This is a bit of a tradition for me – to get up there for at least a quick look at the spring waterfalls and to try to get over the pass as soon as possible after it opens.

For a one-day up-and-back trip (amounting to a bit more than 20 hours on the road, all told) I have to start early. So, long before dawn I was up and in the car and on the road in the dark. The sun comes up – duh! – a lot earlier this time of year, so it was getting light by the time I stopped in Oakdale for a quick on-the-run Starbucks breakfast and got right back on the road. In order to arrive in the Valley by sunrise I would have had to be driving by 2:00 a.m., and that didn’t happen, but I did arrive relatively early and before the really big crowds were out and about. I spent a few minutes at my favorite first view on El Cap and Half Dome along the road just past the turnoff to Foresta and then headed down into the Valley to make my traditional first stop for a thorough drenching under Bridalveil Fall.

I spent a bit more time in the Valley before realizing that the crowds were growing way beyond my comfort level. I don’t blame folks for flocking to the Valley for a scene like this: all of the waterfall in full flow, the sound of falling water everywhere, seasonal falls that aren’t usually seen, new green growth everywhere, flooded meadows, and a warm and clear spring day. But since I can come back on less crowded days, I decided that the drive over Tuolumne would be at least as special and much less crowded.

As I started up 120 I soon saw significant amounts of snow, and by the time the road rose to 8000′ of so the snowpack was pretty continuous. The higher peaks appeared to be in full winter mode still, and I was surprised to see lakes like little Siesta Lake completely frozen over. I’ve been over Tioga before soon after the road opened, but the amount of snow remaining from the cold and wet May and the generally wet winter was quite impressive. Tuolumne Meadows itself was completely covered with snow, excepting the large areas flooded by the surging Tuolumne River. (The entire meadow area just upstream from the bridge by the campground entrance was completely flooded and there were only a few inches between the rushing water and the underside of the bridge.

I continued on up to the pass with a goal of grabbing an early dinner at the Whoa Nelly Deli in Lee Vining. At the pass there were still several feet of snow with plow cuts being five to six feet tall in places. Tioga and Ellery Lakes were almost completely frozen over, and quite a few people were still going back-country skiing in the area. After stopping for dinner in Lee Vining (and grabbing a quick espresso at Latte Da) I headed back up the pass to shoot late afternoon and evening light before heading home.

Ice and Snow on Tioga Pass and Tioga Lake

Ice and Snow on Tioga Pass and Tioga Lake

I made this photograph at Tioga Lake as afternoon shadows from clouds and nearby peaks stretched across the frozen lake surface with Tioga Pass and Kuna Crest looming beyond. (Photograph © Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.)

June 8, 2010 Posted by | Sierra Nevada, Trips, Yosemite | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Over Tioga Pass on Opening Day

Memorial Weekend – Glacier Point? Yes. Tioga Pass? No.

The most recent update at the Yosemite National Park web site confirms what many suspected, namely that Glacier Point Road will likely be available over the upcoming holiday weekend but that Tioga Pass will not open quite yet.

Glacier Point Road:
The Glacier Point Road will open on Friday, May 28 at noon, conditions permitting. Expect 30-minute delays between Chinquapin and Badger Pass Sunday night through Friday afternoon (except Memorial Day).

Tioga Road:
The Tioga Road will not be open for Memorial Day weekend; there is no estimated opening date.

Plows have reached Tioga Pass and will now be working on widening the road. Plowing continues Monday – Saturday. Average Snow Depth is 4 to 6 feet. Plowing operation will continue today.

As I have mentioned before, this has been an unusually cold and wet May. Just this morning I heard that chain requirements were up on Interstate 80 over Donner Summit. As of today, Ebbetts, Sonora, and Monitor Passes are reportedly still closed. You can be pretty certain that Tioga won’t open before them, though it frequently opens perhaps a week or so after they open.

May 26, 2010 Posted by | Sierra Nevada | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Memorial Weekend – Glacier Point? Yes. Tioga Pass? No.

A few day hikes in the Tuolumne Meadows area

In an online discussion group I read and post to someone asked about hikes in the Tuolumne Meadows region of Yosemite. They were going to be there for only one day, and wondered what some of the options might be. Since I wrote up a reply and posted it to that discussion group, I figured I might as well share it here as well. Here goes…

You’re talking about MY country now! ;-)

There are, of course, a ton of interesting day hikes in the Tioga/Tuolumne region. Which one is right for you depends a lot on how much time you’ll have, your preferences for terrain and other features, what time of day you are there, and so forth. I’ll just mention a few to get you started.

1. If you are only there for a very brief time, a minimal hike is simply to hike out across the meadow to the Soda Springs area. You’ll enjoy this more if you do it in the morning or late in the day. This is an easy and essentially flat walk – and there are several alternate routes – that takes you across the meadow and the river and into the edge of the forested areas.

2. Another short walk can take you to the the bridge across the Tuolumne on the John Muir Trail as it starts up Lyell Canyon. You can start this at any of the parking areas along the spur road to Tuolumne Lodge, though I think the route from the main campground is more scenic.

3. To get just a _bit_ more flavor of the backcountry, you could hike the one mile trail to May Lake and its high sierra camp set beneath Mt. Hoffman. (This is not all the way up to Tuolumne – e.g. it is further west along the Tioga Pass road.

4. The relatively short hike from the back of the Tuolumne Campground to Elizabeth Lake is scenic and gets you to a wonderful, meadow-surrounded sub-alpine lake. There is plenty to explore there.

5. If you want to get to a high place with great panoramic views of Tuolumne and the surrounding peaks (especially the Cathedral range) the hike to the top of Lembert Dome is a classic. Some find sections at the top a bit exposed for comfort, but it is not really dangerous at all – hundreds of people climb it every day. I prefer to start this hike from the “dog lake trail” parking lot between the wilderness permit station and Tuolumne Lodge.

6. To quickly get to true high sierra terrain, the hike from the Tioga Pass entrance station to the Gaylor Lake Basin can’t be beat. The route is short but steep. There are tremendous views of 13,000+ Mt. Dana across the meadow, and the basin itself has plenty to explore. You can even visit the remains of the old mining site at the head of the basin.

7. If you have a good half day, the hike out to Mono Pass is spectacular. You’ll get all the way to the Sierra crest on foot, you’ll travel through wonderful alpine terrain, you’ll get to see more historic remnants of log cabins near the pass. If you are a very aggressive hiker you can work nearby Parker Pass and/or Spillway Lake into your hike as well.

8. Another classic day hike – of roughly the same length at the Mono Pass hike but at somewhat lower elevation – takes you from T-Meadow to Cathedral Lakes.

There are more… many more.

Enjoy.

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A few day hikes in the Tuolumne Meadows area

Quick note about Tioga Pass and other interesting things

I posted a few times during recent weeks concerning the opening date for Tioga Pass – something that many of us look forward to every spring. Tioga Pass Road did open the middle of last week, and we “west siders” once again have a more efficient (and quite stunning!) route to the east side.

(The pass opened about one day earlier than I estimated it would – I was expecting a Thursday opening. If you are interested in more information about when this route is likely to open and close, there is a history of opening and closing dates on the web.)

Of course, a lot of people are going to be very pleased that the pass opened in time for the Memorial Holiday weekend – not only the travelers who want to cross it but also the businesses on the east side that rely on the traffic. (I’ve been to Lee Vining in the winter when the only access is via a long drive from anywhere else – and things can be very quiet over there.)

As to my plans… a variety of factors are going to keep me from traveling this weekend. I’ll stay right here in the SF Bay Area and I won’t even have much opportunity to get out on the trail or do photography – lot’s of other things to take care of. But I can’t complain. It won’t be too many more weeks until my annual period of “gainful unemployment” as a college faculty member begins, and at that point I’ll try to more than make up for the stay-at-home Memorial Holiday weekend.

May 23, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Quick note about Tioga Pass and other interesting things

   

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