Yosemite High Country – June 9 to 12, 2014

We just couldn’t get enough of Yosemite. Especially with my little episode during our backpacking adventure, both of us wanted to return and see what we had missed. The park is massive and during our last trip we really only saw the Yosemite Valley area, Mariposa Grove and the Yosemite West landscapes near the road. There was a lot more to see, especially in the high country over Tioga Pass. In particular, we wanted to hang out at Tuolumne Meadows, one of the largest and highest alpine meadows around. When we were last in the park, we heard it was cold in the high country, with some snow….but a few weeks of warm weather had changed that. We weren’t sure what the weather would be like, but it turned out to be awesome, albeit a little cold at night (probably got down into the low 40s). Daytime highs in the 70s were misleading, as the bright sun made it seem much warmer.

Tuolumne Meadows
Tuolumne Meadows

DSC05775 DSC05774 On the way to and fro we took the scenic route around some alpine lakes (Lake June and others) near Mammoth Lakes, and then stopped at Mono Lake, one of the oldest lakes in the world and with a salt content many times that of ocean water. The lake is a critical part of the global migratory bird ecosystem, with birds stopping here to feed on all kinds of weird crustaceans and insects that thrive in the salt water as they journey to South America from the Northern Regions, and vice versa.

Big tree unnervingly close to the road!
Big tree unnervingly close to the road!
How did that happen?
How did that happen?
Lake June
Lake June
Lake June
Lake June
This lake is very dry, I think it was dammed, and California is also in a drought right now.
This lake is very dry, I think it was dammed, and California is also in a drought right now.

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In the distance are old volcanoes. This was taken en route to Mono Lake from the June Lake area.
In the distance are old volcanoes. This was taken en route to Mono Lake from the June Lake area.
Driving around the Eastern Sierra's is gorgeous.
Driving around the Eastern Sierra’s is gorgeous.

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Mono Lake from afar.
Mono Lake from afar.
Mono Lake. One of the oldest in the world and very salty.
Mono Lake. One of the oldest in the world and very salty.
Mono Lake. Researchers come from all over the world to study the animal life in it.
Mono Lake. Researchers come from all over the world to study the animal life in it.

The Tuolumne Meadows campground had just opened up, and we got a prime spot away from all the big rigs and loud kids.

Tuolumne Meadows
Tuolumne Meadows
We upgraded from a single to a dual-burner stove...makes a big difference!
We upgraded from a single to a dual-burner stove…makes a big difference!

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Duke standing guard.
Duke standing guard.
Our tent was nestled back in some tall trees.
Our tent was nestled back in some tall trees.
We scrounged around for fallen branches for firewood. There was a lot.
We scrounged around for fallen branches for firewood. There was a lot.

We took turns going on hikes and watching the dogs. As you would expect, dogs aren’t allowed on trails in Yosemite and there were plenty of wild animals around so we never wanted to leave them unattended (we saw a coyote hanging out right next to the visitor center parking lot!). I hiked up to the Cathedral Lakes area, with a gorgeous alpine meadow fronting a deep snowmelt-fed lake. I didn’t go swimming, but some people were. I took some meandering trails on the way back (on purpose, I wasn’t lost) making the entire outing about 10 miles with 1500ft of climbing. Not too bad, though the altitude made it a little tougher than I would expect. DSC05705 DSC05703 DSC05718 DSC05713 DSC05710 DSC05728 DSC05724 DSC05722 DSC05719 DSC05737 DSC05734 DSC05731 DSC05729 DSC05744 DSC05743 DSC05740 DSC05739 DSC05754 DSC05751 DSC05749 DSC05748 The next day was Alison’s turn and she did an epic 14 mile hike from Tenaya Lake to Clouds Rest (with 3-4000ft of climbing I think). Clouds Rest is said to be one of the most beautiful spots in the entire park, being higher than Half Dome (without the long line of people waiting to climb it!) with 360 degree views of the entire high country and many big granite domes, including Half Dome. She also found a secret water hold and went for a skinny dip!

Alison gets ready for her big day!
Alison gets ready for her big day!

{Note: Alison took a lot of great photos of her hike, but I can’t find them…will add them to another post when I do!} While she was hiking her but off, I did a driving tour across Tioga Pass Rd to some viewpoints. In these photos you can see Clouds Rest (along with Half Dome in the distance). Clouds Rest is the large granite monster that looks likes a bunch of clouds stacked on top of one another. Alison hiked to the top of it!

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Just to the right of the tree, in the far distance, is Clouds Rest…Alison hiked to the top of that! Look further to the right, and you can see the rounded top of Half Dome. With binoculars, I could see a line of people climbing it like little ants. There is a fixed cable people use to climb it.

DSC05758 DSC05769 DSC05768   Of course, we ate well, and vegan as always. We discovered these pre-made salad mixes (with greens, dressing, nuts and some crunchy toppings) from Taylor Farms that we became addicted to for the past week…and they were on sale 2 for $5! We would each eat one for a meal. $2.50 for a healthy meal with zero prep and easy clean up? We probably consumed a dozen of these salads each throughout the week. After Yosemite, we made another quick stop by Mono Lake for some photos of the Tufas (the spring fed salt/mineral deposits popping out of the lake) en route to Lake Tahoe. I can’t find those photos, but you can check them out online. The drive into and out of Yosemite was also gorgeous.

Leaving Yosemite, via eastern entrance
After leaving Yosemite, via eastern entrance, the views don’t stop!
leaving Yosemite, via eastern entrance
after leaving Yosemite, via eastern entrance, looking into the valley.
Another lake....so pretty.
Another lake….so pretty.

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Mono Lake.
Back to Mono Lake.

-Ravi

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