Yosemite's High Sierra

July 2009


Yosemite's High Sierra

Yosemite's High Sierra - Opulent backpacking, tent & breakfast & dinner, at Yosemite's High Sierra Camps. Just walk and enjoy Mother Nature's best, then chow down on great food. 2 nights at Sunrise Camp, 2 at Merced, and 1 at Vogelsang. Along the way I met other eclectic enthusiasts. Best of all, I had plenty of time to enjoy the landscape. Did I say it was stupendous, absolutely gorgeous! Sunshine, wildflowers, and only a few mosquitoes.

From top left: Sunset at Sunrise Camp, Western Azalea, Cathedral Peak, Sierra Tiger Lily, Merced River Waterfall, Vogelsang Camp, Elegant Brodiaea, Mule's Ears, Leichtlin's Mariposa Lily, Western Columbine.

View my report to plan yours.

Cathedral Peak

Cathedral Peak - The highlight of my first day was the view at Cathedral Pass of the twin spired Cathedral Peak with Upper Cathedral Lake in the foreground.

Pretty Face

Pretty Face - (Triteleia ixioides) This tiny flower (3/4" diameter) showed its pretty face throughout the High Sierras. It is part of the lily family and it is often viewed with a cluster of many flowers.

Cathedral Lakes

Cathedral Lakes - After my morning's walk from Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, I took a well earned lunch break at the Lower Cathedral Lake (bottom image). It was a popular destination with both backpackers and day hikers.

Afterwards, I strolled past Upper Cathedral Lake, it had similar features. Both lakes are roughly the same distance (about 4-1/2 miles) from the Meadows.

Wandering Daisy

Wandering Daisy - (Erigeron peregrinus) Always a favorite, the Wandering Daisy adds prolific color to the landscape.

Sierra Penstemon

Sierra Penstemon - (Penstemon heterodoxus A. Gray)

Pale Agoseris

Pale Agoseris - (Afoseris glauca) Small and low to the ground, the texture of this flower shows Mother Nature's diversity and hopefully some bug's itch for pollination.

Nevada Cinquefoil

Nevada Cinquefoil - (Potentilla glandulosa ssp. nevadensis) Although the flowers are tiny, close examination reveals a wonderful array of striated yellow against a backdrop of mostly milk white peddles.

Sunrise Lakes

Sunrise Lakes - My layover day at Sunrise Camp took me to the three Sunrise Lakes. The trail from the Camp rises about 400 feet before descending past Upper Sunrise Lake (top image). I next visited Lower Sunrise Lake (bottom image) before retracing my steps for a lunch stop at Middle Sunrise Lake. Both Lower and Middle lakes were populated with backpackers, and both were fine destinations. But with an island destination in the Middle Sunrise Lake (visible in the picture near the left rear shoreline), it was my favorite of the three. While there, a group of kids were having a wild Sierra time on the island!

Sunset at Sunrise

Sunset at Sunrise - While relaxing at Middle Sunrise Lake after lunch, I watched thunder clouds grow to the east hearing rumbles from the distance, so I suspected the evening might be wet. We did have a few sprinkles, but only in late afternoon. The sky cleared locally, while the clouds hung over the canyons to the east. The evening was working itself towards a great sunset, the clouds imparting a sky of texture and color. As hoped for, the sunset was a brilliant display of fiery hues of red clouds against darkening skies. Everyone enjoyed the show.

Sierra Tiger Lily

Sierra Tiger Lily - (Lilium parvum) Also called the Alpine Lily, this lily is the smaller cousin of the Leopard Lily (Lilium pardalinum). Parvum means small, but at 1-1/2" diameter the flower is still large for wildflowers while the Leopard Lily can have a diameter as large as 4".

Mountain Pennyroyal

Mountain Pennyroyal - (Monardella odoratissima)

Harvest Brodiaea

Elegant Brodiaea - (Brodiaea elegans), also known as Harvest Brodiaea.

Pacific Mountain Onion

Pacific Mountain Onion - (Allium validum)

Western Azalea

Western Azalea - (Rhododendron occidentale) Meandering downhill to Echo Valley, the mix of wildflowers here was absolutely wonderful. But it was the perfume that took me away, sweet and cunning and seductive and wildly devilish. The marvelous fragrance came from Western Azaleas in the glory of full bloom.

Merced Lake

Merced Lake - With a short walk from Merced Camp, Merced Lake offers a host of activities. Actually, its both the Merced River and Lake which impart scores of activities, from surfing the rapids, sunning, swimming, or even kayaking (if you're so lucky to have hauled one in). If you're really bored, then at dawn and dusk you can always swat mosquitoes near the lake!

Mule's Ears

Mule's Ears - (Wyethia mollis) Named for the shape of its leaves rather than the texture of its flower.

Washburn Lake

Washburn Lake - Certainly worth a visit, but not much more. I found Washburn Lake a bit to bog bound for my tastes, there were too many bugs to make it a good camping destination. But along the way and beyond the Merced River made the trip enjoyable.

Taking It In

Taking It In - 1/4 mile upstream from Washburn Lake is one of several small pools and here there is also a small waterfall. It was a place I chose to relax for lunch.

Merced River Falls

Merced River Falls - This day of relaxation I sauntered from Merced Camp along the Merced River. Along the way I passed Washburn Lake and two waterfalls. This one was located 1/4 mile past Washburn Lake and it was the more impressive. Here I lunched and enjoyed the sounds of rushing water and the sights of the frothing waterfall.

Merced Camp

Merced Camp - Largest of the 5 High Sierra Camps, it is also the most relaxing. The camp sleeps 60 in tent cabins of 4. In the middle is this great space to socialize, read a book, or just relax. In the evenings, this site is often used for fireside Ranger talks.

Western Columbine

Western Columbine - (Aquilegia formosa)

Woolly Sunflower

Woolly Sunflower - (Eriophyllum lanatum)

Fletcher Creek Meadow

Fletcher Creek Meadow - The landscape between Babcock Lake and Vogelsang was heaven on earth. Fletcher Creek was the mastermind on the landscape, feeding life giving water to the expansive meadows tucked into and dominated by soaring granite. Even the skies knew of this impressive place, as they too were influenced by the water in the meadows and the landscape of the granite to give way to striations and clusters of clouds against a backdrop of deep blue.

Mariposa Lily

Leichtlin's Mariposa Lily - (Calochortus leichtlinii) One of my favorite wildflowers, the Mariposa Lily was prolific throughout Yosemite's High Sierras. This one made its footing along a Fletcher Creek meadow.

Mariposa Lily

Leichtlin's Mariposa Lily - (Calochortus leichtlinii) Although I have seen various shades of Mariposa Lilies, including yellow and light pink, this one with striated white pedals best highlights its core of dynamic yellow hairs and dark spots. Most excellent!

Vogelsang Lake Drainage

Vogelsang Lake Drainage - My walk to Vogelsang Camp followed Fletcher Creek upstream, here it was just a child of its former roaring manhood. But children do play, and the creek amused the terrain. Along the way I caught this glimpse of a small waterfall (lower left), it was outflow from high above Vogelsang Lake feeding Fletcher Creek.

Fletcher Lake

Fletcher Lake - My intentions for the afternoon after arriving at Vogelsang were to do some serious scouting, but the splendor of the land tamed my desires and I only meandered as far as Fletcher Lake, a few hundred yards away. The lake was fodder for other like minded enthusiasts, and in the nearby meadow several groups set up backpacking camps - certainly a prized destination.

Scarlet Paintbrush

Scarlet Paintbrush - (Castilleja miniata Hook)

Vogelsang Camp

Vogelsang Camp - The highest (10300') of the 5 High Sierra camps. The Camp accommodates 42 in tent cabins that sleep either 2 or 4. Many of the tents are located within a child's stone's throw of meandering Fletcher Creek. I was one of the lucky ones, assigned a tent of two adjacent to the creek.

Sunset at Vogelsang

Sunset at Vogelsang - My last evening in the High Sierra Camps brought yet another stunning sunset. Hues of red exploded in the sky as the sun set behind Fletcher Lake.