Introduction to this Weblog

This weblog chronicles the 8-day trek I made in July 2012 with my niece Lauryn and friend David. If you are new to this weblog you can begin your adventure in the "Blog Archive" with the "Introduction" and read the blogs in the order of our hike segments from #1 to #6. Enjoy! Bob Hare

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Trail Segment 6: Vogelsang to Tuolumne Meadows

The chill High Sierra sunrise finds us breaking camp for our last day's trek back to the van

Vogelsang to Tuolumne Meadows via Rafferty Creek Trail Description: (from the High Sierra Camp Website)
Starting Elevation: 10100 ft. (3078 m)
Ending Elevation:  8775 ft. (2675 m)

230' gain and 1770' loss
Approximate Mileage: 6.8 (11 km)

The shortest trail to Tuolumne Meadows from Vogelsang follows Rafferty Creek.  Leaving Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, the trail descends to Tuolumne Pass through a lodgepole and whitebark pine forest. Then the scenery opens up during a series of long meadows. After a few miles, the trail reenters a lodgepole forest and switchbacks steeply for a mile to Tuolumne Meadows.  The last mile parallels the Tuolumne River and crosses the river at twin bridges to return you to Tuolumne Meadows Lodge.

The Loop Trail in Orange

Vogelsang High Sierra Camp awakens for breakfast

A fine "Breakfast of Champions" put on by the fine Vogelsang cooks

Our breakfast table for nine High Sierra Trail Friends

To top off our 8-day adventure, we experienced as a group a miracle of a sorts. One of our group of nine hiking friends (who we kept meeting on the trail and eating with over this period) suggested we all say something nice about each of us. That makes 81 compliments shared around our breakfast table! We took the challenge and it was both a wonderful way to bless our time together and to say goodbye. The kind words that were shared were easily recognized as true of the person and yet we also learned much about the "complimenter" and their graciousness and observation.

Lauryn (who was the social butterfly bringing us together), David and I talked on the trail down about how it was the combination of nature and culture, made possible by the High Sierra Camps, that facilitated this uncommon sharing. The level of caring and kindness expressed by all nine was completely out of proportion to the length of time we actually spent together. I can't imagine this happening so quickly back in the "real world" we were temporarily isolated from. We decided that this miracle of open compassion and caring was due to a rare and fortuitous combination of influences: our hearts being opened by the grandeur of wilderness, the exercise of our bodies, the stillness of the wild...and the community-building institution of the High Sierra Camps. This is exactly the intent of wilderness advocates and social organizers like John Muir (co-founder of the Sierra Club) and Ernest Thompson Seton (who co-founded the Boy Scouts). This is also my experience as a youth attending and on the staff of a scout summer camp in Mississippi, at a Wilderness Canoe Base in Minnesota and at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. The combination of nature, culture and recreation is a powerful healer and antidote to the stress and dissipation of modern life and the 24-hour news and advertising cycle that promotes ignorance, greed and violence.

As John Muir wrote over a century ago: 
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
-- Our National Parks , 1901, page 56.

Our parting Vogelsang shot: Bob, Lauryn & David

Packs picked up we find the trail to Tuolumne Meadows...

...letting a pack train by and wending down through the lodgepole pines

...we find ourselves at the Twin Bridges over the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River

Crossing the clear waters of the Dana fork of the Tuolumne River

After I take the shuttle to pick up the van we load it up and head home

Such a mixture of sensations and emotions as we arrive back in the world of pavement, parking lots, internal-combustion and all the necessities, conveniences and inane distractions of the modern world. We are physically exhausted and our hearts are filled with the gifts of wilderness and of our human interactions along the trek. We're both glad and sad to be back. But we know we've banked some precious memories (and photographs) for sharing with others and to reflect on for the rest of our lives. We challenged ourselves and we found ourselves both blessed and humbled by the grandeur and glimpses of wild Beauty. We let our own wildness be stirred and exercised as we challenged our bodies and wills to climb and descend a total of 17,000 feet in elevation over 49 miles.

Our thanks to the National Park Service, Delaware North (the High Sierra Camp concessionaire) and to the welcoming and talented staff at each of the six camps we dined at (the sixth being Tuolumne Meadows Lodge where we began and ended our trek). You added so much to our Big Adventure.

I also thank Lauryn and David for signing on to this adventure and making it so rich and memorable for me. You guys are awesome trekking partners! Lauryn affectionately called David and I her "scouts." We can't help it.

May You Walk in Peace and Beauty on this Trail of Life we all traverse. Bob

Monday, April 22, 2013

Trail Segment 5: Merced Lake to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp and our second Layover Day

Merced Lake to Vogelsang via Fletcher Creek Trail Description (from the The High Sierra Camps Website)
Starting Elevation: 7150 ft. (2179 m)
Ending Elevation: 10100 ft. (3078 m)

3150' gain and 250' loss
Approximate Mileage:  7.8 miles (12.5 km)

Travel through the large forest towards the Merced Lake Ranger Station.  Just before the ranger station, the trail leaves the Merced River valley and begins a long series of switchbacks through a canyon of polished granite.  The trail levels off near the Babcock Lake trail junction.   A 1/2-mile off the main trail, Babcock Lake may not be all that scenic but it is a prime swimming lake.  The trail continues to climb and then levels off for a walk through a scenic meadow bordered by granite domes & knobs.  The last stretch of the hike ascends again to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp at the base of Fletcher Peak.  

The Loop Trail in Orange

After a fine filling breakfast...

...we quickly cover the level mile to the part that is up-up-up...for 7 miles (as Lauryn reminds me..."Uncle Bob!!")

Between huffs I quietly thank the trail builders for their hard work on our behalf

Merced Lake falls away below us as we climb, climb, climb

We chose the shorter easier Fletcher Creek route over the Lewis Creek trail that crosses Vogelsang Pass

Babcock Dome hides Babcock Lake at 8,885'

We were energized by the beauty of this stretch of cascading Fletcher Creek

We enjoyed this meadow at 9380' (it was flat as well as lovely)

Just 2.2 miles (but these last ones uphill felt more like five)

Fletcher Peak and Vogelsang HSC were a welcome sight

This highest of the High Sierra Camps has an Alpine-Tibetan feel to it

Vogelsang High Sierra Camp Description (from the HSC website):

Located creekside near Fletcher Lake, Vogelsang is often named as a favorite spot in Yosemite by many a veteran visitor. This is truly an alpine setting at the highest elevation of all the camps with peaks, lakes, meadows and vistas within close proximity. Vogelsang is at the base of Fletcher Peak and famous for intense sunset alpenglow.   Many alpine lakes in the area offer great opportunities for hiking and fishing.  Day trip destinations include Evelyn and Ireland Lakes, Booth Lake, Emeric Lake, and Vogelsang Lake, Pass and Peak.

Meaning “birdsong” in German, Vogelsang is an evocative name for the natural beauties of the area.  However, the source of the name is connected to the area's fishing opportunities. In the late 1890's the US Calvary tried to eradicate sheepherding in Yosemite’s high alpine meadows, a struggle made difficult by the poor maps of the time.  Calvary officer Harry C. Benson was instrumental in mapping and naming Yosemite’s high country.  He also was an advocate of stocking the alpine lakes of the Merced & Tuolumne Rivers’ headwaters with trout.  The two interests merged as he named the peaks and lakes around what is now Vogelsang High Sierra Camp.  Charles A. Vogelsang was the executive officer of the California State Board of Fish and Game at the turn of the century and Arthur G. Fletcher directed trout stocking in Yosemite’s alpine lakes.   Two other familiar names in the area, Babcock and Emeric, were also Fish and Game commissioners.  The US calvary eventually succeeded in ending sheepherding in Yosemite, though hikers in the Vogelsang area today can still find markers carved on trees by the Basque sheepherders over a century ago.

Vogelsang Hikers Camp was originally built in 1924 alongside Booth Lake.  This location proved unsuccessful due to the poor drainage, difficulties with water supply, and an over abundance of mosquitoes.  The camp relocated to a site near Tuolumne Pass in the early 1930’s.  Finally in 1940 the camp moved to its present location at the base of Fletcher Peak, close to Fletcher Lake.

After setting up camp near Fletcher Lake we enjoyed a fine dinner and entertainment by the staff

Then it was alpenglow time

The staff arrives for the daily light show...

...which seldom disappoints

As night falls the camp gets quiet... folks head to their tents and the temperature plummets (we are at 10,130')

Morning light on Vogelsang Peak from our Fletcher Lake Camp

We were a bit envious of the heated tents with beds but we did fine in our little backpack tents

Packing and hot drinks before breakfast

After breakfast...

...many hit the trail but this was our layover day to explore the Sierran Alpine Zone

The camp director and his staff hammed it up for our cameras

We headed up past Townsley Lake
An impromptu photo shoot in this clear mountain light

I head up the scree slope to Hanging Basket Lake (above the line of whitebark pines)

Hanging Basket Lake

Townsley Lake from Hanging Basket Lake

When I get back Lauryn is enlightened and David is relaxed

David & I hike past the corral on the way to Vogelsang Pass

Fletcher Peak and Vogelsang Lake

Approaching the pass

Over the 10,650' pass the Sierra Crest unfolds from Maclure Peak to Mt Florence

Back off the mountain we join our hiking friends for a great dinner and conversation

Then the magic hour of alpenglow puts everyone into a quiet mood ready for sleep

The next and last posting: Segment 6: Vogelsang to Tuolumne Meadows will complete our circuit of Yosemite's High Sierra Loop Trail.

Happy Trails to You! Bob