Yosemite, June 2000: Cathedral Lakes and Sunrise High Sierra Camp

This trip was part of our grand plan to take two warm-up trips in preparation for the High Sierra Trail later in the summer. It didn't work out that way, but this trip turned out to be lots of fun except for one thing- mosquitoes. Mid-June is not the time to be hiking in wet areas. The nice parts: snow on the peaks (and the ground), flowers blooming, not many people. Next time we will take mosquito netting for hiking. I did test one of those electronic mosquito repellers (and it worked except for the major swarms) and we did use regular repellent, just be warned- none of these things will work in certain situations. The scenery made up for all the hassles.

The Cathedral Lake Trail begins from the Tioga pass Road. It is a popular day hike to the lower lake and is well worn. We had figured it would be a good warm-up for the out of shape crew. It was a little steeper than expected and we felt the packs that first day. The weather was perfect- not too hot. We wound our way up through a nice forest but the best scenery was yet to come.

As we got near the lower lake, we met a young ranger, Andrea, I believe, who was taking her day off from duties in the valley. She gave us some good tips on the rest of the trip.

This time of year, as you approach the lake, you have to pick your way through the creeks emptying into the lake. This is around 9000 feet. Note the snow.

A young couple from Austria, Marina and Thomas, make their first visit to Yosemite. When you are about half way across the delta area you turn around and get your first real look at Cathedral Peak.

Lower Cathedral Lake

We decide to stop for lunch and listen to the snowslides.

Looking back at the peak from the lake.

Because of the swampy conditions and overused campsights, we decide to move on to the upper lake. Its not far but about 500 feet higher. To get back on the trail, you go back into the forest and to the right in the picture above.

The upper lake appears just in time. We are tired. It is small, beautiful and uncrowded. We camp near the shore. Two backpackers come to warn us that bears stole all the food from the people who used our spot the night before. We figure they will be back. We are too tired to move. We have faith in our canister. We have too much stuff for our canister. We contemplate sleeping with some of the food in a tent. We actually know someone who does this- so far without incident. Of course, not in the middle of Yosemite. The two hikers help us since they are almost through with their trip anyway and let us store the extra "snacks" in their canisters.

The upper lake is at about 9500 feet. We watch a storm pass by the peak. We have a marmot for a neighbor. He apparently lives in this pile of rocks only a few yards from our campsite and spends a lot of his time just laying out on top. Actually, a marmot can be as big a pest as a bear when it comes to food. They love to chew. We adopt a good neighbor policy and so does he.

We settle in for the night.

We had to leave some personal items out on the ground, toothpaste, etc., but we are willing to sacrifice them.

We sleep like logs, without incident.

The next morning we get up early to catch the reflections in the still waters of the lake. We decide to go all the way around it.

Not 50 yards from our camp we run across a couple from Berkeley. They are still in shock from an incident with some bears earlier that morning. It seems that they "hanged" their food and the two bears got it down, ate it, and then proceeded to have sex right in front of them. When they tried to shoo the bears off, the bears charged at them a little. Their trip was delayed if not over- they would have to hike out. Now, we've heard stories like this before, well maybe mostly like this, but I might not have believed some of it until our two friends with the canisters, who were camped close by, showed me a video they took. This story has become kind of an outdoors legend at Yosemite. I had a ranger tell me about it the next year. They don't believe all of it. I told them that I saw the video. Actually, the amazing thing to me is that we slept through the whole thing.

After circling the lake taking pictures, we put on the packs and head out for Sunrise High Sierra Camp.

As we go over the pass we encounter some snow fields. Looking back you can see all the way to the Matterhorn Peak area of Yosemite and the Hoover Wilderness where we went in July. We had camped on the far side of the lake right in the middle. Some day I want to go back and explore the area on the other side of the saddle just below Cathedral Peak to the right.

After getting over the pass and walking through a large meadow, we start another climb to the high point above Sunrise Camp. This is looking back.

Another reason to get off the beaten path and suffer through all this misery....

Suddenly this view is just in front of us. The Clark range is in the distance.

Turn around and this is what you see. Looking back to Cathedral Pass. We decide that this is a good place for lunch.

A little farther along we get this view looking more or less east. That's the Vogelsang area in the distance on the left. (Clark range on the right.)

After a morning relatively free of mosquitoes, our journey takes us through a very wet meadow, where, if you stop for even a minute, you are surrounded by swarms of the little buggers. Next time I'll try to capture it on film! Here we are almost to Sunrise camp.

Just before the camp I snap this one. I think that is Florence Peak but I'm not sure. Looking southeast.

We make it to the not yet open Sunrise camp and find a relatively dry campsite on a rocky area overlooking the meadow. We figure that this easterly view will give us a chance to see what this camp is named for the next morning. In the meantime, we have to take refuge from the mosquitoes (its only 2;30 or so in the afternoon) in our tents. We watch a passing afternoon storm- very typical of the Sierras. We just get a few drops.

Well, we didn't get much of a sunrise, but the sunset wasn't bad!

The next day we hike out. Maybe if it hadn't been for the mosquitoes we might have stayed another day or two. Enough was enough. On the way out we pass the Sunrise lakes and discover another view of Half Dome just off the trail.

OK, this shot is from a Tioga Pass Road view point. It just shows what an amazing place Yosemite is and how I seem to be collecting this set of Half Dome pictures. You also get another perspective on the relationship between Cloud's Rest (on the left) and Half Dome. One word for this trip- incredible.

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