Spring Hiking Adventures

posted May 30, 2011, 6:13 PM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Jun 5, 2011, 9:44 AM ]
We're just back from a memorable trip over Memorial Day weekend, from Lake Eleanor into the northwest corner of Yosemite.  The trip was a real multi-purpose adventure. 
It was a kind of shake down cruise for a good friend who is planning on a big adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail this summer--and wanted to see what worked for us, and how his new stuff worked for him.  It was also an attempt to explore this part of the park, which in summer can be pretty hot and dry.  We also had some new toys to play with---more on those in a later post.  And it was a great excuse to get out and into the wilderness again. 
Happily, we achieved all these goals!
The weather was predicted to be unpredictable, and it lived up to its promise. After a cool, cloudy, and windy Friday, we were blessed with rain, sleet, hail and snow on Saturday...and woke up to a winter wonderland Sunday morning.  That made for a beautiful, if icy, hike back out!
The trail from Lake Eleanor to Miguel Meadows and beyond was originally built as a road to Hetch-hetchy when they were building the dam.  That means the gradients are relatively mild, and it's pretty hard to get lost.  Once we got past Miguel Meadows things got a bit boggy, as the spring conditions had water levels very high.  We camped the first night about two miles past Miguel Meadows, in a strange area that had been cleared as part of the dam project 100 years ago. Lots of very nice flat places to pitch a tent...but this area does not have the kind of vistas that make other parts of the park so amazing.
And the creeks this weekend were really booming.  In fact, once we got to Frog Creek (off the Beehive trail), we decided NOT to try and cross it.  Yes. there was a huge log across it--or at least 3/4 of the way across.  After that we would have to get down off the log, (a big jump) and then wade through the rest of the creek--which was roaring.  It still looked possible, until M pointed out that if it rained that night, our trip back would force us to cross a slick wet log.  She was adamant, and we agreed.
Case closed.  We saved that for another day.  And when we got to the Beehive, the meadow was a bog, and the forest surrounding it was under 2-4 feet of snow.  We met some men on snowshoes who had tried the second trail to Laurel Lake, and also been turned back by the rushing outlet creek.  We thought about pushing on to Lake Vernon...but then looked at the worsening weather, and decided that we would head towards lower elevations.
The photo above is the best view of the hike--Hetch-hetchy from the north rim of the canyon, as snow and clouds blustered in...
So that day we ended up back at our first night's campsite...and happy to be there.   The weather worsened all afternoon, and by the time we made camp, it had started to really hail hard.  We took a nap in the tent, and then took advantage of a brief respite in the hail to cook dinner.  Cozy in our bags, we heard the hail turn to rain, and then sleet.  Late in the night P began to hear odd sliding noises--snow building up on the sides of the tent and then slipping down.  That's us, being cozy, below left.
Morning was quite snowy, but by 7 o'clock the sun actually came out for a few moments. We cooked breakfast, packed up, and hiked out through light snow and hail...and into first sunshine, the more clouds and a biting wind back at Lake Eleanor.  That's a photo of Robin hiking out through the snow and sunligh along the Miguel Creek section of the trail, below.
In the end, some of the mission was accomplished.  We did get to test a bunch of equipment, and we had a great time. And we will have to come back to this part of the park to explore it more fully, when the creeks are better behaved!