Morning on Middle Young Lake
I'm usually a pretty light sleeper when I go camping which is interesting because I in a nice soft bed I sleep like a log. In fact I slept through a 5.2 earthquake in 1989 (not loma prieta, which was 7+). Beylah kept slamming her body into mine, her not so subtle way of telling me to canoodle her. If it was not that noises outside the tent repeatedly did the trick. It was not a surprise to me when I woke up groggy at 7:00am, well after sunrise (when I normally like to be up). I tested Bey to see if she was up for an early morning, a couple grumpy sounds gave me my answer though.
Beylah, not feeling up to going out to play
So I set off to explore some of the other lakes. I decided to wrap myself in every layer I packed to shield myself from a chilly High Sierra morning by the lake. After the previous days antics, losing the trail, and because I was hiking alone today, I decided I would be pretty cautious. The trail crossed a small stream just after camp the large opening in the trees it creates though provides some of the best views of the lake, Ragged Peak, and the surrounding snow covered ridges. It also provides some of the last views of Lower Young Lake as the trail cuts back into the forest just after the stream.
Ragged Peak and the lower lake outlet stream
The snow, icy from a night freeze, covered the trail in a number of spots making navigation a bit tricky. Fortunately though it's only a few hundred feet from the lower lake to the beautiful middle lake. The middle lake is flanked by trees on two sides and has a large exposed side which reflected the mountains surrounding the lake like a perfect mirror. A small rocky cliff blocks the far side of the lake, at the top lies upper Young Lake. Water from Upper Young lake cascades down through the rocks constantly sending the roar of the waterfalls cutting through the otherwise quiet morning.
Morning on Middle Lake
After exploring the muddy banks of the Middle Lake I decided to call my excursion off, the trail had already been difficult to follow up to the middle lake and it would only get more difficult at the upper lake. I made the decision to turn around and head back to camp. I managed to plunge one of my boots into the frigid water of the outlet creek on the way back and slipped on the icy snow twice.
Fern Lilly on the banks of Middle Lake
Beylah and I feasted on a Granola and Milk backpacking meal, combined with a little instant coffee. Perfect for the chilly morning. As we started to break down camp around 9:00am the mosquitos started closing in. After filling up water bottles for the trip back we quickly left camp, chased away by the bugs, heading down the way we came. We knew more mosquitos lay ahead, a thought that remained constantly on my mind.
Campsite on the lower lake just before breakfast
We covered the first few miles slowly, stopping frequently to make sure we were still on the trail. Neither of us wanted a repeat of the previous day. It was clear exactly where we had lost the trail on the way back and in fact confused individuals had erected markers which lead in the wrong direction. The dusty trail back rumbled on until we returned to the subalpine meadow overlooking the Cathedral Range. We stopped here for a quick bite and plenty of photos before moving on.
Frog on granite boulder
The mosquito's didn't really make a full comeback until Delaney Meadows. Periodically when we stopped for awhile along the trail they would start to close in but as we moved they didn't particularly pester us. Even in the meadows the swarm wasn't a 10th as bad as the previous day. Roughly a mile after the Delaney Creek crossing we turned off the main trail and detoured to Dog Lake.
Small Waterfall along the trail near Delaney Creek
Dog Lake is much larger than the other lakes visited on this trip and is surrounded by towering trees. Behind it looms Mono Peak and Mt. Dana some of the older geologic formations in the park. A small dry peninsula juts out into part of the lake and we decided to cross through some swamp to get to it. The Mosquito's of course protested to our efforts, but eventually we arrived and sat down to enjoy our lunch. The peace and quiet of the lake was somewhat short lived as a German family came in and decided to go swimming right next to our lunch spot. Despite the noise, yelling and splashing of the children it was hard not to enjoy the peace and quiet of the lake. Newly hatched dragonflies buzzing around, the trees rustling in the wind, and the snowy peaks towering in the distance.
Afternoon at Dog Lake
Dragonfly hatchlings on the banks of Dog Lake
After leaving the lake we trudged the final mile, meeting several groups in the way back who chatted us up trying to get info on the trail. The last leg we both agreed was quite steep, much steeper than we remembered from the route up. As Tuolumne Meadows came into view though any wearyness melted away. Soon enough we were lumbering up to the car through the parking lot, crashing our packs into the trunk, and driving back home. On to In-n-Out Burger dinner's and Air Conditioning.
Back to Day 1