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Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley – Day 1

September 8, 2012

Fresh Faced, before the real start

I’m going to break this up by days. When I was researching things I had a hard time understanding how far people were supposed to go per day. Often the numbers varied wildly between sites. I now understand that a lot of the blog posts I read were from very strong hikers able to do much more in a day than I can. Going downhill is hard for me after a while.

The trip was originally supposed to be just my sister and myself, but at the last minute a friend of Sis’s, Cali, asked to join and we happily agreed. Cali, Sis, and I all flew into San Francisco and we drove a rented car out to a hotel just outside the park on Thursday night. We didn’t get in until after midnight, but were up before dawn so we could get on the road early. Our goal was to be at the Tuolumne (pronounced Too-ah-loo-may, btw) Meadows Permit Station by 7:30 when we thought it opened. Unfortunately, we picked the wrong building and waited in line there until almost 8:30 when we finally realized that we were at the building for campsite permits, not backcountry permits. A quick drive fixed that, and luckily the permits we wanted were still available. This surprised me until the ranger told us that there was NO WATER at our campsite and very little water in the High Country of the park at all. Ah, that explains it.

A quick breakfast and some sorting out the packs and we were off by 10:45 from the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead – a later start than I originally wanted, but no problem in the end.

Within 10 minutes we were all thinking the same thing: ‘What have we done?!’

The start of the trail from there is a steep climb, and we were already at 8600 ft, which is about 8598 ft higher in elevation than where I live. We had to stop to catch our breath quite often. We were rewarded with both a deer right on the trail and a site of our first close granite mountain at around 9200 ft though – about an hour into the trek.

Finally, around 1:30 we came to the Upper Cathedral Lake, having decided not to go to the Lower Lake, since it would have added about an hour to the trip.

Cathedral Peak

Phase 1 for Water: Charcoal Filter

We had a nice lunch with a fantastic view of the Lake and then made our way down to the lake to fill up our water bottles. At this point, Cali made the suggestion that we fill up all our bottles (2 liters per person) in case there really was no water at all at the campsite. I didn’t want to carry all that extra weight (about five pounds) but I’m very glad we followed her advice, because we ended up needing all of it.

Long Meadow – almost to camp

The extra weight did slow us down further and we didn’t make it to the Sunrise High Sierra Campsite until 4 or so. We set up camp overlooking Sunrise Meadow and cooked ourselves a well deserved dinner of lasagna and green beans. The campsite had turned off the drinking water access since there was none and we had to use our own supply to make dinner. The only water source was a 10 minute hike up the mountain to a creek which was little more than a sad trickle. We were very glad we didn’t have to make that hike until the morning. We were trying to preserve water, so we decided to make our hot chocolate with the leftover water from the green beans. No waste at our campsite!

The view from our campsite

Dinner on our very efficient stoves

Yummy mix – who knew?

The air was starting to cool off and we brought out all the warm clothes we had packed while I set up my tripod. I was determined to get some night shots, but as the temperature dropped I kept having to shore up more resolve. All three of us were in our sleeping bags by 7:30, but I kept all my clothes on, so I could crawl out once it got dark enough. At around 9, I reluctantly clawed my way out of the warm tent and shivered over to the tripod, camera in hand. Luckily I had a remote trigger for the shutter, so I could keep my hands in my pockets while I took the shots.

The moon was full and so bright that it lit up the pathway and I didn’t really need a flashlight. Unfortunately, this interfered with my night shots a bit, but I was still able to get a few good ones in. Around 10 I crawled back in my sleeping bag and shivered the night away.

How small we are

That really is the moon, not the sun!

The only time I got out the heavy additional lens I brought. Sigh.

Click to see the night shots larger for a better view of the stars.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 8, 2012 2:06 pm

    Great photos. I really liked the moon that looked like the sun. Also, it’s surprising how dry that area is now. I’ve never seen it so dry. Last time I was there (last year) it was a swamp filled with hungry mosquitoes.

    • September 8, 2012 3:54 pm

      Not a mosquito in sight while we were there which was the one silver lining. The lack of water dramatically affected our plans which I’ll discuss in post 2. Thanks for reading!

  2. September 8, 2012 4:14 pm

    Nice Shots! also a great post and looked like an awesome adventure!


  1. Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley – Day 3 « The Texpat Starling
  2. Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley – Day 2 « The Texpat Starling

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