Jul 27
Gaylor Lakes – Saturday, July 26, 2014


The route we walked in green.

Yesterday David and I went to Yosemite to hike the Gaylor Lakes Trail.  The trail head is at the Tioga entrance for Yosemite.  It’s about a 3 mile hike to the middle lake, up to the upper lake and mine then back to the trail head. We left the house at 4:15.  At 6:42 we saw plumes of smoke from the 120.  At a bathroom stop there was a sign about the closure of Crane Flat, Bridalveil Creek, and Yosemite Creek camp grounds due to fire.  1-642 6:42 am  Plumes of smoke seen from the 120. The cool morning air felt refreshing when we began the hike up the trail. It was suppose to be a hot day at home so 70+ degrees sounded like heaven. It didn’t take long for me to become winded, weak and have a stabbing  pain in the center of my chest.  At an elevation of 9950 feet and with a rise of 600 feet in a half mile, I was quickly tired.  I plugged along with lots of little breaks to catch my breath.  It’s amazing how fast your strength is sapped with less oxygen. On one of my many rest stops I took this picture of the peaks and Dana Meadow. 2-721 7:21 am  View from the trail up to the crest. 8:05 am  -I was very happy to reach the top of the trail!  The view was a stunning reward. Looking down on middle Gaylor Lake.  It’s only a 200 food drop to the lake which means I only had to climb 200 feet on the way out. I was happy about that! 3-805 5-810 8:14am – There were lots of fish in the lake.  They were jumping high out of the water to catch bugs. I kept trying to get a shot of a fish in the air but this was the best I could capture. 6-815   8:33 am  -Looking towards the far end of the lake.  The water was very pretty before the winds began. 7-833   8:39 am – We walked along the lake to the far end.  This is looking back, to the right, where the trail met the lake edge. The trail leading to upper Gaylor Lake is at the edge of the mountain’s shadow, left of center. 9-839 Looking left. 8-839 8:54 am  -We walked a ways past the end of the lake to see what was out of site.  We found a good spot to rest and explore for a while. 11-854 9:22 am – We decided to look for Granite Lakes. We knew the general direction they were located so we chose the ‘monolith’ as a destination and started walking.  The monolith was a large ‘rock’ we could both see and identify.  We removed our long sleeve T-shirts since the day was warming up.  There was a strong, cool, sometimes gusty breeze/wind that kicked up late morning.13-92214 9:36 am – We discover a small lake that’s drying up.  There were teeny-tiny creatures in the water.  This little shrimp like being was maybe a quarter inch long?? I didn’t see any reptiles. 16-93617- 10 am – A rest stop.  David and I photographed some flowers then I found a nice flat granite to recline on as I ate an apple.  I photographed south, the direction from which we came. 20-10 North.  The monolith is closer. 21-10 To the east, the trail leading down from the crest we crossed and a little speck of the lake on the right. 22-1020-11s While sitting on the pretty pink granite, enjoying my rest, I noticed the flowers and shadows at the corner of my ‘bench’.  There were several kinds of cute little rodents everywhere. 20-12 10:40 am – We find Granite Lakes.  They are very pretty!  As we stood admiring the lake a flock of seagull looking birds flew high over the peak. 25-1040 26-1040 And there’s the monolith with trees surrounding it!  We hiked up to it, turned right and then continued up to the top of the mountain we were on towards upper Gaylor Lake. 27-1040 Looking back at middle Granite Lake where we began. (left side) 28- 10:52 am – The island on Granite Lake looked so inviting.  I’d love to camp here if it were allowed, but it’s not. Frown. 29-1052 11:13 am – We began walking east to find upper Gaylor Lake. When I stopped here I could see middle Gaylor Lake, below, Granite Lake to my right and upper Gaylor lake to my left. 34-1113 Below, Granite Lake center and right. 35 Upper Gaylor Lake. 36 11:28 am – And then there’s David, waiting for me while I photograph wildflowers. The peak to the left is the one above Granite Lakes, Dave’s facing upper Gaylor Lake that lies below. 38-1128 11:48 am – We walked down to upper Gaylor Lake, followed the path along the edge of the lake then decided to hike up the insanely steep, hot trail to the ruins of the Great Sierra Mine that was built in the 1870’s.  I’ve hiked half way up and while taking one of my MANY rests, I photograph the trail below and above. 39-1148 Looking up at the remaining half of the trail to get to the mine ruins. 39-1149 12:00 pm – Made it to the top!!  An old stone building sits at the top of the trail. In view are upper and middle Gaylor Lakes.  The wind made beautiful patterns on the water. There are a few crumbling stone huts and a mine shaft that isn’t fenced off.  The poles down in the mine shaft looked like telephone poles.  My picture doesn’t give the feeling of how big the hole was. 40-12 41424344-1220 1:04 pm – Lunch!  We had lunch at the edge of upper Gaylor Lake.  I brought roast beef sandwiches that tasted so good.  I’d toasted and buttered the bread and put only the meat on.  I put tomato and lettuce in separate baggies so the sandwiches didn’t get soggy.  We’d stopped to snack and drink along the way but I was starving. 49-104 Scarves are the most useful and versatile clothing accessory, especially at nap time.  The sound of lapping water was like music.  And the smell of the high mountains is intoxicating.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  Someone should make a perfume that smells like the high country. 50-121 1:32 pm- The aliens are arriving.  Lunch time entertainment. 51-132   2:11 pm – After lunch and a rest we hike back to the middle lake. We saw two marmots close to the trail. Looking back at the lake as we hike the 200 feet up to the crest.  The water was very choppy from the wind.  In the distance you can see the smoke from the Yosemite fire. 52-211 2:29 pm – The top of the crest.  Looking down on Dana Meadows.  Our car is 600 feet below and I’m so happy it’s all down hill.  We saw a beautiful buck with a large antler and several noisy Clarks Nutcrackers. 53-229 We decided to drop down to Lee Vining for a cup of coffee and to see how the clouds were shaping up.  It might turn out to be a great sunset.  We sat in one location for a while while I painted a small watercolor and David read his book. We then  moved to another location for the second painting. mono27262014 mono17262014 I’m sorry I din’t take a reference photo before I began.  The tufa were a beautiful grey and then they lit up.  I preferred the grey. 6:04 pm – While sitting at Mono Lake I decided to check my phone to see if I had reception.  I had reception so I was looking for something on Facebook when I noticed I had a notification from the Mariposa Fire group.  They were discussing the fire in El Portal and that the 120 would be closed.  That put us into immediate action! We’d just learned the 395 running through Lee Vining was closed just north of us due to a hazmat spill.  That meant our other option would be to drive 4.5 hours south to Bakersfield and 3 hours north to Mariposa.  I didn’t relish the thought of driving for hours since I was a dirt ball from the hike.  More importantly I worried about the dogs not getting their dinner.  The dogs’ dinner is nothing compared to what the people of Foresta and El Portal are dealing with right now.  The dogs dinner is a mundane, everyday occurrence that’s been yanked away from the people of the fire.  And our long drive home is a gift compared to what the people in the path of the fire are dealing with right now. I called the Highway Patrol.  The 120/Crane Flat intersection would be closed to southbound traffic, which took us to the 140 for Mariposa.  We would be able to turn north, drive through Groveland, drop down the the 49 and head south for home.  We weren’t at ease until we were on the 120.  We feared the entire road might be closed before we got there and we’d have to turn around and drive an hour back to Lee Vining. 54-604 7:18 pm – Tuolumne Meadow, smoke and clouds. 55-718 7:30 pm –  A little ways past Olmstead Point. 56-730 7:39 pm – The Yosemite fire we’d seen in the morning.  There was much more smoke due to the El Portal Fire. 57-739 7:50 pm – Smoke blots out the sun.  A short time later the sun lowered and the forest was lit with beautiful golden light. 58-730 8:20 pm – Heading north on 120.  The smoke filled air made a beautiful sunset that lasted after dark.  As we drove through the burned out area from the devastating Rim Fire, the charred, stark black trees and colorful sunset were quite a visual scene. It was a relief to head south on 49, we knew we’d be home in an hour or so. 60-821

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Jan 13

David and I decided to take advantage of the Glacier Point Road being open this late in the season to photograph the sunrise with Half Dome.  I’d recently posted to Google+ a collage I’d made with David’s cast off photographs and trial prints of my giclees.  A fellow photographer on Google+, Vincent Goetz, offered his cast off photographs for collage use as well.  He decided to be at Glacier Point for sunrise also.

Raven Collage


The three of us were disappointed there wasn’t a cloud in the sky at sunrise so our next stop was Bridalveil Creek on Glacier Point Road.  The creek was frozen solid and the temperature was 19 degrees.  Even the ravens looked cold.  They were walking half squatted as if trying to keep their legs warm.

Boring sunrise.

7:14am HalfDome

Raven huddled on a branch.

8:03am Raven

Breakfast at the Ahwahnee was next on our stop.  Vince was driving ahead of us in his truck.  In the valley he came to a stop by the chapel  so a  bobcat could cross the road in front of him.  None of us had seen a bobcat in Yosemite before.  It was very healthy looking.

Bobcat in the Chapel parking lot.


Our other photography interest was the late afternoon moonrise.  We wanted to be in the Tuolumne Meadow/Tioga Pass area.  As we left the valley after breakfast, we stopped at Bridalveil Creek along the main road in the valley.  David was interested in ice pictures, then we headed for 120.  Though it was a sunny day, at 12:30 it was 35 degrees.

Tioga Pass is now open the latest in the season on record, which gives us a chance to explore the area in winter.  We stopped at Tenaya Lake which is frozen solid and had lots of people on the ice engaged in various activities.  There were ice skaters, ice hockey players, lots of people playing and a few with picnic tables set up on the ice.  It was really creepy to stand on the shore and listen to the ice making lots of weird and distressing sounds.  You could see the ice move as well.  I decided not to walk around on it.

Tenaya Lake.

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Around 3pm we stopped at a pull out near the Tioga Pass gate.  We had an hour before the moon rise.  The wind was bitter cold.  We could photograph while we waited or we could drive down to Lee Vining and have a meal.  We chose the latter.

Ellery Lake, elevation 9538 ft,  taken through the window as we drove by.  I really liked the long shadows on the surface of the ice.

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Mono Lake was a gorgeous deep dark blue as we dropped down the grade.  I wish I’d gotten  a picture of the lake….and of the moon rising over it.  By the time we’d finished our meal the moon had risen quite a bit.  We dashed back up the grade and found a pull out to photograph the moon.  It was so cold with a blasting frigid arctic wind.


The colors of the meadow were stunning.


The view behind me, which Vince suggested I turn around and see.  It must have been a beautiful sunset at Tenaya Lake and Olmstead Point.


My last picture of the day, and my favorite.  Perhaps I was still shivering as I took this through the windscreen.  It’s very Bill Neill-ish without even trying, a happy mistake.


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Oct 28

        We decided to go to the east side of the Sierra Nevada in search of fall color.  We couldn’t go the week before due to commitments and our daughter’s wedding.  It is late in the season but we really wanted to see what was left of the fall color.  Our photographer friend Franka Gabler joined our ‘day trip’.  She met us at our home at 3:15am.  We loaded her equipment into our car and left about 3:35am, the morning air was 47 degrees.  Dave and Franka talked about cameras and photography most of the time.  We passed Olmstead Point around 5:40, it was 30 degrees.  Without a moon, the sky was brilliant with stars, there were even a few bright shooting stars. 

    When we reached the stop sign at the foot of 120 and 395 it was 6:30am, 23 degrees.  By the time we arrived at the June Lake Loop a few minutes later the temperature had dropped to 16 degrees.  We drove past Grant Lake, then Silver Lake before we chose our first stop to photograph.  At 17 degrees it doesn’t take long for the fingers to start feeling the cold, then the pain sets in.

First Stop.  First photograph of the day.

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Franka’s body language said, ‘it’s cold!’.

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Our next stop was along the river between Silver and Grant Lakes.  We had finally warmed up by the time we reached this destination.  The mist was rising from the river.  This side of the road was in the shadow of the mountain and wouldn’t receive sun for quite a while.  Despite being 17 degrees the plants didn’t look frosty.  The peak of color is obviously gone but there was still some areas with color.  The bare trunks of the aspen are always interesting subjects.

  David, in my photograph, geez.  The white strip is a nice size waterfall.

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The plants along the edge of the river were frosty.

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When we got back to the car at 8:40 we were all in pain.  Our fingers and toes were frozen.   During the hour+ we’d spent photographing the temperature had gone from 17 to 19 degrees.  Our next stop was the Mono Lake Committee Visitor Center to inquire about fall color….and to get some hot coffee. 

Refueled with coffee and giant cookies from Latte Da Coffee at the El Mono Motel we were ready for our next location.  As we left Lee Vining we noticed a hillside along the highway that had good color.  We were on our way to Lundy Canyon.  The color there was past peak but there were other nice elements that caught our eyes.

Lundy Lake

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We left Lundy Canyon and returned to the hillside outside of Lee Vining.  I like the airy grasses in the amber light of the aspen trees.

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David photographing in the distance.

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Looking out to Mono Lake from the hillside.

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At 2:30, 48 degrees, we leave the hillside and drive back to June Lake Loop to explore Aspen groves  on the opposite side of the road from where we photographed along the river.  Dave and Franka were uninspired by the light of this time of day….I’m just a painter so I was in heaven taking reference photos and enjoying all the possible paintings running through my head.

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Looking from the Aspen Grove down to the car which is near the truck that is barely visible.

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Franka sitting on a rock looking through the pictures she’s taken.  We were waiting for Dave who was still in the grove you see here.

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At 4:30 we leave June Lake Loop and start our journey home.  The light on the mountains of Tioga pass was beautiful.  We were hoping for a pretty sunset from Tenaya Lake or Olmstead Point. 

Near the top of the steep grade of Tioga Pass, taken out the car window.

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Just inside the Yosemite Park Gate.

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Looking back at Tuolumne Meadow.

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Tenaya Lake.  (they actually stopped the car for me)

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We were very hopeful there might be a nice view from Olmstead Point.  It was almost dark when we rounded the bend at Olmstead Point and could see down the valley to the side of Half Dome.  Franka started squealing like a stuck pig or a kid who gets to go to Disneyland.  The valley was covered in rolling fog with Half Dome poking through the fog and an orange glow of sunset laying on the horizon.  Streaks of pink lingered in the sky.  It was beautiful!  I posted a photograph from the same area so you can see Half Dome lit by the setting sun to compare it to what we witnessed.  I captured a few photographs before my battery died with perfect timing.

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