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. 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. 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! 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. 8:33 am -Looking towards the far end of the lake. The water was very pretty before the winds began. 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. Looking left. 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. 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. 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. 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. North. The monolith is closer. To the east, the trail leading down from the crest we crossed and a little speck of the lake on the right. 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. 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. 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. Looking back at middle Granite Lake where we began. (left side) 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. 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. Below, Granite Lake center and right. Upper Gaylor Lake. 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. 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. Looking up at the remaining half of the trail to get to the mine ruins. 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. 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. 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. 1:32 pm- The aliens are arriving. Lunch time entertainment. 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. 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. 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. 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. 7:18 pm – Tuolumne Meadow, smoke and clouds. 7:30 pm – A little ways past Olmstead Point. 7:39 pm – The Yosemite fire we’d seen in the morning. There was much more smoke due to the El Portal Fire. 7:50 pm – Smoke blots out the sun. A short time later the sun lowered and the forest was lit with beautiful golden light. 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.