September 4, 2012
A Guest Blog From California's Sierra Nevada
Molly Bloom, Digital Copy Editor at MSLO would like to share the following travel blog from a recent hiking trip.
I get a lot of attention just for having grown up in New York City. The standard comment is: “A real New Yorker -- how unusual!” I am aware (and proud) that New York is the center of the universe, but what I do not lose sight of is that life exists outside the city. My hometown can be overwhelming, overstimulating, filthy, humid, depressing, and a whole bunch of other unsavory, hyperbolic adjectives that, when combined, make me want to clutch my head and scream and run for the proverbial hills, which I do, as often as I can.
This time around, my escape took place in California's Sierra Nevada. I actually worked in Yosemite National Park for two summers, in 2000 and 2002. Most visitors stay in Yosemite Valley, toward the western side of the park; I went to the less-trampled eastern side, where I had been a camp helper at Merced Lake High Sierra Camp, 13.1 miles from the nearest road, via the shortest route; no electricity; supplies brought in by mule train. There are five such camps in a 50-mile loop and they provide tent cabins and hot meals for hikers that come through. My boyfriend, Jonathan, and I introduced his father to a few High Camps this year. Afterward I spent a few days with my old friend Ben, who worked at Merced Lake, too. Ben was working at Rock Creek Lodge in Inyo National Forest and said I could crash there while getting my hike on.
1 This was the first day of hiking in Yosemite, on our way to Sunrise High Sierra Camp.
2 We were still getting acclimated to the elevation during the 9, or so, miles up to 9,400 feet.
3 Older hikers are partial to these trails because they don’t have to carry a tent or food, but they still get the wilderness experience. The trails are far from crowded.
4 Jonathan carried our tent since he and I didn’t sleep in the cabins, though we ate our meals at the camps -- another handy option for those wanting to travel light.
5 On our second day, we went to Merced Lake via Mansfield Pass (as in Jayne), which is a shortcut that avoids about 1.5 miles of downhill switchbacks.
6 My favorite juniper tree grows on the granite under the Mansfield domes and I like to pay it a visit when I’m in the area.
7 On the trail in Echo Valley - At Merced Lake, "MOLLY 2000 2002" is still where I carved it in the door of the ice house, where they store the produce.
8 On our third day, we headed up to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, which is at 10,130 feet. I got to the point by calling this 7.6-mile trail the "Vogelsang Death March."
9 It wasn’t easy gaining all that altitude so we cut across the granite as much as we could to save time.
10 The Death March is one of Jonathan's favorite trails because after going straight up he’s rewarded with a big, flat meadow, just at the top there.
11 The meadows were very dry this year because there had been very little snowfall. Usually this meadow is all green, with a strong creek running along the trail.
12 The sunsets at Vogelsang are stunning. This is Vogelsang Peak, which I once climbed. I wonder if my name's still in the register at the summit. Maybe I’ll check next year.
13 On our fourth day, a warm High Camp breakfast is the perfect fuel for an easy hike. I loaded up my oatmeal until it disappeared under its toppings.
14 After the hike we reconstituted ourselves in the town of Mammoth Lakes.
15 But, of course, we stopped in Lee Vining for soft serve first! In the evening I drove with Ben to Rock Creek Lodge while Jonathan and his dad did father-son things for a few days.
16 Before lunch the next day, I took Ben’s panting dog, Tucker, up the road to poke around some nearby lakes. Tucker is the most enthusiastic fetch player I’ve ever met. Here he is at Serene Lake.
17 I baked cookies for the Lodge staff in the late afternoon.
18 The next day's hike was short, but it's up 2,000 feet from the trail head to Mono Pass. I got there in half the time I was expecting to - I must be acclimated. And burly!
19 This is Summit Lake. The Mars rover Curiosity wouldn’t be out of place up there. I was a little breathless at 12,000 feet but I might have just been hyperventilating with joy.
20 A few clouds on the way down made the valley look unreal.
21 Before dinner and a milkshake from the diner down the road, we went to the pond and played fetch with Tucker, who was quite violent in his endeavors.
22 On my last day, Ben, Tucker, and I went to Treasure Lakes. They’re in a basin at the foot of peaks that still had some snow on them and are separated by a small rise, perfect for resting.
23 Ben hikes seriously fast. I think he’s part bighorn sheep.
24 I can never pass up a good boulder scramble.
25 I love the jaunty Forest Service font, but it’s always sad to see it on my way out of a hike. When we got back, Jonathan and his dad were waiting to drive to the Bay Area to visit family. It's not the mountains but I think I could handle it. I'm a hardcore New Yorker, don't forget.