TR - Tuolumne Meadows/Bishop Creek 7/26 - 8/3 | High Sierra Topix  

TR - Tuolumne Meadows/Bishop Creek 7/26 - 8/3

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TR - Tuolumne Meadows/Bishop Creek 7/26 - 8/3

Postby Anish » Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:06 pm

Hello everyone!

I'm happy to be posting my first trip report here. First of all, I want to thank all the good folks who provided input in helping me plan my trip. The plan was to visit Bench Canyon and Southern Yosemite via the Isberg Trail. I had planned it down to the minute details, and was very excited about it.

However, on the drive up to Oakhurst on 7/25 we spotted a large plume of smoke in the foothills in the direction we were heading. It turned out to be the Willow Fire. The fire actually started while we were driving up, so we had no advance intel on it. We camped off the Beasore Rd that night and decided we'd scope out the situation in the morning. Sunday morning rolls around, and our camp is covered in ashes. Based on the info we could gather, the fire was growing and moving quickly to the northeast, pretty much in the direction of the Isberg TH. Considering we were going to be in the wild for 9 days, we were uneasy not knowing the potential of this fire. Would it reach the TH? Cut off the road? Or at the very least, smoke out our route? We would not get answers to these questions, but we didn't want to venture out with worry lingering in our minds.

We thus made the tough decision to abandon the original plan and head further north towards Tuolumne Meadows. The popular TH's would be booked, but I figured we could always get spots for Nelson Lake. A quick stop at the Wawona station to get our permit, and soon thereafter we were off to TM. Though I was bummed out in having to change plans, I was kind of excited about the idea of heading into the backcountry without any plan at all.

I had last visited Nelson Lake in 2002, and I was surprised at how familiar the route was. There is a decent use trail all the way up to the pass above Elizabeth Lake, but at times it literally goes straight up the slope. With full packs and no acclimatization, it was pretty tiring. The view north from the top, though, more than makes up for the effort. Tuolumne Meadows and much of northern Yosemite is laid out before you.

Beyond the pass we dropped into intimate and charming Echo Creek Canyon. Though not far from the bustling TM, it doesn't seem to get much visitation. Even on a busy peak summer weekend, we saw nobody after Elizabeth Lake. We had planned on reaching Nelson Lake, but a combination of first day tiredness and a brutally cold wind that had picked up convinced us to settle into a cozy spot along the meadows at the base of the canyon. Our water froze overnight, but that was the last of the cold. From that point things warmed up for the remainder of the trip.

Day 2 took us further down Echo Creek and then east over a low ridge to Nelson Lake. The use trail gets a bit sketchy at the base of this ridge, but route finding is easy enough and soon we were over the ridge and heading down to the vast meadows surrounding Nelson Lake. This is truly a beautiful place. We spent plenty of time relaxing at this idyllic spot before moving on. Our route then took us north, then east past Reymann Lake and over the saddle north of Rafferty Peak. This stretch was straightforward, fun x-country and very scenic.

It had rained the week prior, so there was plenty of water flowing out of Reymann and everything was green. This was a pleasant surprise, as I was expected more yellow in this very dry year. The view east from the saddle is jaw dropping. We enjoyed this spot for a bit, then began contouring to the right. We aimed for a grassy gully about 1/2 mile east that would take us over towards Tuolumne Pass. However, we discovered that we had run out of water. Knowing we still had some ground to cover, we headed towards a small pool we spotted on a bench below to the north. Upon reaching this bench, though, we were so enchanted we decided to set up camp for the night. This place is utterly pristine. There were no signs of visitation. No flattened areas, no use trails, no trash, no footprints. The bench consisted of a large meadow fringed by trees on one side with a meandering pool and a dropoff featuring a broad view to the east. That evening, I finally felt energized enough to do some photography.

The next morning we planned to hike to Vogelsang Lake, with the aim of climbing Vogelsang Peak the following day. We made for the same grassy gully we spotted the day prior, and easy x-country heading southeast brought us to the Rafferty Creek Trail. We were immediately greeted by the sight of many hikers, which we hadn't seen since Elizabeth Lake. It felt good to hike on solid trail again, and we made great time towards our destination. I wish I could've hiked blindfolded through the High Sierra Camp area, but there was no avoiding the gleaming white tents and people in bright, freshly laundered clothes. Nothing against them, of course, but the idea of these mini-cities constructed in the wilderness has always struck me as a bit off. Anyway, we were soon past the HSC and up the switchbacks to Vogelsang.

I would say Vogelsang Lake is not among the most beautiful in Yosemite, but it was quiet in the sense that we only noted one other party camped there, and they were quite far from us. But the trail is very busy, so there were hikers streaming up and down constantly, most of which were out for walks from the HSC below. In any case, we found a lovely spot west if the outlet and set up our camp. The quiet of the evening was interrupted by mysterious chants coming from the HSC. My buddy and I had fun coming up with theories as to what they might be doing down there.

The next day was devoted to a leisurely climb of Vogelsang Peak. There seem to be many ways to get up this peak, but we chose a grassy ramp that heads from the outlet towards a spot high on the peak's east ridge. This proved very easy, with only a short rock hopping section below the ridge. The hardest part was probably navigating through the shrubbery on the SE slope. After that was cleared a short scramble puts you on the summit. WOW! what an amazing view for such a modest effort, Including: Lewis Creek Basin and the high peaks of Eastern Yosemite, the entire Clark Range (thick smoke to the south reaffirmed our decision to change routes), Fletcher and Emeric Creeks (my favorite view).

We snacked, took a few photos, then headed down. This time, we followed a broad gully east towards Vogelsang Pass and then met up with the trail back to camp. Extremely pleasant hiking with gorgeous views all around. That evening, some clouds rolled in making for a pretty sunset.

The following morning we debated our options. Though we had interest in visiting Lewis Creek Basin, we had both been suffering sleep issues throughout the trip, and it was beginning to catch up to us. We decided to leave the backcountry, spend a night in town, then hike somewhere on the east side afterwards. We made the trek down Rafferty Creek, which while long is very beautiful. I only wish the stretches between piles of horse s##t were long enough to actually smell the pine trees.

We grabbed a room in Mammoth and enjoyed our usual post hike meal at Roberto's. I don't know about everyone here, but once I've taken my first post backpacking shower, my mind shifts into a different (lower) gear, and my body follows right along. After a good night's sleep, we were content to spend the next day roaming around Bishop Creek along Hwy 168 before finally grabbing a campsite at the seemingly never full Four Jeffreys Campground. Cloudy skies provided a stunning atmosphere that evening.

Not wanting to succumb completely to our laziness, we chose to utilize our last day out by hiking up to Table Mountain via the Tyee Lakes Trail. It was such a joy to hike without full packs. Along with the fact that we were fully acclimated and well rested, we blazed up the trail. We didn't find the lakes along the trail to be particularly attractive as backpacking destinations, but there was this very nice garden along the shore of the upper lake.

We filtered water here while being brutalized by mosquitoes. The views above the highest lake really start to open up. The Inconsolable Range and some of the Palisades appear to the east. We reached the very broad summit plateau under thickening gray clouds. Peaks could be seen poking out to the west, tempting us further. But thunder was rolling and I wasn't too keen on being caught on the exposed plateau with a storm imminent. We enjoyed the views, took some quick photos, then heading back down.

Within 10 minutes it started to pour and thunder was frequent. We were back at the car in no time, and after one last night at Four Jeffreys and a lovely sunrise among the Buttermilks, we bid goodbye to our beloved Sierra and headed home. We vowed to return for the Bench Canyon route in the future...
Storm over Table Mountain
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Tyee Lake Garden
Table-Mountain-Garden.jpg (293.56 KiB) Viewed 206 times
395 Sunset
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Vogelsang Camp
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Interesting patterns at Vogelsang
Twilight,-Vogelsang-Lake.jpg (179.42 KiB) Viewed 206 times
Looking north from Vogelsang camp
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Emeric and Fletcher Creeks from Vogelsang
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Clark Range from Vogelsang
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Lewis Creek Basin from Vogelsang Summit
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Bench above Rafferty Creek
Rafferty-Bench.jpg (226.12 KiB) Viewed 206 times
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En Route to Reymann Lake
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Nelson Meadows.jpg
Meadows near Nelson Lake
Nelson Meadows.jpg (189.67 KiB) Viewed 206 times

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Re: TR - Tuolumne Meadows/Bishop Creek 7/26 - 8/3

Postby Anish » Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:13 pm

I hit the 12 upload limit, but I wanted to add a photo of our last sunrise in the Buttermilks. Hope you enjoyed!
Buttermilk Sunrise
Mooset-over-the-Buttermilks.jpg (147.7 KiB) Viewed 203 times
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Re: TR - Tuolumne Meadows/Bishop Creek 7/26 - 8/3

Postby rlown » Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:19 pm

Very Nice! Way to pull a plan B out of the air and go with it! Always a good trait.

Thanks for sharing.
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Re: TR - Tuolumne Meadows/Bishop Creek 7/26 - 8/3

Postby balzaccom » Thu Aug 27, 2015 9:09 pm

great photos! Thanks for posting the TR

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Re: TR - Tuolumne Meadows/Bishop Creek 7/26 - 8/3

Postby Bluewater » Fri Aug 28, 2015 7:42 am

Thanks for posting your tr and photos. I really like the one with the moon reflection. I was out during some of those same late July storms!

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