Sunday, August 09, 2009

Yosemite National Park - Bernice Lake - 07/18 - 07/19/09

Yosemite high country….one of my favorite places. A lot of my initial backpacking took place out of the Yosemite high country so I have an attachment to it. This trip would lead us past Vogelsang High Sierra Camp and over Vogelsang Pass to Bernice Lake. I’ve never gone beyond Vogelsang Lake and was very curious what it was like and if I might like to explore it more in the future. The victims for this trip….oops I mean trip participants were Curtis and Andrew. This would be the second backpacking outing for Andrew and he was prepared and ready to go with many many many snack bags which Curtis would later be thankful for since they contained little Snickers bars.

We started hiking out from the Wilderness permit office along the Tuolumne River. The weather was really nice and it soon became evident that we were going to see many wildflowers. …thx goodness I was toting my SLR along. By mid-day the guys were timing how long it would be before I called out another wildflower name…they also figured it would be Lupine. I must have called that out a minimum of 50 times on the trip…I love Lupine and they were definitely at their peak. We saw all of the usual wildflower suspects….Pretty Face, Alpine Buttercup, Indian Paintbrush, Monkeyflower, Daises, etc. Hiking at times would become a challenge since I couldn’t keep my eyes on the trail as a result of the wildflower distractions.

There were plenty of people on the trail headed in or out of Vogelsang High Sierra Camp but it seemed that this was far as folks were going…which was fine with me. As we headed up Rafferty Creek the clouds moved in …there was some forecasted chance of rain but it was minimal and then it started to hail. Lucky for us it was just a short spurt followed by a second longer but short spurt that did get us to put on ponchos and rain gear but as is typical in the mountains it quickly got warm and sunny again and we proceeded on our way. We had great views of Fletcher and Vogelsang peaks and soon we were across Fletcher Creek and on top of Vogelsang Pass. The pass was beautiful but we were also daunted as we looked down to where we needed to get to and how we needed to get there. The hike from the Pass was definitely part 2 of the day aka “The Slog”. So we slogged down about 2000 feet, engaged in battle with mosquitoes when we reached the valley and hopped over many streams that crossed the meadow. We finally hit the unmaintained trail to Bernice Lake and slogged further uphill. By the time we got to camp it was late….about 6/6:30 it had definitely taken us awhile to get there. We setup our tents then Andrew and I focused on the most important thing….making sure we would have chilled margaritas. As some readers of this blog know I don’t totally rough it and this trip was no exception.

Sunset at the lake was beautiful with a good Alpenglow show and the margaritas and quesadillas/soft tacos complemented it perfectly. After the sunset we were rewarded with a great star display. No one stayed up late since we were all pooped. Sunrise was just as pretty as sunset but unfortunately we did not have good food to complement the sunrise. Instead I completely butchered the pancakes and got stuck eating raw pancake batter….with sugary apples….mmm yum. We were on the trail by 9- and got up the pass pretty quickly while it was still cool. The way back was fairly uneventful except everyone’s doggies (toes) were a barking. We stopped at Tuolumne River so the guys could take a quick dip and then hit our trailhead. The only bear we saw was the one cross Tioga Road right before we turning into the Tuolumne store parking lot….figures. Snacks and beers were in order at the store…mmm beer. All in all a great Yosemite trip along a beautiful trail into a lightly traveled area….I definitely would recommend it for others.

See my pictures


mark said...

Nee, I was hoping you could comment on the camp site at Bernice Lake. I am making a trek from Tuolemne Meadows to the valley and thought this looked like a good spot to camp on day 1. Was this a nice spot to camp at?

Sam McElrath said...

I came across your post about Bernice Lake. That was by far one of my favorite adventures. Also, Mark... Bernice lake is a great place to camp. Take a light weight break down fishing pole and some spinner bait, pinch down the barbs on the hooks to cause them minimal damage and you can catch and release all afternoon.