During the summer of 2009, two friends and I journeyed west to Yosemite National Park to spend five days hiking along the John Muir Trail. The second day of our trip was spent acclimating to the higher elevations and exploring Yosemite National Park. This was the only day spent entirely within the park and included climbing Lembert Dome, visiting Tenaya Lake, hiking to Tuolumne Grove and driving through Yosemite Valley. The following post chronicles the second of three parts of the second day of the trip. The late morning and early afternoon was spent climbing Lembert Dome and checking out Tenaya Lake.
After leaving the Wilderness Center (read about our exploration of Tuolumne Meadows earlier in the morning here) we headed toward the trailhead for Lembert Dome. We thought climbing to the top would not only afford some beautiful views on this clear day but would also act as an opportunity to acclimate to the higher elevations while doing some activity modestly strenuous.
Lembert Dome is a granite dome rock formation rising 800 feet above Tuolumne Meadow. Although rock climbers scale the steep end of the dome there lies a hiking trail along the back end that is significantly easier trip to the top. The trail is a short hike up the rounded bare rock peak providing an outstanding view of the surrounding meadow. The trail up to the top of the dome is only a little more than a mile but required a good deal of climbing.
The majority of the hike up was under sparse tree cover providing some welcome shade from the rising morning sun. Even after 9 AM there were many people already on the trail. I found myself wheezing intermittently as we climbed the steady incline. Although most of the time I felt fine every once in a while I found myself out of breath. Dave explained this was a normal response to the lack of oxygen at our current elevation.
Soon after climbing to a ridge the wide tree-covered trail ended and a scramble over bare rock began. We were smart to attempt this in the morning before the sun became too warm as there was no break from its heat now. After scrambling over bare rock and scaling up some short rock rises as we proceeded west we finally arrived at top of the dome overlooking the Tuolumne Meadow and River.
Under mostly clear skies the views from on top of this rounded rock dome were simply outstanding. The entire Tuolumne Meadow unfolded before us in all its glory. The Tioga Road appeared as ants from this great height.
We took some time to explore the bare rock cliffs on the top of the dome. Unfortunately there was some type of geology class on the actual summit. We did not want to disturb them so we avoided the summit and searched around the cliffs looking for better views of the surrounding landscape. After thoroughly exploring the area we finally started back down the trail toward the road.
While climbing down off Lembert Dome we stopped along the trail and watched a female mule deer cross the trail right in front of us. When we got closer to the road I spotted a male mule deer lying down behind a boulder. I got some pretty good pictures of the buck sitting there and it never showed any signs of agitation by my presence.
After reaching the road we headed over to check out the Tuolumne Lodge. We filled up our water bottles, checked out the available merchandise and had a warm beer. Given my ever-present slight headache, and the strong taste and room temperature of the beer it took all my will power to force it down.
After finally forcing down the beer we headed down to the Tuolumne Grill for lunch. The Tuolumne Grill is a nice little eatery located in the same building as the store and Post Office near the entrance of the campground. It serves some tasty fare despite the humble surroundings. We took our lunch outside and consumed it at a picnic table while discussing our next destination.
After lunch we took the shuttle bus down the road eight miles to Tenaya Lake. Tenaya Lake is the largest lake in the park and is known for its sandy beach on the eastern shore and its crystal clear and cold water. Dave wanted to check out the beach and take a swim. The very cold water and cool wind gave me an incentive to find something else to do.
There were some other people on the beach but only a few hardy people were in the water and most of those were younger children. Most of the people were just lying n the beach and enjoying the sunshine.
While Dave headed for the water, I took the opportunity to take some awesome pictures of the cliffs surrounding the lake with my virtually new camera.
At one point I observed a large marmot at the edge of the beach. Apparently it came out of the woods behind the beach to scavenge around a picnic table. Obviously it was looking from some left over lunch. The marmot went largely unnoticed as everyone was too preoccupied on the beach. Unfortunately, the marmot retreated to the woods before I was able to snap a photograph of it for posterity’s sake.
By about 2 PM we left the beach and took the shuttle back to the Tuolumne Meadows campground. As it was getting later in the afternoon we headed to our campsite to meet up with Jim.