Sunday, July 26, 2009

May Lake

(Okay, so this is long overdue, but I've figured out a workaround for the photo uploading issues I've been having, finally)

My second night in Yosemite on my trip a few weeks ago, I spent the night out at May Lake, in the high country near Tuolumne Meadows.    It's about 8 miles from Glen Aulin, with a trailhead off the Tioga Road, so you could easily do the two together on a weekend.  

Anyway, May Lake is a great beginner's backpack.  I've been told it can be difficult to get a backcountry permit for there, especially at peak times, but I had no trouble -- perhaps because I was heading in on a Thursday night, relatively early in the season.  Early enough, in fact, that there was still snow on the ground. A LOT of snow, actually. 

It's only about 1.2 miles up to May Lake from the parking area. It is an all-uphill hike, at about 9000 feet altitude, but because it's so short, I think pretty much anyone could do it, even with no backpacking experience at all.  And there are some lovely views from the trail. 

Just like at Glen Aulin, there's a High Sierra Camp at May Lake and a backpacker's campground. The campground is right on the shore of May Lake.   How 'bout this site:  

That's the lake behind my tent there, a stone's throw away.   Oh, and San Francisco friends, if you've ever wondered where your water comes from, here's one answer:

I feel like I sound like a broken record whenever I talk about Yosemite, but like everything else up there, May Lake is absolutely gorgeous. In the evening, it gets all glassy, sheltered as it is down in a swale of rock, and the reflection of those amazing Sierra clouds that Ansel Adams made so famous is striking. I probably took well over 100 pictures there (thank goodness for digital!). 

Apparently the bugs can get bad around the lake, but I had no problems in late June. Perhaps because it was still pretty chilly. I'd guess it got down close to 30 degrees overnight, and I already mentioned the snow.  The High Sierra Camp didn't look anywhere near ready to open for the season, in fact.   In terms of other wildlife, a deer wandered right through my camp while I was setting up, and there were a TON of yellow-bellied marmots about, particularly in the morning.    I watched them for quite a while Friday morning, as I made my coffee and breakfast. They're interesting creatures -- left one on guard as the rest were running about getting water, searching for food, etc. 

They're nicknamed "picket pins," which you understand once you see one standing up on its hind legs. And, man, they're bigger than I thought. I always imagined marmots to be sort of squirrel sized, but these are more like the size of a beaver. I'd guess they easily weigh 20 lbs. Maybe more. I've heard that they can be scavengers and try to get into your food, even when you're standing right there, but I didn't have any problems. And, of course, my food was all locked up in a bear cannister overnight. Oh yeah, bears are apparently also an in this area, but I certainly didn't see one. I think they tend to follow the dumb tourists, so they're more likely to be seen during the high season, when there are lots of folks out there and not everyone is following good back-country food storage principles.

The only thing I didn't like about May Lake is the fact that you can't swim there.  Not that I really wanted to swim in a high sierra lake that was still surrounded by snow.  But, generally, it seems like it really just BEGS to be swum in, but since it is a domestic water source, you're not allowed. (Hey, question -- why is that the rule? I mean, you can swim in the Great Lakes and those are also domestic water sources. Doesn't the water get treated in various ways before becoming drinking water, anyway? Does it have something to do with the size of the body of water? Or just California paranoia? Yes, I googled it. No answer.)  

Anyway, I'm planning another trip to May Lake soon.  I'm thinking I'll take some friends who are new to backpacking and break 'em in easy.  Think morning coffee with this laid out before them will convince them that it's not so bad to carry everything you need on your back, sleep on the ground, and pee in the woods? 

1 comment:

Lovely Little Lovelies said...

oh my goodness....that looks amazing! that's definitely on my list to see. we are camping in the sawtooths (idaho) this weekend.

could you email me your addy so i could send you the prize for my little book suggestion giveaway? :)