I had several events to attend this weekend and a bundle of work to accomplish. My solution was to ignore all of my commitments and instead spend the weekend in Tuolumne. After all, I rationalized, the pass doesn’t stay open all year.
I arrived in the afternoon on Saturday and decided to take the boat across Saddlebag Lake and hike the loop around the lakes. What I love about the Saddlebag Lake area is that with little effort and expense (a mere $6 gets you ferried across the lake) you can be in the midst of the High Sierra with alpine lakes and craggy peaks for surroundings. I’ve explored the area extensively, having climbed White Mountain, Mt. Conness, and North Peak, but I had never hiked the official loop around the lakes.
The trek around the lakes was an easy hike, so I didn’t feel I had really earned my dinner. However, my perceived lack of effort did not deter me from ordering a plate of fish tacos. After dinner, I returned to my favorite lodging, the El Mono Motel and read my Weatherwise magazine while I sipped on jasmine green tea from the motel’s café.
On Sunday, I joined Ranger Dick Ewart on the last day of his "Ice, Wind & Fire" outdoor adventure course. His hike focused on the natural forces that shaped the landscape in the park, not the music of a '70s rock band. The day I joined the group (a very fun bunch of poeple!) we traveled to Little Devil’s Postpile, a volcanic plug along the Tuolumne River, to learn about the “fire.” As always on Dick’s wonderful hike, I added much to my Yosemite knowledge. Did you know that the last period of major volcanic activity in the Sierra was 9 million years ago? Or that some grasses grow in donut rings in the high country because of water and mineral dispersal?
One bonus involved the clouds. It was a superb cloud day! The wind had picked up last night at Mono Lake, and had followed me to Tuolumne in the morning. The winds aloft were extremely unstable, as told by the clouds’ language. The wind produced an array of unique stratus formations across the sky; lenticular clouds stretched across the horizon, looking like UFOs had landed on the Sierras.
We ended the day on Erratic Dome, gazing at the 360 degree view as Dick named the peaks on the horizon. We huddled close as to hear his voice over the 30 mph winds.