Sunday, March 15, 2020

Last Day at Yosemite: From Young Lake to Lambert Dome

Rugged Peak, inverted

August 2, 2019
Place: Yosemite National Park, California
Coordinates: 37.937938, -119.345831
Length: 8.5 miles
Level: moderate

The fifth and last morning of our backpacking trip in Yosemite National Park was as bright and clear as all those before it. We took our time getting up and out of the tent, preparing and eating our breakfast in leisure and slowly putting our things in order and packing everything.
Early morning at Young Lake 
When we camped by Roosevelt Lake I wished I could have stayed there more. But leaving Young Lake came at the right time. Still early in the morning, already plenty of other campers were moving about and the area seemed all of a sudden to be too busy to my taste.
The morning sun taking a bath at Young Lake
So without any lingering we started west on the trail that would lead us to the end of our trip.
Standing guard near the trail was the robin, our acquaintance from yesterday, seeing us off.
American Robin
We started off going up and out of Young Lake's bowl. There wasn't much of an uphill getting out of the Young Lake area, and withing a short distance we were walking down a mild slope of intermittent forest, granite outcrops, and green meadows in bloom.
Our hike from Young Lake to the Lambert Dome as captured by my GPS (yes, there was a glitch in the recording, we didn't really teleported anywhere else from Dog Lake). 
 It was an easy morning walk, different from any good day hike by the size of our backpacks, somewhat lighter now for the food consumed in the past four days. Every now and then we would come upon other backpackers making their way up to Young Lake. 

We came down to a green bog with a pretty little creek running through it. It was there that we had to use our last deet and hope that the mosquitoes go easy on us for the rest of the day.

Past the bog the forest closed in around us and the trail assumed a much steeper slope. We are going down quickly toward a deep valley below.
We were running out of drinking water and, seeing a pretty waterfall (tiny, in Yosemite's scale) off to the side, we decided to take a short break to rest a bit and to fill up on water. We stayed by the trail, not going all the way to the waterfall which was off to the side. It was a bit further fro the trail than I first estimated but the main reason was a small group of backpackers that decided to have spent the night over there rather than going all the way up to Young Lake. Perhaps they arrived there too late in the evening to make it all the way to the lake. Either way, we felt apprehensive about going through their little camp to get to the waterfall and settled for filling our bottles from the creek that it fed.

Past our waterfall stop the trail leveled off again, then begun to ascend, mildly at first but then getting steeper. My friend was surprised that we were going up again after I had promised her that this day would be all downhill. But this was just a short distance uphill compared with our entire hike for that day.

Soon after starting uphill the trail forked - right toward Glen Aulin were we has passed our first night and left - toward Dog Lake and eventually to Lambert Dome where we were parked. We continued left.
The higher part of this uphill trail segment was mostly exposed granite outcrops and gravel with space pine trees. Many wildflowers were blooming between the rocks and on the thin gravel. Many of them I've seen already on the previous days.
Sanddune Wallflower, Erysimum perenne
Other flowers however, I was seeing for the first time in bloom, and that was very nice.
Familiar or new, I loved seeing all that colorful display around me. Spring in the Sierras is truly something special.
Three-leaved Lewisia, Lewis triphylla 
We reached the top of the small incline we were ascending and sat down for a short breather and snack. The day had warmed up considerably and we were both hot and thirsty. I hoped there would be water not too far away because we were chugging water down like camels.
At the highest point
We started downhill southward and as soon as we cleared the trees I had to stop and gape: the view was phenomenal! Not only that, it was familiar two - we were looking south at the Cathedral Ridge. Between that ridge and where we stood was a dark, too deep to be seen, valley of the Upper Tuolumne River. It was there where we were heading.
View south to Cathedral Ridge
The trail leveled and now we were walking through a wide plateau with open views all around and an unbelievable quantities of wildflowers.
Sierran Stickseed, Hackelia nervosa 
The dominant bloom color was blue, contributed by the many lupine shrubs.
Ahead of us a large granite dome loomed over where the trail was seemingly going. Perhaps because of its size it appeared closer than it actually was, and our way there yielded many fine sights.
The vegetation cover of the plateau we were on was not uniform. Areas of grasses and sedges were interrupted by many gravel patches. In these patches, many other wildflowers were blooming, adding their colors to the lupine blue.
Alpine Mountain Sorrel, Oxyria digyna 
Some of the other flowers blended really well with the color of granite gravel.
One-seeded Pussypaws, Calyptridium monospermum 

Other species of lupine were also blooming. Not all of them I was able to identify to the species level.
Lupine, Lupinus sp. 
The plateau we were walking through was surrounded by a few domes. Two of these to the east looked like a place I would have liked to explore a it further. We didn't take any detour, however. I thought this might be a good destination for a future day hike. 

The soil was drier and more gravely in that area. Naturally, it affected the population of wildflowers that were blooming there.
Eriogonum sp. 
It was also still high enough in altitude for some higher elevation bloom.
Spreading Phlox, Phlox diffusa
It was mid-day but we weren't ready yet for a lunch break. It was also hot and we were running low. According to the maps we were expected to cross a few creeks before reaching Dog Laken and I was hoping to hit some water soon.
Prickly Sandwort, Eremogone aculeata
Nothing felt very urgent yet however, and we kept on going slowly, enjoying the warm weather and the spectacular views. One good thing of walking through dry terrain was the substantial drop in the mosquito population.

The plateau dipped again and the trail started meandering between small groves and large boulders. Every step of the way were lovely wildflowers blooming, and even on our fifth day I was still seeing species that were new to me.
Green-leaved Raillardella, Raillardella scaposa 
Coming around a grove of trees the view opened up to once again reveal the mountain ridge south of Tuolumne Meadows. In the middle posed the needle-like Cathedral Peak.

It looked so close through the strongest zoom of my lens! I know there's a trail to that peak and now it's on my wish list.
Cathedral Peak
Returning my gaze to the small beings on the ground I notice more signs that we're losing altitude. I miss the High Sierra uniqueness but this is very lovely too.
Pretty Face, Triteleia ixiodes
I also see more reminders that we're not quite on low grounds yet.
Silky Raillaedella, Raillardella argentea 
There is a lot of coyote mint blooming all over the place and their aroma fills the air. I neglected them throughout our trip because they are so commonplace. This time however, I to stop to snap a few shots of this aromatic herb in bloom.
Pale Mountain Monardella, Monardella odoratissima ssp. pallida
The true ruler of the area was the shaggy lupine, which formed blue carpets from trail to dome. t was simply fantastic to see the blue meadow patches everywhere.

Near the trail of course we got to see these beautiful plants up close.
Shaggy Lupine, Lupinus covillei
I cannot resist posting a close-up of this pretty lupine, despite this post already being heavy with photos. It's not a species I see often.
Shaggy Lupine, Lupinus covillei
As if to accentuate the lupine-blue there were dots of bright-red paintbrush, which were really starting out in the green-blue background. 
Great Red Paintbrush, Castilleja miniata
Then we reached a flowing creek. Yay! We sat down for a break and to refill on water. We also met there another backpacker who kept to himself a bit off trail.

It was a lovely spot but we didn't stay there long. After filling our bottles we crossed to the south side and moved on.
Willow, Salix sp. 
Shortly after crossing the creek we were through the high and dry plateau and into the woods. It wasn't a deep forest but an aggregation of small conifers with plenty of space in between them and not much shade.
The wildflowers were different here as well. Although we were not walking near any body of water, there was some mountain heather blooming near the trees there.
Brewer's Mountain Heather, Pyllodoce breweri
We sat on a log to filter more of the water we had collected at the creek we had crossed. There I had noticed a couple of colorful flies busy with their spring activity. That too counts as an interesting wildlife sighting.

As we continued on the forest got thicker and shadier. We welcomed the shade although it was accompanied by an increase in mosquito activity.
The wildflower community shifted again to forest shade-loving species.
Goosefoot Violet, Viola purpurea 
There were many lupine plants here too, of a different species - the already familiar mats of tidy lupine.
Tidy Lupine, Lupinus lepidus 
To the lupine another hue of blue was added in the form of larkspur. The larkspur, while not in contiguous maps but in small patches here and there of dark navy blue on knee-high stalks.
Larkspur, Delphinium sp. 
The trail changed its character again, becoming rockier and curvier. The slope increased again ever so slightly and almost without noticing, we were moving quicker downhill.
Another thing that changed was that now were came upon more little creeks and no more needed worrying about water.

Every now and then we would come across people hiking up the trail toward Young Lake. Not many were coming downhill in the direction we were going, but there was that sole backpacker we saw at the first creek that kept leap-frogging us almost every half a mile or so. He was already a familiar sight - still quiet but now we were nodding one another as we passed each other along the way.
Cinquefoil, Potentilla sp. 
The hot day and the long walk was beginning to take an effect on us. Despite the convenient downhill walk we were taking more frequent breathers now, to drink and cool down under a tree. I didn't mind at all the frequent breaks - there were interesting things to see pretty much everywhere. I sure was in a botanical heaven.
PineWoods Lousewort, Pedicularis semibarbata 
My friend was getting tired and sore feet but was in high spirits and showed no signs of the altitude-induced fatigue that she had while in the McCabe Lakes area.
Nude Buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum 
I was seeing the now very familiar Leichtlin's mariposa lily pretty much everywhere in the forest. It was a good summer for this beautiful flower and I felt very fortunate to be there to see it at its peak bloom.
Leichtlin's Mariposa Lily, Calochortus leichtlinii
The trail led us downhill through the forest for a good distance, and then the trail leveled and we were out of the trees, about to cross a huge flat meadow.
Hesperia comma butterfly visiting a Wandering Fleabane, Erigeron glacialis
The meadow was fairly dry. The The big creek that created it was all the way on the other side. As we crossed the meadow I saw for the first time the reddish-brown Mount Dana, the mountain seen also across of Dog Lake. We were quite close now.
Mount Dana
 The meadow was full of little wildflowers and plenty of butterflies were hovering between them, as if having difficulty choosing the best morsels from a luxurious spread.
Lemmon's Paintbrush, Castilleja lemmonii 
My friend got ahead and was walking quickly, but I lingered by each flower and waited patiently for the butterflies to make their choice and pause for the camera.
Clouded Sulphur butterfly
In the middle of the meadow we passed once again the sole backpacker that had been walking down the same trail as us. This time I broke the silence and asked if he would take a photo of me and my friend with the mountains in the background. Of course I had offered to photograph him as well.
A Lustrous Copper butterfly visiting a Groundsel, Senecio sp. 
We continued together until we reached the big creek where we all stopped to filter more water. We surprised a deer there and it run off quicker than my camera aim.

Oh, deer!
The backpacker, whom we learned was German on a solo vacation in the US, remained by the creek while we took off our shoes and crossed to the other side. Knowing that Dog Lake was so near prompted me to push on rather than stay by the creek, where there were too many mosquitoes, I thought.
Delaney Creek
After crossing Delaney Creek we were back in the forest again. The forest floor covered with the little white stars of the woods strawberry. We were too early to enjoy the fruit but the bloom was very pretty.
Mountain Strawberry, Fragaria virginiana
Young Lake trail, the trail on which we were walking, connects with the Dog Lake trail about half a mile south of the lake itself. Seeing that and knowing that the lake was only about 300 meters off to the east, I lead my friend off trail again and cut through the forest right to where Dog Lake was.
Crimson Columbine, Aquilegia formosa
At Dog Lake we finally stopped for a good, long break and cooked lunch. It was there too that we finally felt that we were back within civilization again because there were plenty of day hikers on the lake shores.
Dog Lake
Once we were sitting down it seemed that the temperatures suddenly dropped. A light breeze begun as well, so a short time into our break we had to pull out our sweaters and move to a sunnier spot. There, from the fallen log I was sitting on, I could observe the numerous dragonflies that hovered around the lake.
Some of the dragonflies were really beautiful and some more plain. I have yet to look up the species.
The dragonflies gave us plenty of entertainment but then a single golden-mantled squirrel approached us, begging for food. We didn't hand it any of course, but I'm pretty sure that other visitors have had before, because the squirrel seemed quite comfortable around humans.
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel
We stayed at Dog Lake for nearly an hour but eventually it was time to get moving again. Saying goodbye to the lake, the pretty dragonflies and the little wildflowers that bloomed by its shores, we hoisted our backpacks again and started on the last lag of our trip.
Primrose Monkeyflower, Erythranthe primuloides 
The trail leading down to Lambert Dome I have hiked before and even wrote about here. We walked quickly down the steep trail, nodding as we passed to the numerous day hikers which huffed and puffed on their way up to Dog Lake.
We did pause briefly to look at one thing or another but that barely slowed us down.
Hermit Thrush
We reached the trail fork leading to the Soda Springs parking lot and took it all the way down to th meadow. It looked just like it did the day we begun our trip, but it seemed that more flowers were blooming.

Behind us loomed Lambert Dome, now dwarfed in our minds by the enormous High Sierra peaks we have descended from. Any thoughts I had of maybe ascending the dome on our way back were gone when I looked at my watch - it was getting late in the afternoon and we planned to drive to the Carson Pass area that evening still.
Lambert Dome
We reached the gravel road where we had parked our car and found it intact. Good. As we were unpacking our stuff and getting the items that we had stored in the bear boxes by the road, my friend suddenly exclaimed - she'd seen a bear!
I quickly pulled my camera out again and went behind the car. There was the bear, a young, tagged black bear, moving away between the trees.
Black Bear, juvenile. Hungry.
We backpacked for five days in the wilderness of Yosemite without seeing as much as a bear's hair only to see that during our absence it had checked our car for food ...
I didn't wash the car for a long time after the trip, showing that paw print to everyone who cared to see.
Black Bear's pawprint

We were in high spirits, driving down from Tioga Pass to Lee Vining. It was a good, although scary at times, trip. We stopped at Lee Vining to have dinner without having to cook it ourselves, then continued on to a campground near Carson Pass where we found the last available campsite for the night. On the morrow we would join the Calflora botanist group on a very illuminating hike to Lake Margaret before going back home.


  1. This was a great trip - thanks for sharing!
    The first two pictures are outstanding but the bear envounter really mae me jelious..

    1. Thank you! Yes, the bear encounter was a very sweet cherry topping a fantastic trip!

  2. amazing, really amazing. and with the bear at the end... beautiful hike, and the bear is a great bonus! wonderful!