Place: Yosemite National Park, California
Trailhead coordinates: 37.878763, -119.358192
Length: 6.3 miles
For several years now I've been entering the permit lottery for a backpacking trip in Yosemite, and every year I end up going someplace else. Last year too I failed to win the coveted permit. But then the unbelievable happened and I was able to find a campsite at Tuolumne Meadows campground for the night before I wanted to go into the wilderness so I decided to try my luck at the 'first come first serve' quite of permits that are kept for walk-in adventurers.
Also, after two years in which I went solo on my summer backpacking trips, this time I was going with a friend.
So, with a lot of faith I placed my chikas on the bus to their 4-H camp, picked up my friend, and drove to Tuolumne Meadows.
At 8:00 am on the following morning we joined the line at the wilderness center, a line that already stretched quite far. I was worried that by the time we'd get to the counter all the permits will have been booked. As it turned out, most people head of us were seeking permits for the morrow, and when I approached the ranger at the counter I still had a few railheads to chose from. I chose the Glen Aulin trailhead, thinking to continue west on the second day along the Tuolumne Canyon that I've read about and wanted to see. My friend had no preferences - she trusted my choice a 100%.
We drove past the Lambert Dome trailhead and parked along the dirt road leading to Soda Springs. Abiding by the Yosemite rules we removed from the car all of our food and anything smelling like food and secured it in one of the bear boxes installed along the road. We then hoisted our backpacks and started down the gravel road to the trailhead, leaving Lambert Dome behind us.
|Looking back at Lambert Dome|
We passed the trailhead sign and continued on towards Soda Springs. I eyed the double peaked buttress of which I caught glimpses as it appeared between the trees. There were plenty of people all along the trail - taking a human-free photo wasn't easy.
|Trail from Lambert Dome to Soda Springs|
|Cinquefoil, Potentilla sp.|
|Blue butterfly on Ragwort, Senecio sp.|
Now multiply it by ten thousand-fold.
|Sierra Beardstongue, Penstemon heterodoxus|
|Monument Plant, Frasera speciosa|
|Seaside Arrowgrass, Triglochin maritima|
I was convinced to try the soda water myself. I went inside and crouched over the spring/ Gingerly I dipped my hand and cupped some water and tasted it. It was pure heaven! All thoughts of illness left me. I took my cup out, filled it up and drunk it whole. It was the best soda I ever had.
We arrived at the soda springs from Lambert Dome, but there's a direct way to get there from Tuolumne Meadows. Looking down I could see the shiny strip of the Tuolumne River and people crossing the foot bridge on simply hanging by the river and enjoying the beautiful day.
|Parsons Memorial Lodge|
We followed the trail into a thin conifer forest. Large granite rocks littered the forest floor and between the rocks bloomed lots of wildflowers.
|Sierra Stonecrop, Sedum|
|A moment of solitude on the PCT|
|Mountain Strawberry, Fragaria virginiana|
|Butterfly visiting a buckwheat, Eriogonum sp.|
|Brewer's Lupine, Lupinus breweri|
|Crimson Columbine, Aquilegia formosa|
|Leichtlin's ariposa Lily, Calochortus leichtlinii|
We reached a huge slab of granite and our trail disappeared. I mean that it wasn't beaten into the rock but was marked by little stones on both sides. In some places the stones were scattered but all and all it wasn't difficult to tell where the trail should continue.
|Peaks of the High Sierra|
|"The Watcher" rock hanging over shallow river cascades.|
We found where the trail continued - a steeply sloped cobblestone path on the side of the big granite dome we were on. We came across several places where the trail was fixed with cobblestones, apparently to prevent degradation, but I found it harder to tread than the regular earth trail or even natural irregular rock surface.
|Western Labrador Tea, Rhododendron columbianum|
|Cascades of the Tuolumne River|
|Pussypaws, Calyptridium sp.|
Below that waterfall we continued on a fairly level stretch of trail with more soil between the boulders and granite slabs and more trees. There were more wildflowers as well.
|Pretty Face, Triteleia ixiodes|
|Varied-leaved Jewelflower, Streptanthus diversifolius|
|View down to Glen Olin|
|Mountain Pride, Penstemon newberryi|
|Our campsite at Glen Aulin|
|Sunset at Glen Aulin|