Category

Yosemite

Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park

Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

Photos of Vernal Falls and the Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park

Sarah and I recently made our somewhat-annual hike up the Mist Trail in Yosemite, enjoying the heights and sounds of Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls, as well as the Panorama Trail. It was not a serious photography outing since I was huffin’ and puffin’ just keeping up with Sarah who is a serious hiker and in better condition than I. We did make a stop just below Vernal Falls where we made the photo below. This is a place at which I always stop for a photo, and often there is a rainbow in the composition (see bottom of this post). On this day, however, breaking out the camera was especially difficult because of the enormous amounts of spray produced by near-record flow in the Merced River. I had about a second to get the shot before the lens would fog over with spray. I tried a dozen times and then gave up not wanting to damage the camera. I got this one keeper frame out of the attempts.

Vernal Falls and Merced River in spring, heavy flow due to snow melt in the high country above Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

Vernal Falls and Merced River in spring, heavy flow due to snow melt in the high country above Yosemite Valley.
Image ID: 26878
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

While we were hiking, we discussed the potential pitfalls of the hike, the short sections of the steps leading up to Vernal Fall which are most dangerous, where a simple slip can lead to a deadly fall down the steep and slippery rock apron and into the raging Merced. We also discussed the danger around the top of Vernal and Nevada falls, each of which has seductive and exceeding risky brinks. She got the message and I didn’t browbeat her too much, but quietly kept her within arms reach during some of those more nervous sections of the hike.

A few weeks later I had a somewhat unsettling experience. After enjoying a family reunion in Yellowstone during which I had the phone and email turned off for a week, I returned to my office to find that the most popular images on my website for the previous week were all images of Vernal Falls. Then, catching up on messages, I found two urgent calls from news organizations asking for images of the falls to run in breaking news stories. “Uh oh.” Indeed, with a quick search of recent headlines I learned that three young people had tragically died after slipping into the Merced above Vernal Falls and going over the edge. What a terrible event, for the three young hikers but also for all the others present on the brink of Vernal Falls at the time it happened. I felt sick in the gut, knowing Sarah and I had been there just a few days prior, walking those same steps and having one of the most enjoyable days together we have ever shared. With just a small misstep, the Mist Trail can turn deadly, and indeed it does almost every year. This year the Mist Trail has claimed at least four lives. Yet, it remains one of my favorite trails and I will continue to hike it with Tracy and the girls as long as they can tolerate my slowing pace and lame jokes.

About the Hike: Spring is the time to visit Vernal Falls and the famous Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park. Vernal Falls is at peak flow in late May and June, the weather is usually pleasant and the dogwoods are in bloom on the valley floor. We try to make a springtime visit to Yosemite each year to hike the Mist Trail with our daughters. We get soaked by the falls on the way up, soak in the sun and dry off at the top, enjoy a lunch of trail mix and Clif bars alongside other hikers, and leisurely make our way back down the trail later in the afternoon. If one times his visit to Vernal Falls at midday, a rainbow is often visible in front of the falls when viewed from the trail just 100 yards away.

Vernal Falls at peak flow in late spring, with a rainbow appearing in the spray of the falls, viewed from the Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park, California

Vernal Falls at peak flow in late spring, with a rainbow appearing in the spray of the falls, viewed from the Mist Trail.
Image ID: 12634
Location: Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Yosemite Falls and Star Trails

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Yosemite

Stock Photos of Yosemite National Park.

I’ve updated my collection of Yosemite photos, including the one below which I made at 2am a few evenings before the last new moon. One of the spring lunar rainbows that form in upper and lower Yosemite Falls — which are a lot of fun to see but which attract considerable crowd of people and cars that remain throughout the night — took place on the full moon a few weeks prior. I was not able to get up to the Valley for the lunar rainbow event, so instead took my daughter on a Sierra roadtrip a few weeks later to hike the Mist Trail as we try to do each spring. She elected to stay with Grandma at Bass Lake while I went into Yosemite Valley for some night and sunrise photography. On this night, with a nearly new moon, I did not encounter a single person in Cook’s Meadow between 11pm and 4am. The light that the crescent moon shed onto the upper waterfall was quite thin, but I was still able to make a clean image by using a 40-minute time exposure which rendered the stars as arcs in the night sky. Polaris, the “North Star”, is the bright star that lies nearly at the center of those arcs at upper right. My main interest interest in photographing in the valley was in making a few very high resolution reflection panoramas of the flooding Merced River, for potential printing 10′ wide or more. In several places I waded into the Merced to find perfectly still water and the composition I was looking for, since my 6′ tripod allows me to work waist deep or more if needed. The water was not as cold as I expected so I did not even bother with waders. Boy how I love Yosemite in early summer, so green with cool shadows and crisp water contrasting the warm dry air and blue skies! After a sunrise and morning of landscape photography I (mostly) put away the camera, spending the remainder of the trip hiking a couple favorite trails with Sarah and making iPhone panoramas with her. She really likes the immediacy of iPhone photography and enjoys seeing how in-phone panoramas turn out just moments after making them. I can’t blame her as the results are often surprisingly good. Anyway, back to my stock photography: if you like the image below, be sure to see more Yosemite National Park photos. If you like this image, please see my website devoted to my full collection of Landscape Astrophotography images. Thanks for looking!

Yosemite Falls and star trails, night sky time exposure of Yosemite Falls waterfall in full spring flow, with star trails arcing through the night sky, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Falls and star trails, night sky time exposure of Yosemite Falls waterfall in full spring flow, with star trails arcing through the night sky.
Image ID: 26853
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

The above image is a single image, not a composition. There is no masking or blending used, just a judicious choice of exposure along with curves, saturation and white balance in Lightroom. What looks sort of like a halo just above the cliffs is actually the faintest hint of sunrise I believe, since I ended this exposure just as astronomical twilight was beginning in order to obtain a true blue sky (rather than natural black sky, or a blue sky created by manipulating the colors of the sky). The Photographer’s Ephemeris app on the iPhone is a great help in determining such times, if you like apps.

A Return to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp

California, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

Photos of Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite National Park

Last month I made a brief return trip to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, following my first visit in 2009. This time my father joined me, and we had a chance to spend a few days together in some of the most beautiful areas of Yosemite’s high country. Our last real hiking trip together was one we did with my sister about 15 years ago in Lyell Canyon, and previous to that was our climb of Mt. Whitney about 30 years ago — so both of us were really looking forward to getting together for this outing. Yosemite did not disappoint…

Cathedral Range peaks reflected in the still waters of Townsley Lake at sunrise, Yosemite National Park, California

Cathedral Range peaks reflected in the still waters of Townsley Lake at sunrise.
Image ID: 25764
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

We began with the usual slog up Highway 395, taking a detour to look at the ancient bristlecone pine trees in the White Mountains (which I insisted upon visiting given my father had not seen them before). Blue skies accompanied us all the way, with barely a speck of wind, and the altitude proved to be no problem. After checking out the eons-old bristlecones we were soon back on 395 and reached Tuolumne Meadows by 5pm. Our day was capped with a walk along the Tuolumne River, a visit to Tenaya Lake and Olmsted Point for sunset and a great carb-load dinner at the Tuolume Meadows Lodge. (If you look closely you can see my dad in the below panorama of Tenaya Lake.)

Cloud's Rest at sunset, viewed from Olmsted Point.  Clouds Rest is one of the most massive -- if not the singlemost massive -- granite monoliths in the world. A vast lobe of Mesozoic-era granodiorite magma cooled to rock and was gradually uplifted to its present altitude of 9926 ft. Later, glaciers cut it into its present shape, Yosemite National Park, California

Cloud’s Rest at sunset, viewed from Olmsted Point. Clouds Rest is one of the most massive — if not the singlemost massive — granite monoliths in the world. A vast lobe of Mesozoic-era granodiorite magma cooled to rock and was gradually uplifted to its present altitude of 9926 ft. Later, glaciers cut it into its present shape
Image ID: 25761
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Tenaya Lake at sunset, panoramic view looking north, with Tenaya Peak (10,280') on the right and Medlicott Dome (9,880') on the left.  Tenaya Lake lies at 8,150' in the heart of Yosemite's high country, Yosemite National Park, California

Tenaya Lake at sunset, panoramic view looking north, with Tenaya Peak (10,280′) on the right and Medlicott Dome (9,880′) on the left. Tenaya Lake lies at 8,150′ in the heart of Yosemite’s high country.
Image ID: 25755
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

The following morning Dad chose to sleep in while I made a sunrise visit to Tioga Pass, a short ways up the road from the Tuolume Meadows Lodge. I was hoping to see a bear or some deer, but I had to settle for reflections of Mammoth Peak in the small tarns that are found in the meadows near the pass.

Mammoth Peak (12,117') reflected in small tarn pond at sunrise, viewed from meadows near Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park, California

Mammoth Peak (12,117′) reflected in small tarn pond at sunrise, viewed from meadows near Tioga Pass.
Image ID: 25759
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

We hit the trail after breakfast, choosing the Rafferty Creek route to Vogelsang. Although frowned upon by some as a pack trail, Rafferty Creek is a much shorter approach than the Lyell Canyon route and my dad, at 74 years, was not sure how his legs and back would feel about long route. It must be said that one advantage to taking Rafferty Creek Trail is that the bulk of the uphill work is done in the first 3 miles, with the last 4 miles being mostly not-too-difficult uphill slope through a pleasing series of meadows and forests. The hike took a while but was not particularly challenging, Dad being prepared and well-conditioned by a month of long pre-trip walks. We reached Vogelsang with little fanfare by about 3pm, just in time for siesta. We were lucky to receive one of the two person tents alongside the creek. And to top it off, there were no mosquitoes, it being too late in the season for the carniverous demons to practice their injurious profession upon my tender flesh.

Panoramic view of the Cathedral Range from the summit of Vogelsang Peak (11500').  The shadow of Vogelsang Peak can be seen in the middle of the picture, Yosemite National Park, California

Panoramic view of the Cathedral Range from the summit of Vogelsang Peak (11500′). The shadow of Vogelsang Peak can be seen in the middle of the picture.
Image ID: 25751
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

After a recumbent hour I remembered that one of my goals was to bag Vogelsang Peak, one of the two 11,500′ peaks that overlooks Vogelsang High Sierra Camp (the other being Fletcher Peak). I asked the camp manager to set a plate of dinner aside for me while I made a sunset hike to the peak, and she kindly complied, so I took off about 5pm. I encountered noone on the way up or down except for a few marmots. The route is not technical, being characterized as “pedestrian” in one online account I had read. I reached the top about an hour before sunset. What a view! My panoramic photo above (click it to see it larger) really does not do it justice. I really love those brief moments atop a summit, any summit, and this was no exception. I savored the lingering light as it lit the scene all around me, the Cathedral Range to one side and Half Dome in the distance on the other, alone atop this impressive granite height. The sun was still warm enough that my t-shirt was all I needed. There was no wind. The lengthening shadow of Vogelsang Peak pointed toward Bernice and Gallison Lakes and several peaks of the Cathedral Range, including Amelia Earhart peak, Parsons Peak and Simmons Peak, all about 12,000′. As one is wont to do when one finds oneself alone in a place of serene quiet and moving beauty, I pondered deep thoughts for a while. But not for too long, as I do not have the intellect of a philosopher. I ate my snack bar, recorded a bit of video, signed the peak register I found hidden in an old ammunition can among the rocks, and started back. On my way down to camp I was treated to a gorgeous view of Fletcher Peak reflecting a wash of gold across Vogelsang Lake. I gratefully wolfed down my dinner as I described the hike to my dad, then washed up and hit the sack. It was about a 10 mile day with almost 3000′ of elevation gain for me, so I slept well!

Fletcher Peak is reflected in Vogelsang Lake at sunset, viewed from near summit of Vogelsang Peak, Yosemite National Park, California

Fletcher Peak is reflected in Vogelsang Lake at sunset, viewed from near summit of Vogelsang Peak.
Image ID: 25757
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Dad let me take off before sunrise for some photography, so I walked up to Townsley Lake and made some exposures in the mirror-smooth waters. The German grad students who shared our dinner table in Tuolume mentioned that Vogelsang means “bird song”. On this very still dawn at Townsley Lake, where the only sound that broke the silence were bird chirps, the camp’s name seemed particularly apt.

Fletcher Peak (11410') reflected in Townsley Lake, at sunrise, panoramic view, Yosemite National Park, California

Fletcher Peak (11410′) reflected in Townsley Lake, at sunrise, panoramic view.
Image ID: 25752
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

After breakfast, we headed out to visit several of the lakes in the area. We passed by Fletcher Lake just a few yards from camp, then up over the rise to Townsley. Of most interest to me was Hanging Basket Lake, set in a small cleft (perhaps a hanging valley) at the top of a reasonably steep talus slope above Townsley Lake. My dad was game for it, so up we went. It was not too difficult, requiring just some patience to navigate the talus boulders and not twist an ankle. Hanging Basket Lake itself is rumored to hold lunker fish, given that few people visit it. Its waters are a striking deep green, and it is surrounded on three sides by sheer granite walls. What a spot. We tried to time our visit for when the sun would illuminate the entire cirque above the lake, and we guessed right:

Hanging Basket Lake (10601'), with Fletcher Peak (11410') rising above on the right, panoramic view, Yosemite National Park, California

Hanging Basket Lake (10601′), with Fletcher Peak (11410′) rising above on the right, panoramic view.
Image ID: 25753
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

We continued our hike up to the meadows above Townsley Lake. We met a few more marmots, and found a toad in the grass. On the plateau above Townsley and Evelyn Lakes, we wandered by a series of beautiful tarn ponds. Several of them, not connected to any streams and thus safe from introduced stock trout, were absolutely plugged with tadpoles. As we walked along the edges of these ponds the tadpoles would splash through the shallowest few inches toward the deeper middle of the water. Other ponds were connected by a stream, being part of the drainage to Evelyn Lake which was our destination. Purple lupine flowers were blooming in abundance along the this stream, and we found a group of deer. We descended the slope to Evelyn Lake, reaching the sand beach along the western shore. We went for a well-deserved swim. The water was bracing but we dried off almost immediately in the warm weather and felt great afterwards. After Evelyn Lake, a few more miles took us past a couple of meadow-bound tarns, back to Fletcher Lake and once again to camp, After another fantastic meal, we spent our second night in Vogelsang Camp. Reports had been circulating on the internet prior to our trip that Mars would be making its closest approach to Earth in recorded history during our stay at Vogelsang, but I have since learned those reports were, in the usual internet-driven fashion, fanciful. Nevertheless, Mars was indeed quite bright each evening, following a few degrees behind the full moon as the two traversed the night sky.

Both Mars and the full moon looked down on me as I made my way up the short walk to Vogelsang Lake before dawn on our final morning. I recorded a time-lapse video of the sunrise breaking over Vogelsang Peak and sweeping down to Vogelsang Lake, which can be seen briefly at the beginning of this video and in full at the end of the video. Indeed, both Mars and the moon appear in the beginning seconds of the time-lapse, at the far right, but Mars is admittedly difficult to discern in the Youtube version. The video was an experiment to test out a external microphone on my camera, and to learn a little bit about recording video with an SLR still camera. You can see it with some comments at my earlier post about it.

Our second and last morning at Vogelsang Camp was relaxed and uneventful. As it was yesterday, this morning was warm, still, quiet and mosquito-free. We enjoyed another excellent breakfast, of the sort that breakfast afficionados such as myself record in our life list of notable breaking-of-the-fast achievements. There is something particulary satisfying about eating hearty food in spectacular outdoor surroundings. I feel justified in enjoying seconds of everything, rationalizing (hoping?) that I will burn the additional calories on the coming day’s hike.

Vogelsang Peak (11500') and the shoulder of Fletcher Peak, reflected in the still morning waters of Fletcher Lake, in Yosemite's gorgeous high country, late summer, Yosemite National Park, California

Vogelsang Peak (11500′) and the shoulder of Fletcher Peak, reflected in the still morning waters of Fletcher Lake, in Yosemite’s gorgeous high country, late summer.
Image ID: 25788
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

We returned via the Rafferty Creek trail, reaching the car in Tuolumne Meadows by about 1pm to began the long drive down 395 to Southern California. Wouldn’t you know it, the clouds which were totally absent during our time in the high country appeared just as we reached the end of the trail!

Vogelsang Reflections – Yosemite National Park

Sierra Nevada, Time Lapse, Video, Yosemite

Vogelsang High Sierra Camp and Tuolumne Meadows

My dad and I spent a great several days hiking around Tuolumne Meadows and Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. Vogelsang is one of my favorite areas of the Sierra Nevada, a series of 10,000′ basins filled with beautiful lakes and boasting many 11,000′ and 12,000′ peaks. We had spectacular weather, no mosquitoes, and bagged a new peak and at least a half dozen lakes. I shot this video with a Canon 5D Mark II and the time lapse was shot with a Canon 1Ds Mark III camera, 1300+ frames over two hours to produce about 25 seconds of time lapse video. The video was an exercise to test the function of the Sennheiser MKE 400 mic in an outdoor setting. It worked reasonably well. You can tell I did not get my video perfectly level on some shots — live and learn. Life is good!

Infrared Photo of a Giant Sequoia Tree

California, Infrared, National Parks, Sierra Nevada, Trees, Yosemite

One tree in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is my favorite. Its huge, reasonably symmetric, and sits somewhat alone in meadow clearing so that morning light can illuminate almost the entire tree nicely. Plus, its a nice 2 mile run up through the grove from the parking lot. Usually when I arrive at The Tree I am the only person there, having seen noone on the way up the hill. It was the same this time. What a beautiful morning. I took my tiny mikro-pokket-infraredfotokam along with me and shot some photos. Below is my favorite one.

Giant sequoia tree towers over surrounding trees in a Sierra forest.  Infrared image, Sequoiadendron giganteum, Mariposa Grove

Giant sequoia tree towers over surrounding trees in a Sierra forest. Infrared image.
Image ID: 23304
Species: Giant sequoia tree, Sequoiadendron giganteum
Location: Mariposa Grove

Like this? Here are more infrared photos.

Keywords: giant sequoia, infrared, mariposa grove, yosemite national park, Sequoiadendron giganteum.

Giant Sequoia Pictures

Sierra Nevada, Trees, Yosemite

Many of my giant sequoia pictures are now on Photoshelter, which is the source of this nifty slideshow. Sequoia trees really are the most majestic of all plants. They are the largest (i.e., most massive) life forms on earth, and they are nearly the tallest (exceeded only by their cousins the coastal redwoods in the Pacific Northwest). Giant sequoia trees are one of the longest lived organisms on earth, exceeded in longevity most notably by Ancient Bristlecone pine trees (Pinus longaeva). Enjoy images of these “pillars of the sierra”.

A giant sequoia tree, soars skyward from the forest floor, lit by the morning sun and surrounded by other sequioas.  The massive trunk characteristic of sequoia trees is apparent, as is the crown of foliage starting high above the base of the tree, Sequoiadendron giganteum, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California

A giant sequoia tree, soars skyward from the forest floor, lit by the morning sun and surrounded by other sequioas. The massive trunk characteristic of sequoia trees is apparent, as is the crown of foliage starting high above the base of the tree.
Image ID: 23260
Species: Giant sequoia tree, Sequoiadendron giganteum
Location: Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

My website also has many giant sequoia tree photos (Sequoiadendron giganteum).

Keywords: sequoia, giant sequoia tree, photo, picture, image, Sequoiadendron giganteum, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, California, sierra nevada.

Photos of Glacial Erratic Boulders

California, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

Some years ago I posted a blog entry about photos of glacial erratic boulders on Olmsted Point in Yosemite National Park. Well, I was recently there and got a few more. Glacial erratic boulders are so named because they are erratic (i.e., differ materially from the naturally occuring stone nearby) and they were deposited by slow-moving glaciers, sometimes after having been moved a considerable distance (e.g., tens of miles) from their place of origin. The boulders are carried by the glacier and then either fall off the side of the glacier as it slowly slides along, or are simply dropped in place if a glacier melts away. Olmsted Point, high above Tenaya Canyon, is a great location for seeing glacial erratic boulders. The same glaciers that sculpted nearby granite monoliths Half Dome and Cloud’s Rest, seen in the background of one these photos, also left behind many glacial erratic boulders on the rim of Tenaya Canyon when it passed by.

Glacial erratic boulders atop Olmsted Point, with the massive granite monoliths Half Dome and Clouds Rest in the background. Erratics are huge boulders left behind by the passing of glaciers which carved the granite surroundings into their present-day form.  When the glaciers melt, any boulders and other geologic material that it was carrying are left in place, sometimes many miles from their original location, Yosemite National Park, California

Glacial erratic boulders atop Olmsted Point, with the massive granite monoliths Half Dome and Clouds Rest in the background. Erratics are huge boulders left behind by the passing of glaciers which carved the granite surroundings into their present-day form. When the glaciers melt, any boulders and other geologic material that it was carrying are left in place, sometimes many miles from their original location.
Image ID: 23264
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Glacial erratic boulders atop Olmsted Point. Erratics are huge boulders left behind by the passing of glaciers which carved the granite surroundings into their present-day form.  When the glaciers melt, any boulders and other geologic material that it was carrying are left in place, sometimes many miles from their original location, Yosemite National Park, California

Glacial erratic boulders atop Olmsted Point. Erratics are huge boulders left behind by the passing of glaciers which carved the granite surroundings into their present-day form. When the glaciers melt, any boulders and other geologic material that it was carrying are left in place, sometimes many miles from their original location.
Image ID: 23265
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

See also: Yosemite National Park photos.

Keywords: glacial erratic boulder, geology, granite, Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park, glacier, rock, stone.

Giant Sequoia Tree Photo

California, Sierra Nevada, Trees, Yosemite

My in-laws live year-round very near the south entrance to Yosemite National Park. It only takes a few minutes for me to drive in and reach the Mariposa grove of giant sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum), so I will often go into the park early in the morning and take a run through the trees before anyone else arrives. This time I put my hiking boots on and brought a camera, hitting the trail about 6:30. There was nobody around, not even another car in the parking lot. I made a stop at the Bachelor and Three Graces (how can one not stop here?). Eventually, I found the most photogenic tree of the morning along the upper loop trail, lit nearly in its entirety by early morning sun while the surrounding trees were shaded.

A giant sequoia tree, soars skyward from the forest floor, lit by the morning sun and surrounded by other sequioas.  The massive trunk characteristic of sequoia trees is apparent, as is the crown of foliage starting high above the base of the tree, Sequoiadendron giganteum, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California

A giant sequoia tree, soars skyward from the forest floor, lit by the morning sun and surrounded by other sequioas. The massive trunk characteristic of sequoia trees is apparent, as is the crown of foliage starting high above the base of the tree.
Image ID: 23259
Species: Giant sequoia tree, Sequoiadendron giganteum
Location: Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Giant sequoia trees, roots spreading outward at the base of each massive tree, rise from the shaded forest floor, Sequoiadendron giganteum, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California

Giant sequoia trees, roots spreading outward at the base of each massive tree, rise from the shaded forest floor.
Image ID: 23258
Species: Giant sequoia tree, Sequoiadendron giganteum
Location: Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

See more giant sequoia photos, Sequoiadendron giganteum, Mariposa Grove.

Keywords: sequoia, giant sequoia tree, photo, picture, image, Yosemite National Park, Mariposa Grove, Sequoiadendron giganteum.

Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, Yosemite National Park

California, National Parks, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

Photos of Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite National Park

Note: I made a return trip to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp with my father in August 2010.

I made another banzai speed run up to the Eastern Sierra last weekend, this time to spend two nights at reknowned Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. This was my first visit to one of Yosemite’s high country camps, and I loved it. Dating back to the 1920’s, the High Sierra Camps consist of five wilderness camps (Vogelsang, Merced, Sunrise, Glen Aulin and May Lake) at altitudes ranging from 7,000′ to 10,000′, accomodating hikers with great meals, comfortable but spartan accomodations and incredible scenery. Backpackers also camp at these High Sierra Camps, and some backpackers opt to purchase meals at the mess tent while setting up their own campsite nearby. I opted to make a reservation and pay the full price in order to stay in the tent cabins with my own bed, and was rewarded with a lighter pack and no hassles setting up my campsite or carrying a bear can. Sure, I can carry a pack with full gear, but honestly I’ve got enough heavy camera gear to deal with so why not enjoy the comforts of the full-service camp? I’d definitely opt for the tent cabin again in the future so I can spend more time shooting photos, and leave the backpacking mode to others.

Townsley Lake (10396'), a beautiful alpine lake sitting below blue sky, clouds and Fletcher Peak (right), lies amid the Cathedral Range of glacier-sculpted granite peaks in Yosemite's high country, near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, Yosemite National Park, California

Townsley Lake (10396′), a beautiful alpine lake sitting below blue sky, clouds and Fletcher Peak (right), lies amid the Cathedral Range of glacier-sculpted granite peaks in Yosemite’s high country, near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp.
Image ID: 23206
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

I took the Rafferty Creek trail from Tuolumne Meadows to Vogelsang, the shorter of the two routes, since I did not get started until after 1pm. (I spent sunrise and the morning at Schulman Grove in the White Mountains looking at ancient Bristlecone Pine trees.) The Rafferty Creek trail is reasonably straightforward, with most of the work and elevation gain done in the first three miles, after which the trail wanders through the gradual incline of Rafferty Meadows with Fletcher Peak and Vogelsang Peak growing larger with each passing mile. I treated the trail as a workout, busted a move and reached the camp about 4pm, stopping once to demolish the mondo huge ham sandwich I picked up at Schaat’s Bakkery in Bishop. I washed up, greeted my tent-cabin-mates and made my way to the mess tent for a huge satisfying dinner (chicken, soup, potatoes, veggies, homemade soda bread, salad and chocolate cake). My plans to shoot star trail photos were waylaid as I realized my bed was more appealing than the meadow behind the camp, and I crashed hard.

Vogelsang Peak (11516') at sunset, reflected in a small creek near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite's high country, Yosemite National Park, California

Vogelsang Peak (11516′) at sunset, reflected in a small creek near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp in Yosemite’s high country.
Image ID: 23202
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Next morning I made a pre-sunrise hike up to nearby Vogelsang Lake and watched the sun play upon the lake, Vogelsang Peak which rises above it, and the surrounding granite terrain of the Cathedral Range. I made it back to camp just in time for breakfast: apple nut pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal — killer. I never eat this well; I had to venture out into the sticks to get this great breakfast. I returned up to the lake and beyond to make a Vogelsang Pass panoramic photo, then a swim in the lake. I saw very few people. Back to camp for a midday nap after lunch, then off for an afternoon hike to the other side of Fletcher Peak to visit Fletcher Lake, Townsley Lake and Nameless Lake. I nearly bumped into a deer at Townsley Lake; if it had been 100 years ago and I had been named Phil Crockett I would have bagged me some fresh venison with nothing but my Swiss Army knife ap for my iPhone. A breeze came up keeping the mosquitoes down and me cool among the brilliant summertime scenery, making the afternoon one of the best hikes I’ve had in years. After I got back to camp for dinner, I met my new tent mates for my second evening in camp, including a fellow who had undergone two shoulder and two knee replacements. I realized that if this bionic man could hike the full High Sierra Loop, anyone can!

Panorama of Nameless Lake (10709'), surrounded by glacier-sculpted granite peaks of the Cathedral Range, near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, Yosemite National Park, California

Panorama of Nameless Lake (10709′), surrounded by glacier-sculpted granite peaks of the Cathedral Range, near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp.
Image ID: 23211
Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Dinner the second night was equally superb: steak, potatoes, string beans, salad, homemade bread and cheesecake. After dinner I made a half-hearted attempt to shoot high-ISO images of the Milky Way as it arched over the Sierra, but passing clouds made the results less than stellar. Off to bed. My second and final morning at Vogelsang meant one more dawn visit to the Vogelsang Lake, hoping for dramatic sunrise light. It almost clicked but not quite, but the views are so awesome from Vogelsang Lake that the sunrise hike was worth it even without photos. I was able to watch the backside of Half Dome light up as the sun rose, neat. Another killer breakfast, then depart camp at 9am for the all-downhill hike back to Tuolumne along Rafferty Creek. At the car by 11:30am, slurp down a ice cold Diet Coke and then buzzing south on 395 by noon.

My GPS says I made 30 miles in 2.5 days between my walk on the Methuselah Walk in the White Mountains and my hikes to, from and about Vogelsang in Yosemite. I’m not running much these days, knees giving me problems, so the hiking was not as smooth as I expected, but it sure was worth every step. The scenery was outright spectacular, mind blowing in its simplicity and beauty. It really is God’s Country up there.

Next time I visit I’ll make a few changes. First, I will visit later in the summer to avoid the thick mosquitoes. The higher meadows, including Vogelsang Camp, were full of mosquitoes while I was there. A head net and long sleeve shirts proved to be the trick, along with DEET on the legs, and I got only a few bites. But I’d rather try the camp again when mosquitoes are less dense. Another change I will make is to start my hike to Vogelsang earlier in the day so I can take the Lyell Canyon route, which is about 12 miles (compared to 7 for the Rafferty Creek route). I hiked the length of Lyell Canyon to Donohue Pass with some high school friends 30 years ago; it was awesome and I want to see some of that area again. I will summit Vogelsang Peak next time. I was most of the way there my first morning when I reached Vogelsang Pass, but decided not to make for the peak so I could bag a few lakes that afternoon; next time I’ll take the peak just so I can experience the view which I understand is tops. Lastly, I took too much stuff. I did not need all those Powerbars — the food at the camp was plentiful and delicious. I did not need three camera batteries, nor did I need those two heavy f/2.8 zoom lenses. I’m going commando next time, stripped down to the min for speed and agility. I’m going to bring my uber-mikro-pocket-digikam for shooting while on the trail, and save the big camera for when I am on dayhikes around the camp.

You can see more Vogelsang High Sierra Camp photos on my website.

Keywords: Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, Yosemite National Park, photo, picture, images, stock pictures, photography.

Photo of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

California, Landscape, National Parks, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite

Half Dome is the one feature most closely associated with Yosemite National Park. A vast lobe of Mesozoic-era granodiorite magma cooled to rock, Half Dome was gradually uplifted to its present altitude of 8842 ft. As the rock was exposed, weathering and exfoliation of shell-like outer layers of the rock shaped the dome portion of the rock to its current shape. The summit is easily attainable as a day hike in the summer, if you have the stamina to undertake a 17-mile roundtrip hike with 5000 feet of elevation gain from the valley floor. To say that the view from the summit is worth the effort is an understatement. If you like this, please see more of my photos of Yosemite National Park.

Half Dome and storm clouds at sunset, viewed from Sentinel Bridge, Yosemite National Park, California

Half Dome and storm clouds at sunset, viewed from Sentinel Bridge.
Image ID: 22744
Location: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

More stock photos of Yosemite National Park.