Temperatures lower, crowds smaller at higher elevations
By DENNIS WYATT
The weather gods must be crazy.
Forecasters are expecting the heat wave to hit this coming week to reach 111 degrees on Wednesday with an overnight low of 72 degrees at various locales in the 209.
While that in itself isn’t an eye roller, that fact it is supposed to be mostly sunny means there will be clouds. And that means humidity.
So where can you go in the 209 where — if you opt not to stay in an air-tight, air-conditioned box and don’t want to spend 24/7 in the water or cool down under the canopy of a large sycamore — and do more than just vegetate?
Yes, I know, the valley floor could easily be in the high 90s if we’re past the 110-degree mark in Manteca, Turlock, Ripon, Ceres, Ripon, Escalon, Lathrop, or Oakdale. But there’s more to Yosmeite than just the massive traffic jam and seemingly wall-to-wall people communing with nature in the valley proper.
The high country along Tioga Road is one answer. Tenaya Lake at 8,500 feet is right on the Tioga Pass Road (Highway 120) and is about 2.5 hours from either Manteca or Turlock. It’s an alpine lake with incredibly cool waters ad plenty of shady picnic areas. I’ve known people who will spend an entire day at Tenaya Lake just taking it all in. The odds are the temperatures won’t get much past 80 degrees if that.
A little ways up the road at 8,600 feet is Tuolumne Meadows There is a wealth of easy trails along the Tuolumne River and streams feeding into. Between Tioga Pass at 9,943 feet and Tuolumne Meadows there are numerous smaller meadows with lakes and ponds worthy of a three hour trip to spend the day beating the heat. The same is just outside Yosmeite National Park a mile beyond the Tioga Pass entrance station.
Tuolumne Meadows also has services that includes a general store, a restaurant of sorts that sells soft service cream to bot, gas, bicycle rentals, tent cabins, horse rentals and more so you can make a day of it or a multi-day visit.
If you want something more adventurous you can hike 7 miles round trip from Tuolumne Meadows to dip your toes in both Upper and Lower Cathedral Lakes or eight miles to do both. The hiking time round trip is three to five hours. My hike time last summer on a day temperatures peaked at 79 degrees at Tuolumne Meadows when it was 96 degrees in Manteca was 3.5 hours. Most of the route is in shade. Someone in fairly decent shape can probably do the trip in five hours based on National Park Service estimates. Of all the lakes I’ve visited in Yosemite, they are my favorite overall in terms of enjoyment, scenery and reasonable time back and forth. While May Lake is more stunning in ways and fairly isolated small gems such as Ostrander Lake are more remote and therefore more devoid of people. The Cathedral Lakes rate fairly high on all accounts. Lower Cathedral Lakes is perhaps near the top — or at the top — of the most impressive Sierra lakes wrapped by granite. To be honest I’m more impressed with Upper Cathedral Lake. I work my way to the south side and find a place to stretch out on a rock outcropping on the water’s edge, use my backpack as a pillow and enjoy the chorus of fish splashing in the icy lake water, birds chirping, and the incredibly views of aptly named Cathedral Peak as white fluffy clouds pass behind it.
The other option to beat the heat is to head up Glacier Road via the route that takes you out of the valley to the world famous Tunnel View.
It has a number of hikes considered among the best easy hikes in Yosemite. They start at the 6,900-foot level with the virtually flat 1.6-mile round trip hike to McGurk Meadows and end with the 200-yard stroll from the parking lot to Glacier Point at 7,217 feet with its stunning views of Half Dome, Clouds’ Rest, El Capitan, and the eastern Yosemite Valley.
There are four other hikes that are considered moderate that will give you a view of Yosemite Valley over 3,000 feet below from the edge of the south rim.
*Bridalveil Creek, 4 miles round trip, 2 to 3 hours.
*Dewey Point, 8.2 miles round trip 3 to 4 hours
*Sentinel Dome or Taft Point with both hikes being 2.2 miles each and about 2 hours.
The trails mentioned are on the Yosemite Park map you are given when you pay for entrance fee,
All five hikes mentioned (Glacier Point really isn’t hike) are almost all in shade.
To give you an idea of the temperatures you can expect, earlier this month I hiked from the 7,000-foot level on Glacier Point south to Ostrander Lake. The 12.4 mile hike had a net gain of 1,600 feet and is described by some hiking guide as strenuous. Depending upon your abilities it is a five to eight hour hike.
It was 92 degrees in Manteca that day and 80 degrees in Yosemite Valley. It was 70 degrees when I started the hike. When I reached the lake it was 62 degrees, with a cool breeze and light rain.
All Glacier Point trailheads just like everything mentioned along Tioga Road are within a three hour drive from Manteca or Turlock.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org