Ten Lakes Yosemite Backpacking Trip
August 14 - 21, 2017
On Grand Mountain peak above our primary Ten Lakes campsite just before thunder got us to go back down to camp
The northernmost (our primary) lake of Ten Lakes where we spent several nights (the individual lakes do not have names) .
For any of the following Favorite photos, click on the image to bring up the full resolution version. Day by day photos and narrative follow these. The next two photos show a meadow of flowers at a pass. We saw so many flowers on this trip. The photo after those show our view of the partial solar eclipse.
Video suggestion: All videos shown below are very short and HD (1080p). I find best YouTube settings (for all but the few with Bob, Jennifer, or animals) are HD (1080p), slow motion (0.25 or 0.50), and full screen. Actually, watching Bob and Jennifer in slo mo can be amusing.
Bob drove to Oakland to meet Jennifer. In Oakland he and Jennifer finished packing for the trip and headed out to Yosemite Valley in one car, the idea being that we would leave it at our trail end and hitchhike to the beginning of our backpack trip. It was necessary to stop in Manteca at Subway to pick up food for later and to stop at Chipotle for Jennifer.
Drove to Yosemite and camped in Tuolumne Meadows campsite instead of the backpackers' campground. We waited around at the entrance kiosk so we could get the first campsite that came free. Jennifer walked up to an empty campsite to confirm it was free, while Bob waited at kiosk.
Jennifer got firewood and started the fire, seen below.
Hitchhiked 11 miles. Backpacked ~7 Miles from Tenaya Lake Murphy Creek trailhead to a ridge line above the mosquitos we had encountered going up. (net gain 1,537': +1,769' - 232') Elevation Profile (understates distance):
Dinner: Garlic noodles, cream with brocolli and jalapena tuna. The jalapena tuna was too hot to be edible. We buried the leftovers.
We drove the car to the Ten Lakes trailhead, where we would be exiting. We then began hitchhiking to Tenaya Lake with Jennifer holding the sign. We were soon picked up and dropped off at Tenaya Lake, where our driver took our picture as shown below. Note the smoke in the background.
At Tenaya Lake we began backpacking from the Murphy Creek Trailhead, heading north. Before too long we saw a bear: see this bear video.
While we were at the lower elevations at the beginning of the hike, there was plenty of water to support ferns and other such vegetation.
Unfortunately, the abundance of water also supported other wildlife we met in far too great abundance: many, many mosquitoes. However, Bob discovered that he could feel a mosquito the instant it landed on his arm and could then squash it before it had a chance to sting. This was a skill Bob never knew he had and gave him much enjoyment. The photo to the right demonstrates the results. Actually, since he did it most of the day, both arms were far more covered, but this one photo seems sufficient. Since Bob was wearing a mosquito net that completely protected his head and neck, only his arms were exposed.
When we could see into the distance, the smoke from forest fires was still evident.
However, the trees and the flowers where we were hiking were as always eye-catching.
We met several people along the trail:
As we climbed we saw snow packs at higher elevations.
When we neared a ridge in the late afternoon we checked out 3 different campsites. Bob carried Jennifer's pack up to the higher one, while Jennifer set up Bob's tent and started preparing dinner.
Backpacked 6 Miles to the first of the Ten Lakes. (net loss -329' = +1,636' - 1,965') Elevation Profile (understates distance):
Dinner: Chinese sauce, rice noodles, veggies, cashews. Really good!
Sunrise was beautiful:
We passed a pond which we named "Grouse Lake" because of the grouse we got to see there.
Later we missed a trail stream crossing to Ten Lakes, but came back and saw a couple on the other side of the stream coming from Ten Lakes. It was a difficult crossing, but the Christian fellowship group arrived and one of them helped us go up a steeply inclined log that crossed the stream.
Lots of thunder in the afternoon with a light rain. We spent some time unpacking and putting on rain gear.
While on the trail we had a wonderful view of the ridges defining the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.
It was a pretty lake and we found a nice camping spot at the lake, by ourselves.
Then 2 guys came and stood by lake. Bob took empty water bottle down and agreed with them they had a good idea to go to the next lake. Later, Bob saw 2 people on a rock and one swimming at the first lake campsite. Later still, the freshmen college group noisily arrived and set up camp.
Backpacked 2 to 3 miles on trail to next large lake. Then backpacked cross country to northern-most lake, maybe 1 mile. Also day hiked about 1 mile around the northern-most lake. (backpacking net loss -414': +282' to -696') Backpacking elevation Profile (understates distance):
Dinner: Eggplant parmesan and mixed greens
We day-hiked around the northern-most lake looking at campsites and found very few. The first one we had come to as we approached the lake turned out to be the best.
The lake itself is beautiful with spots where we can look towards the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.
The weather held - no rain, nice temperatures all day.
We moved our backpacks to the campsite, ate lunch, set up tents and rested/napped.
Day hiked about 4 - 5 miles back to trail, then up to 3 lakes just south of westernmost main trail lake we had first passed and back. At end of day hiked up ridge just behind our campsite to view sunset.
Roundtrip to 3 lakes profile (understates distance)
Dinner: Clam chowder with re-hydrated spinach. Quite good.
As we day-hiked away from our lake we saw no one in the vicinity, but once we were back on trail met fishermen and a German family. After crossing creek on the main trail we found a nice trail up to the 1st and 2nd of the 3 lakes we hoped to visit. From the 2nd to 3rd lake, the trail became very iffy, sometimes non-existent. Using GPS and stream as guide, however, we made it up to the 3rd lake.
We went around the lake to a point we could see waterfalls.
Scenery all day was spectacular and we noticed few campsites at any of the 3 lakes we visited.
Throughout the day hike weather was good, but as we approached our camp at end of hike thunder began.
Within 1/2 hour light rain, then heavier rain began, including hail (Bob, asleep in tent, missed hail). By 5:30 to 6 rain stopped. We started a fire, but held off on dinner since more rain seemed possible. Thunder continued.
Climbed up the hill behind our campsite to a ridge for a view of the sunset. Saw rain in the distance.
Came back down to campsite, started fire, and Jennifer made chowder which was quite good.
Very light rain began after we finished eating and cleaning up. Stood near fire for a while until Bob suggested bed because his sweater was getting wet. Put out fire, went to tents. Very light rain continued for a bit, then sky cleared and stars came out.
German family we had seen earlier had hiked and would return to Ten Lakes trailhead over high pass today. We wondered if they got rained upon.
Jennifer's air mattress died during the night.
Day hiked 3 to 4 miles roundtrip to top of Grand Mountain above our lake, at which point thunder started and we went back down to camp.
Elevation Profile (understates distance):
Dinner: Tibetan Dall with rehydrated tomatoes over rice with side of greens.
The morning was as usual beautiful. Not so usual was finding a deer munching away just outside my tent.
In the mornng before starting the day hike, Bob broke a cashew into 3 pieces and set them around camp just to see if chipmunks would get them.
We had decided we would try to get to the top of Grand Mountain, which rose above the other side of the lake from our campsite. We thought we saw a treed canyon going up toward the ridge and, in fact, it provided a straightforward way to climb up. There were trees all the way up to the ridge and it was fairly easy to climb along the ridge above the lake. At the top of the canyon, we eached posed on the high point before starting along the ridge itself.
As we hiked along the ridge we got some very nice views.
However, shortly after we got to the top, thunder started, so we went back down to camp, from which we took a photo of where we had been. And of a duck on a lake rock.
Light rain began, so we got in our tents. Bob fell asleep and missed a hail storm again.
Before dinner we walked along the shore and day hiked up peak behind our campsite as we did the day before.
There were nice views of falls/cascades coming down from a lake below us.
As in previous nights we had a nice campfire. And, surprise, the cashew pieces from the morning had all disappeared.
Backpacked 3 to 4 miles across Ten Lakes Pass to Grant Lake. (net elevation change +271 = +881' - 610').
Elevation Profile (understates distance):
Dinner: Cheese, salmon, nuts and fruit.
As we started our backpack and got to the ridge behind our campsite we met Steve and Kara from Berkeley who were camping with their kids above our camp. They were going to climb up to Grand Mountain Peak as we did yesterday. Steve was wearing orange.
As we hiked up the steep trail to Ten Lakes Pass, the views kept getting better.
We were able to see the lake where we had camped, a large lake below that, and lakes 1, 2, and 3 which we had visited earlier above that. We saw the peaks defining the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. As we were nearing the pass the ridge and peak of Grand Mountain came into view and Bob thought maybe he saw an orange dot near the peak, perhaps Steve.
At the pass and just after the flowers were amazing. There were fields of beautiful flowers that seemed to cover acres.
We took a side trail down to Grant Lake and it also was surrounded by lots of flowers. As we got to Grant Lake in the afternoon, as usual now, thunder and dark clouds were moving in and we looked for a campsite.
After considering several, we found one we liked. It began to drizzle. We set up our tents.
Bob got everything into his tent (as did Jennifer) but was still outside when it began to hail. Rather than get in his tent, Bob stood outside and took a video as hail the size of large peas and small marbles poured down. The trees under which he was standing did not prevent several from bouncing off his head, covered only by a windbreaker hood.
We are out of Jennifer's prepared dinners (many still in car awaiting the second half of our trip), so dinner after it stops raining will be lunch food: salmon, cheese, nuts, and dried fruit with crackers.
Backpacked 6 - 7 miles down to the Ten Lakes trailhead and our car. Today was solar eclipse day. We decided to drive home rather than continue on a second backpacking trip given all the smoke and afternoon rain.(Net Elevation change -1,787' = +388' - 2,175'). Elevation Profile (understates distance):
We hiked from Grant Lake back up to near the Ten Lakes Pass with all its beautiful flowers, then continued heading down the trail towards our car.
It was quite cloudy. At the time of the partial eclipse the clouds lightened some which gave us the possibility of looking at and taking pictures of the eclipse behind a light layer of clouds.
On the way down we met a family with a couple of kids. We stopped and talked with the father, who was having trouble with a torn boot. We were able to give him duct tape that solved his problem.
We talked with people about the weather report for the next few days. Rainy afternoons were expected to continue. When we got to the car at the Ten Lakes trailhead we saw the heavy smoke from the fire in south Yosemite was very evident. We decided that we had had enough of rainy afternoons and our next planned trip would take us down into the smoke, so we hopped in the car and headed home.
In spite of the showers and seeing smoke from time to time in the distance, the trip had been quite fun.
The map below shows the route we followed as we backpacked from Tenaya Lake up to the Ten Lakes and then to the Ten Lakes trailhead. The yellow triangles show where we camped (the first night we camped at the Tuolumne Meadows campground, not shown).
The elevation profile below the map shows in feet the elevations of the backpacking route (it does not show day hike elevations). The distances shown on the profile seriously underestimates the actual trail distances. The profile does give a good idea of the climbing involved, however. Click on either image to get a higher resolution version.
Photos and narrative were contributed by both of us: Jennifer and Bob
Bob Phillips [phillips bob 27 at yahoo dot com - no spaces]
Santa Rosa, CA