Yosemite National Park is closed. Thanks to the federal government shutdown, all national parks in the U.S. are closed to visitors. Also thanks to the shutdown, I am not working this week, so I have plenty of time to catch up on my travel writing and make you a little envious that I am here and you are not. As resident employees, we are hanging around our home in Yosemite Valley but we aren't allowed to recreate in the park because all trails are closed. All activities and services are closed too: The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge, all campgrounds. All stores and restaurants are also closed with the exception of the Village Store for limited hours and the Curry Village Dining Pavilion to serve us resident employees while we wait out the shutdown. If the park doesn't reopen by November 15th, we will be officially laid off from our jobs. Ted and I took a long weekend trip to the Sonoma Coast, but that's a post for another day. Today you get backpacking in the High Sierra: a 12 mile round trip hike to Young Lakes in Yosemite's high country on glorious July summer days. We boogied out of work on a Friday afternoon to hike in from the Lembert Dome parking, but still ended up hiking in the dark. I'm not much of a backpacker, and the elevation gain was difficult with 30 pounds of gear on my back. The Young Lakes trail was making me feel old. But we were blessed with a High Sierra sunset and Yosemite toads all over the trail as it grew dark. We hiked under the moon and then made camp around midnight after one brief scare where I was certain the browsing deer in the trees was a hungry mountain lion. In the morning we woke to brilliantly beautiful Lower Young Lake.
Young Lakes in Yosemite consists of three high country lakes - Upper, Middle and Lower - about a 6 mile hike from Tioga Road. We hiked the loop by parking at Lembert Dome for the hike in and hiking out by Soda Springs and Parson's Memorial Lodge for a twelve mile round trip with two nights in the backcountry. Young Lakes is VERY popular and there are obvious campsites around the lakes though you are certainly in Yosemite's backcountry. After counting some 40 other people we sighted on the trail and around the lakes, I stopped. That is a high number of people for wilderness camping, so if solitude is your goal, Young Lakes should not be your destination. But the location is spectacular and the fishing is great. Many hike to the top of Mount Conness when they camp at Young Lakes, but we did not. We spent 2 days fishing, swimming and sunning in this truly beautiful spot. Ted caught trout for dinner in Lower and Middle Young Lakes and we got a closeup of a high country thunderstorm on Saturday afternoon complete with ear-splitting thunder and shocking bolts of lightning. Visitors included Clark's nutcrackers, golden-mantled ground squirrels, common mergansers and the bluest of damselflies.
The dreaded hike out was tempered by amazing views of the Sierra Nevada and the garden-like wildflowers on the trail. Six miles is not much of a day hike, but the fully loaded backpack was making me miserable. The postscript of good news is that apparently I had an ill-fitting pack and my new pack by Deuter will spare me the misery of carrying all that weight on my shoulders. Good packs allow you to carry the weight on your hips, where its supposed to be. And allow you to enjoy the sublime scenery before you make it back to the Tuolumne Meadows Grill for the best burger you ever had. Something to do with being well-earned, I suppose.