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Yosemite in April...with no snow


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Yosemite National Park opened up Glacier Point Road in early April... We thought that it would make a perfect way to spend the Easter holiday. So we loaded up our packs and headed out to visit some of the distant lakes in the southern part of the park.

more photos at http://backpackthesierra.com

We started out hike at the Ostrander Lake trailhead, just past the Bridalveil Creek campground. While there were four other cars in the parking lot, we didn't see a single soul during our hike, and only saw a few pairs of footprints. And as you might expect, since we were hiking long before any trail crews would get in here, there were quite a few downed trees along the way. That's M picking her way through one at right.

The trail weaves through the forest without doing much climbing or descending for many miles, and that was fine with us. After about four miles, it climbs up to a ridge, where you can barely make out a few of the peaks in the Clark Range, and even a shot of Mt. Hoffman through the trees. And then it goes down to Chilnualna Creek.

We had already decided that if this creek was too high, we were going to let it stop us. We always decide that about high water, and Chilnualna is famous in the spring for roaring along.

And then we saw the creek. It was a quiet little stream with no white water in sight--normally a roaring torrent this time of year.

Not much to worry about there! It was as easy a crossing as we've ever done, and even just a bit of a disappointment.

From there we climbed up to Grouse Lake to camp for the night. It took us a while to find it, because the trail was not marked well, and the lake is not visible from the trail. P finally called a halt to our hike when he realized that we were now climbing past the lake to hike over the ridge to Crescent Lake.

At that point we turned south and wandered in the woods until we found a decent campsite by a stream...but no Grouse Lake.

P wouldn't give up, and eventually worked his way out into a meadow that gave him a better view. Looking up the canyon, he strained his eyes to see where the lake outlet might be, but couldn't see anything that looked right.

Then he turned around to see the west side of the meadow...which turned out to be Grouse Lake. (If you're taking this hike, it's much easier to simply follow the trail up from Chilnualna Creek, and when the trail starts to run parallel to the outlet of Grouse Lake, follow the outlet stream for 1/4 mile to the lake. That's way easier than either Nat Geo or Tom Harrison's map show.)

And the lake was pretty. Normally, we would worry about mosquitoes near a lake and a big meadow, but it was way too early, and too cold, for any bugs at all. We didn't see a one.

We spent the night there, and it got cold. The next morning our water bottles were frozen, and M was feeling very much the same way. After some consultation, we decided to head back to the car and a warm cabin for the next night.

The hike out was more of the same, with a little more downhill. We'll go back someday, to see Royal Arches and Buena Vista Lakes...and make the whole loop. But we'll do that in July, when the weather is a little more accommodating. And in the meantime, a big storm is headed to the Sierra this week...and let's hope it dumps a ton and a half of snow up there.

From what we saw on this trip, the snow situation is really dire.

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