October 21, 2013 by Deborah W. Trotter
It’s not what you think. Or maybe it absolutely is. I’m referring to our hike to Gaylor Lakes that started at an elevation of 9,900 feet and went up higher from there.
The parking lot and trailhead for Gaylor Lakes is just off Tioga Road (Highway 120), immediately inside the east entrance station to Yosemite Park. We were slightly concerned that our bodies wouldn’t be able to handle the elevation, but all of our venturing into the mountains to hike over the past several months, although nothing as high as this, apparently was enough.
The day we took the hike last month, white frosting from the recent snowfall still decorated the surrounding peaks and much of the terrain, a serendipitous flavoring that we had no reason to expect when we planned this excursion several months before.
In a little less than a mile, the trail climbed steadily upwards about 600 feet, switchbacking where necessary, to the top of the pass. That was just about at tree line. We had unobstructed views of Mount Dana and Mount Gibbs. We looked down on Middle Gaylor Lake in the basin below, and saw the Cathedral group of peaks in the distance beyond Tuolumne Meadows.
At that point we lost the trail, but we could see the Lake below us and the trail continuing around its shore, so we made our way down the slope, eventually coming upon the trail and following it the rest of the way.
From Middle Gaylor Lake we hiked another .9 miles to Upper Gaylor Lake, using the dark rocks of the dry outlet stream as our guide, as we couldn’t see the Lake before we got to it, and the trail was partially obscured by snow.
There are several other lakes in the basin, including upper and lower Granite Lakes and Lower Gaylor Lake, but we decided to stick to the trail and go back the way we had come. Although we were handling the elevation, we were definitely feeling it at well over 10,000 feet.
When we got back to the car, we had hiked about 4.3 miles, putting me at 57 new National Park miles toward my 60-mile goal for 2013. In early November we are going to Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park to hike. I am counting on that visit to put me over the top!