May 28, 2013
Total distance: 1.2 miles
Lukens Lake, located in the high country of Yosemite National Park, is a nine acre lake surrounded by forests and a meadow.
Andrew, his friend Eric, and I ventured there on this cold and windy day. We chose the shorter trail from Tioga Road as our route. In July 2010, Andrew and I walked the longer route from White Wolf Lodge. This time of year the lodge is closed.
We made our way uphill, breathless from the elevation. At 8,200 feet, the soft trail still had snow in spots. We walked through the dark forest and over a couple of small streams. The White Wolf route would have taken us over a section of the Middle Tuolumne River. It would have brought us to the sunnier and drier side of the lake.
Following Andrew’s lead, we walked through the very wet meadow stepping carefully on the spongy grass trying to avoid crushing the tiny marsh marigolds along the way.
Poisonous corn lilies were just beginning to sprout.
After we had traversed the meadow, I learned that that side of the lake was closed. The trail used to run through there but the deepening path was affecting drainage and harming plants. The trail was diverted through the forest. With large mounds of snow in the shadier areas, it was hard find the trail.
Andrew and Eric set up their gear near a snow bank at the water’s edge. A pair of ducks swam across the pond as the boys cast their lines. In 2010 Andrew caught and released a large rainbow trout at this spot and was hoping to catch another.
I sat on a log and watched a deer graze in the meadow and heard a trickle of melting snow making its way into the lake. John Muir’s favorite bird, the American dipper, plunged its head into the frigid water in search of food (no photo of my own).
The boys were having no luck at the shore, not even a bite, so Andrew inflated the Caddis float tube. Braving the cold water, he set out for the middle of the lake with a paddle in one hand and a pole in the other.
Within minutes of casting, he had a rainbow trout on the line. Dinner!
The wind blew, keeping the mosquitoes away and chilling us to the bone. I walked around the lake to warm up, jumping over its creek-like outlet. The path through the woods was wet. Trees were bent and broken littering the forest floor.
On the other side, sheltered from the wind and sitting in the glow of the sun, I watched as Andrew and Eric changed places in the Caddis. Eric paddled out. As soon as he cast his line into the lake, he caught a fish. With one arm he rowed back to shore and as he reached the edge, the fish came off the hook and swam away. “Oh no!” could be heard echoing around Lukens Lake.
On the drive home, we stopped and looked at Tamarack Flat campground located three miles off Tioga Road. The boys planned a two-night trip there beginning the following day.
John Muir always says it best: “Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue.”