July 24, 2014
Upper Cathedral Lake
Total distance: 7 miles
Years ago I was asked where my favorite place was in Yosemite National Park. Cathedral Lakes was my answer. Today’s hike was affirmation of that response.
In contrast to some of the trails that I have walked lately, the trail to Cathedral Lakes was the busiest. It is the route to both upper and lower Cathedral lakes, it is the way to the Sunrise High Sierra Camp, and it is the completion of section one of the John Muir Trail (JMT). I saw over one hundred hikers throughout the day.
It was a cold morning at 8,500 feet, but the steep ascent through the sandy forest warmed me quickly.
The trail was dusty and dry except for a dribbling stream of water that was easy to cross. Absent were the scourge of mosquitoes that plague hikers in this area.
Rocks of all shapes and sizes layered the path. I stepped carefully over contorted tree roots and manure from pack trains.
Backpackers heading downhill filed passed me. Two elderly gentlemen stopped to chat for a moment. They were brothers from New York taking their last big trip together by hiking the JMT. “What else is there to do in life but hike?” they asked. I agreed.
Through breaks in the forest I caught my first glimpse of Cathedral Peak. After climbing hills full of rocks and roots, I reached Cathedral Meadow at the lake.
A sign said that the trail was rerouted out of the meadow to allow it to regenerate; so I kept to the slender dirt path and headed down to the water.
Steep granite walls surrounded the lake. There was much to take in on this beautiful day as I gazed from one place to another. Surprisingly, while I was there, not a single person had decided to stop at Upper Cathedral Lake.
The crystal clear water rippled in the wind and lapped at the shore. The lake was warm, not ice-cold like I expected. Next time I’ll pack a swimsuit.
Standing majestically behind me was the distinctive Cathedral Peak.
Stubby trees were scattered throughout the meadow. Black birds snatched insects as they hopped through the fresh green grass.
Glacial erratic encompassed the area.
I know there are many things to do in life besides hike, but it ranks high on my list of favorites. Especially since I have been blessed time and again with extraordinary views and peaceful places to visit in the wilderness.