“What else is there to do in life but Hike?”

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.

The posted notice stated that the lightening caused fire near the trail was contained.
The posted notice stated that the lightning caused fire near the trail was contained.

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.

The image of this tree doesn't accurately represent the beauty that it was.
Unrefined beauty.

It was a cold morning at 8,500 feet, but the steep ascent through the sandy forest warmed me quickly.

The uphill trail through the trees.
The trail through the trees led uphill 1,100 feet.

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.

The saddle before another climb.
The saddle before another climb. Three years ago I swatted away hundreds of mosquitoes while walking through here.

Rocks of all shapes and sizes layered the path.  I stepped carefully over contorted tree roots and manure from pack trains.

Two pack trains came through kicking up dust.
Two pack trains came through kicking up dust.

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.

Ranger buttons.
Ranger Buttons

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.

Looking through the trees at Cathedral Peak.
Looking through the trees at Cathedral Peak.

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.

Western Bistort

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.

Cathedral Lake
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.

Another view of the lake with Tressider Peak in the background.
Another view of the lake. Tresidder Peak in the background.

Standing majestically behind me was the distinctive Cathedral Peak.

With the lake at my back, I stared up at Cathedral Peak.
With the lake at my back, I looked up at Cathedral Peak.

Stubby trees were scattered throughout the meadow.  Black birds snatched insects as they hopped through the fresh green grass.

A path lead around the lake through the meadow.
A path led around the lake through the meadow.

Glacial erratic encompassed the area.

Glacier erratic encompassed the area.
When heading back, I walked my own path over slabs of colorful granite eventually hooking up with the trail.

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.

Happy to be here.
Happy to be here.


20 thoughts on ““What else is there to do in life but Hike?”

  1. I love your title! There is a picture in my book of Chris and his partner on top of Cathedral Peak, which he climbed while on his senior trip from High school. I would like to visit it someday and hike this trail.


  2. You’re right, Carol…I just looked up the photo. I had a group here last weekend who climbed it as well. I hope you can make it back to Yosemite. There’s a great view of the peak from the lake. You can even take the climber’s trail a ways before having to actually climb the peak.


    1. 🙂 And Half Dome is one place I don’t think I’ll ever reach…maybe to the subdome (or as far as you can go without a permit) but never to the top. Too scary.


  3. Janet, I so admire your ‘hiking fever’. This looks like a great hike. Although have never personally walked more than five miles in a hike thus far. If I’m ever visiting Yosemite again, will remember this hike. Hey! I just thought–my son is going there soon. Will send him this blog post. Thank you!


    1. I hope if you come out to Yosemite you’d contact me. 🙂 Yes, definitely tell your son to do this hike. It’s worth it. Thanks for reading.


  4. I always try to push people to cathedral lake when they ask “Where should I go with only one weekend in the park?” I have yet to swim in it though!


  5. Janet,
    Have you ever done the Lundy Canyon hike and if so what would you consider the optimum the for wildflowers? Last time I went, I ran out of battery charge just as the wildflowers got incredible


    1. Hi Dan. No, I haven’t been to Lundy Canyon. I do hear that the fall colors in the area are nice. One day I will get there. I hope you make it back too with a full battery. 🙂 Janet


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