November 7, 2018
Total distance walked: 12.4 miles
As we head deeper into fall, I felt an urgency to be on a trail before the roads to the high country close and the trails become snow-covered. Scrolling through Yosemite National Park’s website, I came upon Ostrander Lake located off of Glacier Point Road at an elevation of 8,500 feet. I had forgotten that I wanted to hike out there last summer, but the roads and trails were closed due to the Ferguson Fire.
Excited and a bit nervous about my first trek alone since the JMT, I stuffed my day pack with goodies and hung the camera around my neck then headed out. It was a crispy autumn morning, just above freezing. I had been to Ostrander Lake twice before on backpacking trips, but never as an out-and-back day hike. I thought I knew what to expect.
Nearby Bridalveil Creek still held water and was topped with a thin layer of ice. Ostrander Lake is the primary source for Bridaleveil Creek which feeds Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite Valley.
The dirt trail, dusty during summer, was frozen and crunched underfoot. Earlier in the year, bright wildflowers would have blanketed the area, not so in autumn. The major colors were brown and grey with smatterings of deep green from the pines…and lots of charcoal black.
I wasn’t prepared for the mass destruction I’d see. The 2017 Empire Fire had burned and blackened much of the forest.
It was unnerving walking through the burned area.
Like being on a scavenger hunt, I had to search to see the beauty. It wasn’t obvious like the beauty of a wildflower or a grand vista.
Some of what I saw was just plain humorous, like this bird atop a tree.
Or this sculpture of a woman riding a horse.
From a distance, this smiling face looked creepy.
Half way in, the trail began a 1,600 foot climb along Horizon Ridge. There, a view opened up to the back of Half Dome, Illillouette Valley and the Clark Range.
I heard a tch, tch, tch of someone chopping wood and wondered if there would be backpackers at the lake. Later I realized the sound came from the dead trees knocking into each other when the wind blew.
As I approached Ostrander Lake, I recalled the last time Chris and I visited. A nude sunbather laid on a rock and man wearing his birthday suit jumped into the water with a howl. Being that it was November, I hoped it was too cold for those kind of activities.
Perched beside the lake is Ostrander Ski Hut, where cross-country skiers can spend the night in wintertime. It’s a two-story stone structure that sleeps 25 people. Reservations are required.
I was alone at the lake, in fact, I was alone all day. I know there were lots of year-round residents nearby (animals), but the only visible signs of life were the birds that bathed at the lake’s shore and a bushy tailed squirrel.
I bundled up when a breeze blew in from the lake. Reclining on rock in the sun, I was mesmerized by the pristine water, gripped by the glacial cirque and soothed by the silence. It was a perfect place for prayer. After having a bite to eat, I packed up for the return hike through the charred woods, rejuvenated and thankful for the amazing day.