The Road Less Traveled

June 23, 2020
Gaylor Lakes Trail and the Great Sierra Mine Historic Site
Total distance walked: 5.25 miles

The Gaylor Lakes Basin area is one of my favorite places to hike because of the spectacular views.  This was my sixth visit and my husband’s first time.  He is a gold rush-era history buff, so I was eager to show him the mining relics from the Great Sierra Mine, but first we had to climb a couple of mountains to get there.

It was a morning of sun and cloudless skies—Day 2 on our seven-day Yosemite pass.  Just five minutes into the hike Chris said, “I don’t know if I can do this.”  It wasn’t that he couldn’t do the hike, but the air up at 10,000 feet (and climbing) was thin, something neither of us was used to.  Our chests heaved, our lungs burned and we couldn’t catch our breath.

View of Mt. Dana across the valley.

It was slow going up the short but steep mountain.  By the time we reached the top, we felt sufficiently acclimated to the elevation.  At the ridge we admired the view below—where we started the hike—of Dana Meadows and the Kuna Crest.

Looking down at Dana Meadows from the ridge.

Continuing down the opposite side of the mountain, the slope was less steep.   We descended into the basin where the trail took us down to Middle Gaylor Lake.  A breeze blew as we skirted the lake’s edge passing several fishermen along the way.

Middle Gaylor Lake

Heading east, we walked through a large expanse of grassy land dotted with white granite boulders.  Cut into the grass was a well-defined path and beside it, a gentle creek babbled along a rocky bed.

A well-cut trail through the meadow to Upper Gaylor Lake.

The path ended at Upper Gaylor Lake.  We hugged its shore to reach the next steep trail leading to the Great Sierra Mine historic site.

Approaching Upper Gaylor Lake.

The Great Sierra Mine was established around 1878 after the discovery of small amounts of silver, but nothing ever came of it.  It was abandoned within 15 years.  It is marked by several stone cabins, tailings piles and deep unfenced shafts.

Looking through the doorway into the stone cabin above Gaylor Lakes.
Looking at Gaylor Lakes through the window frame of the stone cabin.
Looking at the fireplace and mantle inside the stone cabin.
Another stone building in the area.

We explored the area for awhile and found the unprotected and collapsing mine shafts.

Chris photographing one of the holes left by the miners.

Windswept dwarf pine trees and jagged rocks create scenery that is much different from most places in Yosemite.  We found a shady spot and stopped for lunch.

Lunchtime under the trees near the snow.

The clouds had rolled in by early afternoon.  A faraway rumble of thunder sounded, then hail bounced on the ground.  The air smelled like rain.  We began to head back.

Off the beaten path.

Always one to take the road less traveled, Chris led us around the side of a mountain and down its rubbly back.  Creating our own route afforded us a beautiful view from a different angle.

My favorite view of the day!

We also found an interesting crystal rock formation.

By the time we reached Middle Gaylor Lake, water was showering from the sky.  The fish jumped right and left trying to get a bite of the annoying mosquitoes who turned this wonderland into paradise lost.

Chris, batting at mosquitoes at Middle Gaylor Lake.

Mosquitoes or not, it was a blessed day.  Showing my husband an area that is so stunningly beautiful and close to my heart was the highlight of my week.

Homeward bound.