As a Crow Flies

September 28, 2020
Lembert Dome and Dog Lake
Total distance walked: 6.1 miles

Summer had just ended. I loaded the camera, a lunch, and a long-sleeved shirt into my pack then headed out the door for the first hike of fall.   Looking over my notes, it had been 19 months since I hiked alone.  19!  No wonder I felt apprehensive about going solo.  A few years ago, hiking with a partner was rare, but these days I’ve grown accustomed to having my husband or a friend at my side.  Nevertheless, I was looking forward to the trip.

Trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows

As a crow flies, Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park is only 39.8 miles from home.  Being that I am not a crow, I had to drive there which is double that distance. Two hours after leaving home, I arrived at the trailhead parking lot.  From my parking spot, it looked as though climbing Lembert Dome might be tough.

The front side of Lembert Dome from the parking lot.

Hiking Lembert Dome was on my Hikes To Do list for a long time.  Last December I was thrilled about the year to come—2020 was the year I was going to tackle some of the hikes on the list.  But we all know what transpired.  Between COVID-19, wildfires, and smoky air, I was lucky to even be out of the house.

A view of Unicorn Peak and Cathedral Peak from the trail.

At midmorning, the sky was a deep blue, and the air was clean and still.  I gazed east at the lopsided mound I would later encounter. Lembert Dome is a roche moutonnee—a glaciology term meaning it was created by the passing of a glacier.

Lembert Dome from the trail.

The path I chose to reach the back of the dome crossed a large expanse of polished granite. It was polished by glacial ice and resembled a smooth kitchen counter.  How amazing to see the shiny spots of granite leftover from 20,000 years ago. 

Cairns led the way over the granite path.

The trail, which also leads to Dog Lake, climbed steeply through a shady forest then branched off for one mile to the dome.

Trailhead to Lembert Dome.

I stepped over and around hundreds of rocks that jutted out of the trail and then I stumbled.  It was a very clumsy trip.  My body flung forward and my arms flew out in front of me. Meanwhile my legs took giant steps as if jumping hurdles. My heart raced.  It was an ungraceful blunder, but over in a matter of seconds and I was glad no one was around to see it.

Rocky terrain of the trail.

Lembert Dome was named for Jean Baptiste Lembert in 1882.  Jean lived in a tiny cabin in Tuolumne Meadows (one mile as a crow flies from Lembert Dome).  The cabin was built above Soda Springs where carbonated water still bubbles out of the ground today.  Back then it bubbled up in the center of his cabin.  Jean raised goats but one winter they died in a snowstorm.  After that he collected butterflies and plant species and sold them to museums.

Standing at the base of the dome it looks easy to climb.

I stood at the base of the dome.  There is no trail to the top. I’ve read that there are cairns to guide you, but I didn’t see them. At this point having a partner would have been helpful. 

Climbing higher.

Part way up, my fear of heights took over.  I climbed as high as I felt comfortable doing, then sat for a while looking out at the sloping moraines clothed in forests of pine.

A view of Unicorn Peak from my perch.


A view of Mt. Conness.


Mt. Dana and Mt. Gibbs


One of the Yosemite fires down below.

I retraced my steps from Lembert Dome back to the Dog Lake trail and proceeded to walk the short distance to the lake. 

Dog Lake with Mt. Dana and Mt. Gibbs.

My son Andrew and I visited Dog Lake years ago.  That day the bank was so thick with mud that our shoes got stuck.  The lake itself was topped with a thin layer of ice.  This area encounters fierce wind and heavy snows which has caused a tree trunk near the lake to bend into an odd shape.

A twisted tree.

Dog Lake was named in 1898 when Robert Marshall of the USGS team found an abandoned sheepdog with puppies there.  I didn’t see any dogs but there were a few people scattered about.  I walked part way around each side admiring the views.

Autumn at the lake.

I couldn’t have asked for a better day out on the trail.  The air had cleared from the wildfire smoke, the temperature was cool, and I was alone with my thoughts.  That morning I was apprehensive about hiking alone, but by afternoon, my spirit soared as high as the mountains that surrounded me.  I left Dog Lake and Lembert Dome behind feeling exhilarated and ready for another trek into Yosemite’s wilderness.

Heading back.