Welcome to my Wilderness Journal

You may enjoy my September 2012 blog: Sharing Experiences of Great Mystery, which describes the purpose of this wilderness log, photo-art gallery, and poetry corner. In Peace, Bob

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Return to Yosemite's Nelson Lake

Alpenglow reflection of Choo-Choo Ridge on Nelson Lake

As noted in my last post (see Regathering at Tuolumne Meadows in Blog Archive) I and about a dozen researchers gathered in mid-September 2013 with friends and family where we worked together four decades earlier. The place was Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows and the research included evaluating the impacts of backpacking on Yosemite’s subalpine ecosystem and gathering data about the park’s black bears
The Seven Sixty-something Samurai (minus photographer Bob): Dan, Rich, Avis, Bob, Heidi and Snowy
After two days of sharing stories at Parson’s Lodge about what happened to us and what we’ve done over the past forty years, seven of us donned backpacks with gear and two days of food and left the Elizabeth Lake Trailhead headed for Nelson Lake—the site of much of the backcountry research. I had never been on this trail before and I was looking forward to spending more time with these folks.  
Snowy celebrating being at Elizabeth Lake and pointing out Unicorn Peak
 We headed up through the dense lodgepole pines past the wilderness boundary and climbed 750' up to the lake where we had lunch. 
Avis and Bob at Elizabeth Lake
Along Elizabeth Lake headed toward the pass
Then we had a much steeper 750' climb on a use trail up to Elizabeth Pass....
...where we took another break...
...and met a backcountry ranger (who headed off trail to Reymann Lake and later met us at Nelson Lake).
Then it was down the Echo Creek drainage with the Cockscomb looming over us on the right.

After we got near the toe of the cliff on our left we lost the trail and turned a bit early to the east and found our pack-weary selves wandering about for a while exploring steep forested slopes looking for Nelson Lake. 
But we soon enough found ourselves overlooking the lake from a ridge above the northwest shore. I dropped my pack and climbed a rock outcrop and ran into our backcountry ranger friend who likes camping on ridges where the early morning sun will wake and warm him. 
Nelson Lake is dominated by the 1,600' high wall of unofficially-named Choo-Choo Ridge (which has a line of blocks at the top that resemble a child's toy train).
We hiked along the pebble beach, left by the late-season receded lake level... 

...and Dan picked out a camping spot among the trees of the southwest shore.

Soon the westering sun set and a magnificent alpenglow spread over the face of Choo-Choo Ridge as we prepared dinner. 
 Then a nearly-full moon rose over the ridge.
The next day Rich and I climbed up to Reymann Lake to attempt an ascent of 11,100' Rafferty Peak. We climbed a steep scree slope in the hopes of going up the ridge and approaching the peak.  
Rafferty Peak at left with our high point in the notch to the left of the knob on right
But we found it too windy, too much whitebark pine, too rocky and too late in the day. 
Reymann Lake from the scree slope
We enjoyed the view and headed back to camp, taking in the gorgeous backlit fall vegetation, flitting mountain bluebirds and mossy pools.

Back at camp we enjoyed another magnificent alpenglow and moonrise and hearty hot food.
The next morning I got up early and found the shoreline lined with ice crystals and beautiful reflections. 

My cold camera soon made my hands numb and I climbed the ridge to find the morning sun to ease the pain of my throbbing hands. It took a while, Ouch!

Back at camp I hurried to have breakfast and break camp so as to not hold up the others. 

I had scouted the first part of the trail back so we didn't have any trouble.

Avis brings out her mandolin at the end of the trail. We all headed home with full hearts and Highway 120 reopened to the west due to better control of the Rim Fire.

A wonderful end to a fantastic 40 year reunion. Thank you Dan for making this reunion and hike possible and to Rich for hauling all our stuff in his truck!
Happy Trails to you!