Day 16 – June 24, 2016
Mileage – 77,157
Yosemite National Park, CA
Peaceful morning start with secluded forest campsites, alone (or almost alone) in the heart of woods. As par usual Jenney and Kevin are up before the girls, rousing them with protests from Logan. Several hours span the distance between San Fransisco and Yosemite. The goal is to head through the northern sections of the park on Route 120 stopping at several spots along the way until we get to Tuolumne Meadow, back track and get to the city before nightfall.
First stop, an approximately 2.0 mile hike to the far end of Lukens Lake. Quickly it’s apparent that folks are tired from the proceeding day. Plans for several hikes are scaled back.
Lukens lake is worth it though, a pristine mountain lake, rimmed by purple flowers and in near complete solitude. Two hikers coming back just before we start out mentioned they saw two coyotes, we keep our eyes peeled, but see only deer and squirrels. In the mud along the trail, Logan notices tracks, first a coyote print and then we all find deer and an unrecognizable smaller mammal. We continue to check mud patches as we head to and from the lake.
We also find giant cones, not as long as before, but rounded and perfectly shaped.
At the end of the lake we pause to listen, smell, and feel the forest. We could all use a little quiet today after the hustle and bustle of the valley. Each person ventures quietly a slight different direction. Jenney sitting on a log, Kevin looking at exoskeletons attached to lakeside reeds, Logan looks for turtles to no avail, they must not live at this altitude, and Teryn walking down the trunk of a fallen tree on top of the lake.
Soon Logan has to join Teryn. It looks like too much fun. After a lazy half hour to forty-five minutes at the Lake we head back.
Next stop, Olmsted Point. As recommended by the guidebook we brought on the trip, we take the 0.2 mile jaunt to the outcropping to look at the Yosemite Valley from the other side. Across we can see Half-Dome and beyond that Sentinal Dome. Behind we see Tenaya Lake. Round trip about a half a mile and we are back in the car. That tops us out at only 2.0 to 2.5 miles for the day.
Tenaya Lake is crowded; we skip the walk around it and head to the visitor’s center. Ranger programs, the last activity needed for the Junior Ranger Program, don’t start until the next day at Tuolumne Meadow. It’s not too busy though so a young ranger takes the girls on their own program to complete their books. He talks about the different ecospheres in the park, focusing on the subalpine of the meadow. We all get a brief overview of some of the trees, spending a little extra time of the Lodge Pole Pine. We learn that though it is incredibly straight its Latin name, pinus contorta or contorted pine, speaks to its grain, which is twisted inside. It’s also the only pine in this area that has 2 needles in each sheath.
The large pinecones we found we discover are from the Jeffry Pine, whose cones are smooth, distinguishing itself from the ponderosa cone whose edges are sharp; gentle Jeffry, prickly ponderosa. Soon Kevin is asking more questions of the young ranger than the girls and we quickly conclude the ranger program and complete the Junior Ranger pledge.
The finale of Yosemite before we drive to San Francisco is the lone coyote, standing in the meadow near the Mule deer hunting small animals; hunter near the hunted, but alone without a pack to take down the prey. The mule deer stand unafraid continuing to munch on the meadow grass. The Coyote hunches about to pounce on some small small invisible critter hidden near a log.
Now we drive; twisted roads, small towns, arid lands, lush forest, and rolling hills.
Coming into San Fransisco in the dark with the San Francisco Bay Bridge lit up in full splendor. We cross and an urban leg of our trip begins.