8/5/14 The first day took us from the lake at Hetch Hetchy up the switchbacks and then past the Beehive junction east of Laurel Lake. It was a roughly 8 mile day with nearly 4,000' of gain.
1 O'Shaughnesssy Dam. One of the great tragedies of the National Park system. Built from 1914-1934, it supplies nearly all of the water to the San Francisco Bay Area. What was once Hetch Hetchy Valley, regarded to be nearly on par with Yosemite Valley with its giant waterfalls and glacier carved granite faces, is now flooded below a 300' deep reservoir. There have been movements underway recently to take down the dam and restore the valley to its natural state. Visit http://www.hetchhetchy.org to learn more and to donate!
2 Heading 900' across the top of the dam to the trailhead. This will be the last time I refer to the dam or reservoir!
3 Hetch Hetchy valley. The cliff walls would be almost 400' taller without the lake.
4 The view down the other side.
5 Heading through the tunnel ready to leave humanity and enter the wilderness.
6 An overcast day at lakeside. The elevation here is only 3,900', so the temperatures are normally very hot this time of year. The forecast was for the 90s, which had us worried for the long climb up the switchbacks. Fortunately, we lucked out and the overcast skies kept the temperatures comfortable in the mid 70s.
7 Looking down at the lake from just below the Beehive trailhead.
8 Roughly 1.5 miles from our starting point, we reach the Beehive trailhead, start of what will be a long, four day loop through one of the most remote corners of Yosemite.
9 One of the last views of the lake before climbing over the ridge.
10 Getting up near 6,000' and into the trees.
11 Beautiful meadows.
12 Areas have clearly been wiped out by recent fires. Though still green and re-growing, the forest is very thin. This is not far from the massive Rim fire that ravaged Yosemite in 2013. There was another fairly large fire (El Portal fire) burning near here just days before we arrived. Fortunately, it had been mostly contained, and there was minimal evidence of smoke, by the time we started.
13 Day 1 lunch spot.
14 Dad powering through the meadows. We're starting to get into some nice patches of wildflowers.
15 Dad taking in the giant fields of wildflowers.
16 A little further along, we reach the Laurel Lake junction. We had hoped to find a stream to filter water before reaching this point, but no such luck. I ended-up ditching the pack and jogging down the Laurel Lake trail for about a half mile to what looked like a decent sized stream on the map.
17 Fortunately there's flowing water in the stream, and I'm able to fill-up. This has been one of the driest years on record, so water will be tough to come by.
18 I jog back to the trailhead and find Dad kicking back waiting for me. I then realize that I dropped one of our collapsable water bottles somewhere along the way and have to jog all the way back to the stream to get it. The two trips added a couple miles to the day that I probably could have done without!
19 Perfectly overgrown singletrack winding through the flowers. The underbrush has definitely been thinned out by fires though.
20 More nice fields of flowers, but I am really hoping all four days won't be through similarly fire-affected forest.
21 A peekaboo view of Lake Vernon. It's a popular destination for backpackers doing a 1 night trip. There was some brief discussion about taking that shorter loop to be safe. But we sure are glad we didn't! Now it's time to find a spot to setup camp for the night.
22 Our Night 1 dinner table.
23 Our first night tent setup not far from the edge of the valley above Lake Vernon. End to a successful Day 1, and the only human we saw on the trail all day was a Ranger.