Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Ten Lakes; High Sierras; Giant Sequoias; In Memorium

Backpacking into the High Sierras is one of my favorite pastimes, and it was especially nice to have My Lovely Daughter Elisabeth out for a week so we could share the experience. The first trip was to Ten Lakes, in the northern section of Yosemite National Park. We left Suzanne, Rudy and Gretchen at the coach and drove almost 2 1/2 hours to the trailhead at 7,500 ft. Shouldering our backpacks (mine was about 34 lbs with a sturdy [read heavy] bear-proof food container for our food), we marched off smartly uphill. The crest of the trail found us at 9,670 ft. at Ten Lakes Pass, on granite slabs mostly above treeline, with a view that was breathtaking. 

We met only four other backpackers along the way, two sets of fathers and sons. Bruce and Jake had enjoyed Ten Lakes and were now on their way out, back to Phoenix. It is always nice to see other fathers out with their sons/daughters. By the way, the white stuff on the ground in these photos is not paint… snow was still melting up at 9,600 feet, and small rivulets formed creeks and then streams and rivers, all ice-cold and crystal clear.

The trail down to the lakes (only 7 of which are real lakes, the other three being ponds/meadows) was very steep, and we were both glad to have our trekking poles (collapsible aluminum hiking sticks) to stabilize us on the broken granite rocks. 

This photo was shot just downhill from our water view campsite; the primo spot on the water nearby had already been taken by two Park Service rangers, a college-aged couple (from different states) who were only working the season here in Yosemite. I’m sure their romantic spot was well-deserved… 

As we were setting up our camp, the first large wildlife sighting occurred. This yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris) was about 3 feet long, much larger than their cousins in the Cascades that we were more familiar with. 

Our campsite was always kept clean and tidy because bears were said to be active in the area. Nighttime temps were in the 30s. While our CamelBak water bladders never froze, the water was definitely cold in the morning when we awoke. Liz’s 15F rated sleeping bag barely kept her warm, while I wore my down jacket, long sleeve tee, pants and socks in my 32F rated bag.

There wasn’t much dayhiking at Ten Lakes, because the trail was in and out; if you wanted to bushwhack cross-country, this was a typical hillside that you had to navigate. 

I hated to leave Ten Lakes, because it was a heavenly place to spend a couple of days. Or years… Liz mentioned on the hike that this would be a place to lose yourself; you know, like dropping off the grid? I agreed, although it might get a bit lonely in January and February when you’re frozen in and the nearest coffee shop and bakery are 12 hours snowshoeing away!

After departing Ten Lakes, we made a pass through Yosemite Valley for a last look at Half Dome. This type of rock formation, exfoliated granite, is caused by upward movement of the mountains causing flaking of huge slabs of rock and the occasional “half dome” shape which can be found in several locations around the Sierra Nevada. 

While Liz and I were backpacking, Suzanne was doing two readings a day and running/biking on steep trails or roads near our campground. Because of the long drive to and from Yosemite, we were happy to move our coach to Sequoia National Park, a 5 hour drive south of Yosemite. Sequoia is one of my favorite places on earth; this would be my 8th visit, and I would cheerfully spend the rest of my days here. The Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) are the largest living organisms ever to exist on our planet, and dwarf the giant blue whale and the coastal redwoods of Northern California. Here is Suzanne at the base of the General Sherman tree, the largest of these beautiful trees. It is 275 feet tall, with a girth of 102 feet at the ground, and an estimated weight of 2,100 tons, about the same as my first destroyer.

We walked through the groves of Sequoias along the Congress Trail at dusk, and had the entire area for ourselves. Here is Your Faithful Correspondent admiring the “Senate Group”; I admittedly have more respect for these beautiful trees than I have for the politicians bearing that name… 

Even in the fading light, the shallow root system of the Giant Sequoia is obvious. There is no deep taproot, and the cause of death of most Sequoias is simply falling over. The cones are tiny, about the size of a chicken egg, and the seeds are miniscule, with a mature tree dispersing about 350,000 seeds per year, 99.99% of which will not germinate. The bark of these trees is about 2-3 feet thick at the base of the tree, is soft to the touch and fibrous, and provides good fire protection. Many of the trees we saw are scarred from fires. 

Finally, Monday 8 June is a sad day for our family. On that day in 2006, our daughter Susan, a sergeant in the US Marine Corps, died after being struck by lightning while crossing the flightline at the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina. Susan was 27 years old and six months pregnant with a son, Liam Tyler. It is fitting that as I write this entry we are staying at a Marine Corps base in Barstow, California, not far from where Susan served  while stationed at Camp Pendleton and during training at 29 Palms. Susan also treasured mountains and forests, and loved to hike and backpack. As we hiked through Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, I knew that Susan was right there along with us.

1 Comment

  • Anonymous
    Posted June 9, 2015 at 12:27 am

    What a beautiful trip into the backcountry!
    Much love, peace and prayers headed to you guys on this day of remembrance. Brad


Leave a Comment