Evelyn Lake, Yosemite 10328 ft


Alpenglow over Evelyn Lake in The Cathedral Range, Yosemite National Park.

After a long, difficult hike starting in Lyell Canyon (around 8,600 ft) with steep switch-backing up past Potter Point and Ireland Lake, we crossed over the western rim of Lyell Canyon (about 10,800 ft) and were rewarded with this magnificent view. Lake Evelyn is just at tree line in a high plane within The Cathedral Range, filled with rocks and bonsai like trees, marmots … and the wind. It’s desolate and awesome. I’ve been backpacking here for decades and am grateful to have made it up to this magical high plateau once again. It’s one of my very favorite places on Earth. I’ve been here for days and never seen another soul even though Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, a major hub and trail head, is just an hour or two downhill and to the west. There are no traces of human activity here, except the humble old trail. There may be bear up here but I’ve never seen any. I think they may keep busy with the more popular trails at lower altitudes.

To really experience the best of this high plane, just west of Tuolumne Pass, you need to camp here. Even if you start early and hike in, by the time you reach the lake the sun would be high in the sky.

What sets this special place apart is the light. It skims across the plane at both sunrise and sunset. I’m usually a wreck, worn out and sore, from the intense hike each time I arrive but the gorgeous light seems to work it’s magic at dusk and dawn. This time I almost didn’t make it. Older knees and an active, long life have taken their toll. I carried a tripod all the way up just to be able to catch the light here, before sunrise and after sunset, and now don’t regret it one bit.

Another wonderful aspect of this high plane is the quiet. There’s absolutely no noise. An exception to that would be during thunder storms, which are a daily occurrence up here in summer, and this is not a safe place to be when lightening starts lighting up the skies. Years ago, a little to the north, I saw a bolt of lightning strike the bare, rocky ground so close my skin crawled and everything crackled. That may have been the loudest and scariest sound I’ve ever experienced.

Within the next few days I hope to post many, many more images from this visit.