High Sierra Camps - Part 6

I was ready to roll soon after breakfast, as were most of our troupe. Delay was inevitable, however, as our lunches were not all packed and ready for us by 8:30 a.m. But, finally, well after 9 a.m., the group of 8 performed their 7 Dwarfs song and dance and with that, HI, HO it's off to Vogelsang we go.


There are two routes to reach Vogelsang High Sierra Camp after leaving Merced Camp. The lower route, Fletcher Creek Trail was about 7.6 miles, while the higher route, Lewis Creek Trail was about 8.4 miles long. Earlier I mentioned that Ames B, nearly 40 years earlier, had helped construct a section of rip-rak on the Fletcher Creek Trail and that was the trail most of chose to take. 4 of the group opted for the longer, Lewis Creek Trail. Personally, I preferred to save a mile of trekking, as I knew it would be a long day of up, up and up to 10,130' elevation (starting at 7250' at Merced). Also I read that we would pass through a nice flat area, Fletcher Meadow. I was sure that level section of the hike would be very welcome once we reached that part of the trail. Either route, I learned has it's merits, but the Lewis Creek Trail, while longer, had the Vogelsang Pass. Once reaching that pass, standing upon the ridge between valleys, one could look on either side for breathtaking scenes on either side. Some hikers, I heard, would drop their packs once in camp at Vogelsang and THEN hike up to the Pass and see the views without all that heavy load upon their backs. That sounded to me like an ideal way to experience the Pass without all the effort. (When I reached camp, I was just plain tuckered and had no desire to hike another mile or so up and then down again).


The split in the trail, Fletcher Creek below, Lewis Creek above.

There was steady climbing shortly after leaving Merced Lake Camp. And it continued. And it continued. Up, up, up we trudged, and nearly 2 miles in, we reached the split in the trail, the right being the longer Lewis Creek Trail. 4 of the group opted to take the higher, longer route, while the rest of us chose Fletcher Creek Trail. 

I was under no misconceptions that, by taking the lower trail, it would be easier. Either way it was cut, this was going to be a long day of upward ascension. I was not mistaken.

The photo to the right gives you a perspective of the steepness of much of the trail. I was up several levels as part of our group are steadily climbing upward to the intersections of the trails. Much of what we encountered this day was very similar to this picture.

Once we all had regrouped at the intersection, final decisions were made of who was going on which route. Kurt, Cynthia, Mike and Cindy, brave and hardy souls that they are, marched onward and upward along the Lewis Creek Trail.

Once rested, re-hydrated and prepared to go, everyone picked up their resolve and set off, again, for more of the day's steep trails.


 And climb we did. At times it seemed to be never ending. 

After some time, we finally arrived at the constructed rip-rak that Ames helped build. In my opinion, this really was the best of all those we traversed on the entire trip. This example of "paved" trail was especially welcome as it made for a less strenuous climb on the steep inclines.

IMG_6047 IMG_6052

Prior to reaching Fletcher Meadow, we stopped for a snack break and a chance to once again catch our breaths. Sitting there, regaining some energy, I mused as I looked out over the massive landscape before me. It struck me, again, of how continuous the granite mountains were. In places, vegetation desperately hung on to growth in seemingly impossible places. Smooth granite mountains juxtaposed upon the clear blue sky, were sharply in focus in the high Sierra air.

Having had our opportunity to rest and grab a snack, Jana told us we only had a bit more climbing and then we could halt for lunch. That is like holding a carrot in front of a donkey, encouraging him to keeping on moving forward. It worked for me. 


Similar to the waterfall near Merced Lake, we dropped packs along Fletcher Creek where it began it's descent from the meadow, spreading out over the gently sloping, flat granite creek bed. This was a perfect spot to enjoy our lunches and for the marvelous scenes all around, especially down from where we had come. Lying upon the flat surfaces, we could rest our feet, cool them in the stream, or, as I did, wander about and take in all the natural beauty that my eyes could behold. WOW! is about all that I can say. The scale of what I saw and had seen all week still astounds me. Grand views. Inspiring, the full canvas of this natural beauty was perfect in every way.

As we crested up the creek, we entered the flat and open alpine Fletcher Creek Meadow. It was stunning. And a welcome respite from all the upward trekking we endured all morning.


Once across the meadow, there were more times of upward trail, but it did not seem nearly as taxing as it had been the first part of the day. Jana pointed out Fletcher Peak, below which lay Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. It still seemed a long time, though, before we actually marched into camp. 


Being the highest of the High Sierra Camps, Vogelsang also lie along a high meadow, Fletcher Lake nestled under Fletcher Peak where there were still small patches of snow packed into high crevices on that mountainside. Not having the desire, nor energy, I decided not to do an optional hike up to the Vogelsang Pass. It just did not have enough draw for me to exert myself in the effort to reach the high ridge nor a scramble up the even higher Vogelsang Peak. Instead, I strolled around Fletcher Lake, where flowers still were in bloom, the air was cool, the lake picturesque and calming. It was much more rugged up in this camp, but not in an unfavorable way. It was a comforting location, tents planted amongst the flat topped granite and boulders with high peaks towering above camp, the lake, the stream lazily flowing adjacent to the tents, the alpine meadow filling in between the mountains, and a high, brilliant blue sky capping off the idyllic scene. 

Over hot drinks at 6 p.m. I caught up with others not in our group who had been hiking the trails and camping in the same camps during our week on the trails. The night sky was clear in the cold evening air, a sliver of the moon and the first evening stars brilliant in the fading dusk. Alpine glow from the setting sun continued to keep a pleasing pinkish, coral colored aura until that too was overtaken by the darkness and countless, brightly twinkling stars, in such a multitude as can only be seen and appreciated in skies like this, high above the "civilized" world.


Before turning in for the evening, I laid out up some huge boulders, gazing up into the heavens, one brightly beaming, sparkling star catching and mesmerizing my attention. That, I believe, may have been Mars, but it seemed to beckon me, which only prompted me to lie there for over an hour, gazing, wondering, and watching for more shooting stars from the Perseid Meteor Shower that was making it annual performance during this week of my high mountain travels. As I lay there I did see three distinct falling stars, and possibly a couple more in my peripheral vision. But having only heavy socks and sandals on my feet, popsicle toes forced me to give up my star search and hastened back to my tent. Having a tent by myself, I prepared the stove for a quick lighting for my early morning awakening.  



Chilled now beyond all previous nights, I borrowed blankets from the unused beds under which I nestled for another nights peaceful, restful slumber. I drifted off to sleep, keen to start on the next, last day of our High Sierra Camp Loop hike. It promised to be much less tiring, as it was to be a gradual descent back to Tuolumne Meadows. After a nights rest there I would trade in my hiking for a four day saddle back trip on the back of a mule, visiting the same last three High Sierra Camps from a different point of view.


kdonald940@cox.net © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments