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Lower Cathedral Lake

Yosemite National Park

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August 14th, 1998

7.1 miles
1200 vertical feet
Total Time: 4:28

Rating: 9/10

Directions:   View Driving Map



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Jean, Jennie, Reza, and I hiked to Lower Cathedral Lake from the trailhead off of Tioga Road.

It was still raining. Lightly, but it was a bit windy. I figured it would be similar to the previous day, which wasn't too bad. I put on my poncho and we started off on the trail.

The trail starts out climbing, then levels off for a long time. We passed a fair number of hikers going in the opposite direction. Although the rain was going steady (but lightly) at the start of the hike, it cleared up and only rained occasionally during the flat section of the hike.

As the rain subsided, the mosquitoes came out in force again. Jean accidentally sucked in some Off when she sprayed it on herself and started sputtering to get it out of her mouth. Mmmm... DEET.

As we hiked we started to get better views of Cathedral Peak. At one point along the trail, there was a big patch of snow which we stopped to play on for a while. Can't beat a snowball fight in August.

Snow in August!

Shortly after the snow, the trail turns very green. It was much like the transition the trail took on the Elizabeth Lake hike. It was positively lush as the trail started climbing again and we passed by a tiny waterfall amidst the forest, and then later a small spring. We could see the ripples on the surface of the water as it came up from below. We were all thinking what a beautiful hike it was.

The trail flattened out again. The rain started again. Lightly, at first. But eventually it got worse. By the time we were heading down, less than 0.5 miles from the lake, it was really coming down. The trail turned very muddy. We didn't see anyone else on the trail for a while. They'd all come to their senses and turned around.

Whereas before we could see the movement of the storm, now the sky was a uniform gray. There was thunder and lightning in the distance. Soon we were out in the meadow, weaving our way around the mud toward the lake. Reza thought he saw a bear out in the meadow. I corrected him and told him it was only a rock, that a bear would have more sense than to be out here, in the rain.

By the time we actually got to the lake, it was positively pouring again. The lake itself was beautiful, and so were the surroundings. But the rain made it impossible to stay for very long. There were at least 3 tents in the area around the lake. I was tempted to knock on their rain fly and ask if we could come in for a spell. They must have been laughing at us, snug in their tents while we suffered outside. My poncho was definitely not enough anymore. While it was keeping my body relatively dry, my arms and legs were exposed. My arms were the worst -- since I wasn't really using them, they were starting to shiver from the cold. I was only wearing a t-shirt underneath.

Cathedral Peak as seen from near Lower Cathedral Lake

The view to the south from Lower Cathedral Lake

Lower Cathedral Lake. The previous two pictures didn't show you how wet it was. At least this one has raindrops on it.

One of the three tents we saw next to the lake.

Maybe you can begin to understand how soaked we were from this picture. Jean looks really happy. Reza's so wet and miserable it's actually starting to be funny to him.

While I was the only one with exposed arms, at least the rest of my body was dry. Even my feet were dry. Everyone else was wet. Jean and Reza both had wet feet, socks, and boots. Jennie had a wet shirt which refused to dry. It was all an experience I'd rather not repeat -- although I would love to hike that trail again (when it isn't raining!).

After a very short stay at the lake, we started making our way back. As we got further and further away, the rain started subsiding. Apparently it was at its worst when we were actually at the lake. We picked our way up the muddy trail until we got back to the 0.5 mile trail sign.

Heading back along the trail

Shortly after that, Reza and Jennie decided to go off ahead of us. Jennie wasn't happy because of the wet shirt. So we split up, with a TalkAbout for each group. We used the radios to tell how far back we were. Jennie would point out a landmark, and I'd mark the time until I saw the same landmark. When there was no landmark, Reza left one of his water bottles on the trail for me to pick up later. Near the beginning (and end) of the trail, they passed by a section of the trail which was closed due to damage. It was cordoned off by a pink ribbon. Jennie referred to the landmark as a "hot pink clothesline." There was no mistaking it when I saw it.

It was pretty much dry the rest of the way back to the car. We drove straight to the Visitor Center and started drying off.

Return to Tuolumne Meadows trip report.


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