Archives -> Vogelsang Loop - Yosemite National Park

I took this backpacking trip in early 2011, departing the trailhead on the first day Tioga Pass opened for the summer season. This backpacking trip goes through the Yosemite High Country south of highway 120, beginning at Tuolumne Meadows and heading south through Lyell Canyon. After several miles, the route veers west up Rafferty Creek to reach Fletcher Lake and Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. The loop continues south towards Evelyn Lake and Ireland Creek, then east to again meet the John Muir Trail in Lyell Canyon. This loop is relatively short, and I thought it perfect for early season, a tim of year when one should anticipate slow hiking due to a majority of the route covered in snow.

I was the only car in the parking lot as I began my hike late in the morning and slowly made my way up Lyell Canyon. The hike up Lyell Canyon is relatively flat and easy, but quickly changes as one veers out of the canyon on the trail up Rafferty Creek. Being early in the seasons, I was struck by how little snow there seemed to be - all the while thinking how crazy I was for thinking I'd need snowshoes. Several hours later - the trail completely lost under a wet spring snow cover - I became convinced otherwise. The afternoon turned into a long slog.

I reached Fletcher Lake by late afternoon, and was happy to find a few flat and snow free camping spots as well, as running water within easy walking distance. Nearby Vogelsang High Sierra camp was still closed, and having not seen anyone all day I was not surprised to find myself being the only soul around. That evening the fog rolled in just as the sun began to set, creating an eering feeling capped by a large Sierra Wave stretching along the Sierra Crest to the east.

The night was cold, and the next morning broke windy and clear. After spending some time exploring the icy surroundings of Fletcher Lake, I broke camp to slowly make my way toward Evelyn Lake and Ireland Creek. The snow was hard and required me to strap on my crampons, but the hike seemed to go fast and by noon I was at Evelyn Lake. I took a long break to eat and nap before I decided to make the treck back down to Lyell Canyon for the night.

Descending down Ireland Creek was difficult with the trail and creek still buried in snow. It was a tough descent, potholing several times - once dangerously up to my waste. At last the snow thinned and I reached a beautiful meadow along the John Muir trail in Lyell Canyon. For hours I watched several deer graze in the nearby meadow, as well as two rabbits flirting with each other across the river. That evening I saw the first people since leaving the trailhead.

I awoke to a layer of frost covering everyone, a partly frozen water bottle, and a coyote chuckling in the distance. The hike out went slowly as the majority of the trail in Lyell Canyon was flooded out from the spring thaw. Wading through the mud and water I finally reached the trailhead several hours later, and found once again my vehicle the only one in the lot - not something one finds often in Yosemite.