Yosemite Trekker Post #4 --- 6/21/09
Mt. Watkins reflected on still water - 6/17/09.
You can click on some of the photos below to enlarge them.
Trip to Mirror Lake
Whenever I meander down what is surely the most well-trodden path in Yosemite Valley, I can't help but think I've stumbled upon a remnant of mankind's Golden Age. If there once was a Garden of Eden, it was in this pastoral setting 4,000 feet high in the Sierras, with its sweet smells and gently flowing water. As you step through the primeval forest, with its panoramic views of colossal rock formations, and feel the exquisite calm, it's as if you've arrived at one of those fantastic shangrilas described in ancient mythology. The butterflies and squirrels, deer, coyotes and Stellar jays all seem to share a secret that wayfarers like me can only guess at.
Mirror Lake, of course, is no lake at all, but part of Tenaya Creek, which delivers some of winter's snowmelt out to the Merced River. The creek gets bottlenecked by earthen dams along the way, giving rise to the pool of water that reflects a mirror image of the granite rock formations that surround it. In the 1890's, an inn prospered at the site, with a bar, dance hall and boats for hire. I didn't see any signs of these past habitations and exploits, just read the markers on a path that overlooks the northern side of the lake.
This enchanting place on the eastern end of the valley is about a mile's walk from the bus shuttle stop. There's something of a grade going up, and if you've rented a bicycle, you'll have to park it and walk the last half mile or so. Vehicles with handicap stickers are allowed to drive all the way in, although there's only three or four parking places once they get here. Once you arrive at the lake, you'll find an idyllic spot for a picnic, but not a single picnic bench, which is a little mystifying. Fortunately, the National Park Service is kind enough to provide a rest room. Bringing a bag lunch is recommended (by me, anyway), because once you arrive, you won't want to leave anytime soon, if ever.
Initially when I came here, I loathed the idea of hiking up the blacktop with the throngs of other tourists. Instead I struck off on a far more alluring wooded trail which starts to the right of Tenaya Bridge, before you cross it.
Unfortunately, last March, a rockslide blocked access about three-quarters the way up the path. You can ford the creek at this point, and arrive at the beach in this manner, depending on the time of year. In May, the water was several feet deep, so I would have gotten a serious soaking had I tried it. Notice Half Dome in the second photo, above the area where the rock collapsed.
As I neared the trail block, I turned left onto this dried-up wash of pulverized grantie on the left and followed a little path that moved along the edge of the creek. However, the way became too hazardous once I reached the rockslide area, so I turned back after snapping a few photos.
I caught this image shortly before detouring onto the wash. Tenaya Creek mostly dries up in late summer, but until then, the reflection on the water's surface is the stuff of legend.
I took the rest of these photos during a second, mid-morning sojourn to Mirror Lake in June. I think a lot of people pass the spot on the left without realizing that it's ground zero for one of the most photographed prospects in Yosemite. This family, however, took advantage of the backdrop. A few paces further and I found the other photographer's hotspot. This is, of course, where Mirror Lake gets its name.
In June, the water's still deep enough for swimming. The three boys on the rock took turns jumping off. One even did a flip, which I thought rather bold. It looked refreshing, but the water was still pretty cold.
There's probably no more perfect spot to bring someone you love, or a best friend, and talk for hours. Not that you shouldn't make this trip solo. I did, and would do it again tomorrow. (In fact, I probably will go back tomorrow.)
Seeing this fellow on the left playing with his cell phone broke the spell momentarily. Some intrepid visitors, however, were not to be deterred by such reminders of the high-tech civilization they left behind in the parking lot.
Who needs a phone, anyway? At Mirror Lake, you can talk directly to God.
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