Mono Meadows Trail to Lower Merced Pass Lake
(13 miles, +3,000/-1,400 feet).
It’s been quite a while since Orion and I did a hike together, so I was really looking forward to our trip to Yosemite.
Although the forecast called for lows in the 20s, the weather was bizarrely still quite seasonal, with no snow on the ground and no precipitation expected.
We decided to tackle a less visited part of the park in the south to the west of the Clark Range where we could do some off trail travel. In particular, I had my sights on the Buena Vista Crest and was eager for the challenge of route finding along a ridge that — according to its Spanish name — would have some beautiful views!
Orion and I got a mid-morning start after saying goodbye to all our friends at the academic retreat we just had at the Yosemite Field Station, but soon we were on our way to the trailhead.
We endeavored to get a permit, but the road to the permit station at the Ski Area off the Glacier Point Road was closed, so we used a permit form we had picked up in Wawona to write down the details of our trip in the unlikely event we would see a ranger.
After less than a mile we were in Mono Meadows where a humongous owl swooped over our head. We spent some time taking photos and watching it hunt in the meadow.
Soon after we had some lovely views of Half Dome as we passed through a stark burn zone.
As we got closer to the turnoff for Merced Pass, Mount Starr King came into view.
A couple of hours later we found a lovely brink where we could sit for lunch.
By 5pm we made it to Lower Merced Pass Lake where we spent some time looking for a stealth camp spot but then decided to use the main area by the lake where a fire ring already existed.
Night fell quickly and cold, so once we were done with our dinners we dove into our tents to survive the night!