The climb to Cathedral Lakes is a classic and justifiably popular hike in Yosemite NP. Starting at over 8,500ft in the High Sierra, the route takes in a section of the John Muir Trail which weaves through thick stands of coniferous forests leading to a spectacular clearing at nearly 9,300ft.
Once we’d found a place to park the RV for the night, a nice ‘pitch’ and the substantial Tuolumne Meadows campground, I was keen to stretch my legs. As much as I’d enjoyed our slow trundle north through Yosemite, I needed some time along in the woods. Some time to really tune into this special place and hone in on its sights, sounds and smells.
Another advantage of this particular route was that I could pick up a branch trail at the back of the site and link with the JMT just south of the Cathedral Lakes trail head. No driving needed today, then. Total distance for the round trip would be 11-12 miles… ideal.
They say you should never meet your heroes as disappointment ultimately follows. Stuck in the crowded Yosemite Valley amid folk stuffing their faces with fast food, I could feel this adage coming true again.
Yosemite has been my ‘landscape hero’ for years, since I read about big wall climbers in National Geographic clipped into bivvy tents far above the valley floor on sheer granite faces. My fascination with this awe inspiring scenery was further nourished by more stunning photography and tales of long trips into the wilderness, not least the grandaddy of the national park movement John Muir’s adventures in nature.
My rosy image of the valley was only tainted when I studied US national parks at college. Tales of crowded roads, a seemingly insatiable appetite for tourist development and campgrounds bursting at the seams coloured my view of the valley and I looked elsewhere… spending a long summer working in a marine national park in Kenya, in fact.