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Cloud Watching at Tenaya Lake

A comfortable chair was all that I needed to watch the thunderheads build while taking it easy next to beautiful Tenaya Lake. No hiking, no peak bagging, no fishing, just cloud watching on this adventure.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: A few feet
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Range: 8,150′
Date: August 11, 2020
Dog Hike? Probably Not

My friend Chris planted an idea in my head last week when she went kayaking at Tenaya Lake. I had never gone up to Tenaya Lake and just sat in a chair to watch thunderheads build so I started keeping my eye on the weather for a good day to do so. I landed on a weekday that the National Weather Service showed a 30% chance of thunderstorms after 11 am. I didn’t want to hang around if too many people started showing up so I got there early, about 8 am, located a good spot with a picnic table to put my picnic lunch on and set up my cloud watching chair. At 8:18 there wasn’t a cloud to be seen from my vantage point.

Tenaya Lake (8,150′ elevation) is located along Tioga Road located between Big Oak Flat and Tuolumne Meadows. The lake basin was formed by glaciers and is named after Chief Tenaya who was the chief of the native people who lived in Yosemite Valley before being driven out by the Mariposa Battalion. Chief Tenaya protested that the lake already had a name: Pie-we-ack, or “Lake of the Shining Rocks.” That original name is now given to Pywiack Dome, a granite dome to the east of the lake.

9:02 and I spy some tiny clouds.

So, why does this teeny tiny cloud grow into a cumulus cloud? When warm, moist air moves upward in an updraft, puffy cumulus clouds may form in the atmosphere. The moisture in the air condenses into water droplets as it rises. The cloud will continue to grow as long as warm air from below continues to rise.

There are several ways that an updraft of warm moist air can form. Sometimes air is forced up the side of a mountain. Air is also forced upward at weather fronts, where warm and cool air masses collide. But often, updrafts form without a mountain or front to guide them, just because warm air rises. Air near the ground heats up during the day as energy from the Sun heats the ground, which then heats the air. The warmed air rises higher in the atmosphere because warm air has less mass than cool air, making it lighter.

Today’s cloud show was caused by a trough that was moving inland that provided the moist air.








About that time a group of people arrived and I figured it was getting too peopley for me, so I packed up and headed home. I had achieved what I set out for, watching those clouds block out the blue sky. No rain on this day at this location but the storm ended up providing some wet stuff for the Mammoth area.

Dog Adventure?  Probably Not

Dogs are only allowed on fully paved trails and the trail around Tenaya Lake is not paved. There is a short stretch along Tioga Road where it is paved though and it is my thinking that dogs would be allowed on leash in this area.



Tenaya Lake Wikipedia

How Thunderstorms Form Center For Science Education

Yosemite National Park Pet Rules

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