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Hiking to Lower McCabe Lake

Once upon a time, a Cavalry Officer married the daughter of an Acting Yosemite National Park Superintendent. Back in 1912, lakes and a creek were named after that young man but who could have known that he would rise to such a high rank? I took advantage of a layover day during my recent 8 day pack trip with stock from Virginia Lakes to hike up to the lower of those lakes.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 8.94 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Range: 8,509′ – 9,822′
Elevation Gain: 1,512′
Date: August 16, 2022
CALTOPO: Hiking from Return Creek/PCT to Lower McCabe Lake
Dog Hike? No

Photo of Me and Jeremiah by David Teeters

I recently returned from Rock Creek Pack Station’s 8 Day Pack Trip with Stock from Virginia Lakes to Twin Lakes. 6 of those days were riding days but 2 were layover days, one where I hiked up to Lower McCabe Lake. I have wanted to visit McCabe Lakes for the longest of time because while I was at Saddlebag Lake or Lundy Canyon, I would try and gaze over the mountains toward it, wondering what lay beyond. And that is a big reason why I took this pack trip, to see what lay beyond. While planning my layover day I shared with our wrangler Penny that I wanted to hike up to McCabe Lake and she told me that they didn’t want anyone to hike alone, so one of the wranglers, Jeremiah, offered (or drew the short straw) to hike with me and one other guest was then interested so off we went!

From our camp along Return Creek in Virginia Canyon, we headed down the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), then following the signs up a well used trail toward McCabe Creek. The weather forecasts called for some thunder, lightening and rain in the afternoon so we hustled.

Once we reached Lower McCabe Lake, the sky was mostly blue but clouds had begun to gather. I looked toward the Upper McCabe Lakes and Saddlebag Lake, wondering about the stretch of country between them.

So how did McCabe Lakes get their name? From Yosemite Place Names:

Edward Raynsford Warner McCabe, a cavalry officer who had no association with the park–except that he married Polly Forsyth, daughter of Col. W. W. (William Woods) Forsyth, acting superintendent of the park from 1909 to 1912. The lakes were named during that period, probably by R. B. Marshall, a close friend of Forsyth. “Upper McCable Lake” was approved by the BGN in 1962 to ratify what had become local usage.

After a little research when I returned home, I learned that he was born July 12, 1876 Petersberg, Virginia and married Mary Forsyth December 1, 2908 at Jolo, Phillippine Islands where he was stationed.

Evening Star (Washington, District of Congress), July 19, 1908

Lt. Edward Raynesford Warner McCabe and Mary Forsyth had two children, Virginia and Edward. When he passed away on Febuary 15, 1960 Charlottesville City, Virginia, his information shows that he was a Brigadier General. BTW, in an advertisement related to execution of his will, his wife is mentioned, along the alias of “Dolly.”

Brigadier General Edward Raynesford Warner McCabe Tombstone, Arlington National Cemetery (Find a Grave)

I located a picture and biography on him.

McCabe, Edward Raynsford Warner


(Regular Army)


1918-05-20 Lieutenant-Colonel (National Army)
1918-11-12 Colonel (United States Army)
1920-06-30 Termination of rank Colonel (United States Army)
1920-06-30 Termination of rank Lieutenant-Colonel (National Army)
1920-07-01 Major
1920-07-01 Lieutenant-Colonel
1930-12-01 Colonel
1944-01-13 Brigadier-General (Army of the United States)
1946-06-30 Termination of rank Brigadier-General (Army of the United States)


1931-XX-XX 1933-XX-XX Military Attaché to Italy
1933-09-16 1936-12-01 Commanding Officer 17th Field Artillery Regiment
1937-07-01 1940-07-31 Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2), War Department General Staff
1940-07-31     Retired
1941-03-10 1943-05-21 Superintendent of Staunton Military Academy
1943-05-21     Recalled
1944-XX-XX 1946-XX-XX Commandant of School of Military Government
1946-06-30     Retired

How interesting that the lakes and creek were named for him in 1912, long before he rose in ranks to Brigadier General. Usually it is the other way around!

We ate an early lunch, took our picture by the lake and started to head down. We felt a few drops of rain but they never amounted to anything serious while we were at the lake.

I checked out the lake’s outlet while Jeremiah and Dave worked their way toward me.

By the time we reached the PCT, clouds had pretty much filled the sky. Dave made a stop on the way in by the creek while Jeremiah and I headed back to camp. After I made it in, about 10 minutes later it started to rain. I was cozy in my tent by then but Dave was not quite so lucky. He didn’t melt and survived the rain just fine.


What is a Doarama?  It is a video playback of the GPS track overlaid on a 3 dimensional interactive map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt it or spin it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it. This is the first time that I have combined tracks from 8 days into a Doarama and it tends to hang up after each day’s tracks a bit. If this happens to you, just drag the red bar a bit to the right and it will start back on its way.

Hiking From Return Creek/PCT Up To Lower McCabe Lake

Map and Profile:

CALTOPO has some free options for mapping and here is a link to my hike this week, which you can view or download: CALTOPO: Hiking from Return Creek/PCT to Lower McCabe Lake

Hiking to Lower McCabe Lake Topographic Map

Hiking to Lower McCabe Lake Profile


Rock Creek Pack Station

Virginia Lakes Pack Outfit

Evening Star (Washington, District of Congress), July 19, 1908 (Newspapers.com)

Browning, Peter, Yosemite Place Names, Great West Books, Lafayette, CA, 1988

Edward Raynesford Warner McCabe Find A Grave

Biography of Brigadier General Edward Raynsford Warner McCabe

Prior Blog in This Area:

8 Day Pack Trip With Stock From Virginia Lakes To Twin Lakes


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