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Photo by Gail Gilbert

Hiking up to Bingaman Lake on a Chilly Day

A weather forecast of 16 degrees and 25 mph winds didn’t deter us from bundling up and heading to the Kuna Crest for my last fishing adventure for this year. Icy creeks led the way to Bingaman Lake where we also met up with some beautiful wildlife.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 8.65 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 9,596′ – 11,157′
Date: November 8, 2018
Maps: Tioga Pass, Mount Dana, Koip Peak
Dog Hike? No

We parked our car at the Mono Pass Trailhead, about 5.6 miles east of the Tuolumne Meadows Campground and 1.4 miles south of Tioga Pass. The temperature showed that it was 31 degrees, quite a bit warmer than the 28 degrees that was forecast. But we knew that the forecast where we were headed was 16 degrees and we would be getting steady winds of 25 mph, with gusts to 35 mph. We had dressed for the weather and plenty of layers. After using the restrooms there and stowing our stuff in the bear box, we headed up this historic trail. The Mono Pass Trail has a ton of history, the earliest historic use being an important Native American trail. When we crossed the Dana Fork, there was a bit of ice along the edges.

The trail led along brown meadows. The wild onions had gone to seed a long time ago and it looked like the area was well prepared to welcome winter and snow.

We got glimpses of Parker Pass Creek, which we would need to cross.

There was a bit more ice on our usual crossing spot and we pondered how we would get across. The dilemma was that it was shallow enough to rock hop across but those rocks were covered with a thin layer of ice and the ice that blanketed the creek wasn’t think enough for us to walk on.

We took a close look at another possible spot to cross.  Nope.

We walked upstream a bit and finally found a spot that we could get across.

From there we headed to Bingaman Lake cross country and when we reached the final approach to the lake, something caught my eye.  Can you see the white in the rocks?

It was a ptarmigan and there were two of them hanging out in the rocky area. These beautiful non-native birds actually change the color of their feathers with the seasons to better blend in with their environment. These birds were wearing their winter feathers but in the summer, they are a mottled brown color. Their feet are also feathered. Gail Gilbert captured these close ups of these special birds.

Photo by Gail Gilbert

Photo by Gail Gilbert

We weren’t sure if Bingaman Lake would be iced over so we were anticipating the view when we topped over into the lake. It was mostly iced over with a couple of patches of water.

Photo by Gail Gilbert

Bingaman Lake was named for John W. Bingaman, a park ranger who stocked the lake with fish in exchange for the naming rights. In retirement he wrote two books (links under sources), Pathways, Guardians of the Yosemite: A Story of the First Rangers (1961), and The Ahwahneechees: A Story of the Yosemite Indians (1966), where the following biography was located:

Born on a farm June 18, 1896, in Bellevue, Ohio. His parents were John Daniel Bingaman and Susan Jane Boyer Bingaman both born near Lewisberg, Pennsylvania. They moved to Bellevue, Ohio in 1895. Grand-father Bingaman moved to Union County Pennsylvania in the early 1800s from Reading, Pennsylvania.

John attended the public school in, Bellevue, Ohio, and helped his father on the farm. In 1914-1915 he worked as yard checker for the New York Central Railroad in Elkhart, Indiana and in 1916 moved to Stockton, California, where he worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad for a short time and for the Holt Tractor Company of Stockton making big tanks and combinders during the World War I.

John married Martha Buyek in Oakland, California, on June 17, 1916. Martha was born in Railroad Flat, Calaveras County, California. Her father, Frank Buyck, was a miner in his early life and later worked on the water projects in Calaveras County. Her mother died when Martha was six years old.

On April 20, 1918 John and Martha went to the Yosemite, where he worked for the Yosemite Park Company as guide and packer under Jim Helm who was manager of the horse concession at that time. The winter of 1919 he was caretaker and hotel manager at Glacier Point Mountain House. During the winter of 1920 to the opening of the summer season he managed the Company Stables at Kenneyville.

June 15, 1921 John was appointed permanent park ranger under Chief Ranger Townsley and W. B. Lewis Superintendent. His first assignment was fighting a 30 acre forest fire at Big Meadow with one other ranger and assisted by the Meyers Boys. During 1932-1933 he was in charge of the Camp Grounds. 1934-1936 headquarters duty. On June 22, 1937 he was promoted to district ranger in charge of the Wawona district. In October of 1940 he changed to the Mather ranger district and then in 1944 he changed back to the Wawona District. During 1950 he was in charge of the Tuolumne Meadow District and then back to the Wawona District from 1951 to 19.54 in charge of Wawona District. 1955-1956 he was again assigned to the Tuolumne Meadows District. He retired from the Service October 31, 1956.

As a ranger he received special training at the NPS Fire Training School, the F.B.I. Training and Instruction and all routine training and instruction courses given to seasonal employees to keep up standard procedures and to fully cooperate with Forest Service.

He was district ranger of the Mather District on September 9, 1948 when the Rancheria and Pate Valley Fire started. This was the largest fire in Park records and over 11,000 acres were burned.

During his long service as a Yosemite Park ranger he did many things such as fighting forest fires, handling crews and organizing search for lost people. He was assigned to many important visitors and took them through the Park. These special assignments included ranger service and guide for Stephen T. Mather, Horace M. Albright, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt on their trips to Yosemite and also a number of Senators and Congressmen when they visited the Park.

On retirement he and Martha have turned to trailer life spending their winters in the desert and summers in the mountains and National Parks.

John W. Bingaman 1921 (Courtesy

John W. Bingaman 1921 (Courtesy









My hiking buddy did some exploring while I tried my luck at fishing. It was my last chance to catch a nice brook trout this season because trout season closes November 15. I fished the non icy areas and had one on my first cast but when I reeled it in, I had to get it over the ice that fringed the shore and lost two fish this way. I decided to go over to the other side of the lake where I didn’t need to fiddle with the icy shore but this area was very shallow and the wind started picking up. It darn near blew me over at one point and I got on the ground to not fall over. I was taking my glove off periodically to bait my hook and my hand was getting mighty cold. I decided to quit fishing when my line got tangled up and hunker down behind a big rock to eat my lunch but that wind was just too much.  Can you spot me in the below picture doing my best fishing?

Photo by Gail Gilbert


Photo by Gail Gilbert

We decided to get off that natural wind chute and get lower, hopefully finding a warm and less windy spot. When we passed by the spot where we had spotted the ptarmigan, they were still there. The wind sure didn’t bother them any.

Photo by Gail Gilbert

Photo by Gail Gilbert

Photo by Gail Gilbert

Along the way, we found the remains of this ugly litter that used to be a metallic balloon. We wondered where it had flown from and the date of 2017 shows that it had been out here a year. A few years ago we found another one not far from this exact location. I don’t think people realize that when these balloons are released they can travel very far and when they land they can litter and pollute even the most remote places such as the Yosemite Wilderness that we were in. These balloons pose a threat to many animals. Birds, turtles and other animals commonly mistake balloons for food, which can harm or even kill them. In addition, many animals can become entangled in balloon strings, which can strangle them or hurt their feet and hands. Please do not let them loose.

We never really found that ideal spot along the way and got back to the car a little earlier than normal where I ended up eating my late lunch on the way home. We did have a very special hike up to Bingaman. There is just something special about seeing these lakes as winter starts to get closer. We never know how long we will be able to access this country before the snows hit and Tioga Road closes for the season. We do need that rain and snow very badly though.

I thought you might be interested in hearing how I bundled up for this adventure. Everyone is different is their needs and my way of doing things may not work for you but here we go.

Tops: I wore a base layer of an Icebreaker 200 Bodyfit long sleeve with an Icebreaker 200 zip up long sleeve over that, a Patagonia Nano Puff pullover over that, with a Mountain Hardwear zip-up breathable shell over that.

Bottoms: I wore my Fjallraven Keb pants because we had an uphill hike to the lake and these pants have side zips that I can unzip to give more air to vent me so I don’t get overheated. I wore Icebreaker 200 long johns underneath.

Head: The hat I have was made by Columbia but they don’t make it anymore. You can wear the earflaps up or down and it is lined with their Omni-Heat.

Gloves: I wore Columbia Omni-dry Omni-Heat gloves.

Socks: I wore Darn Tough Hiker Boot full cushion socks with Smartwool liner socks.

Extra Stuff: I carried a wool buff (which I used at Bingaman when the wind was up), 2 more pair of fleece gloves (1 Omni-Heat), an OR earband, rain jacket and pants. I also had a Bivy Bag and small tarp in my daypack.

Dog Hike? No, dogs are not allowed on this trail in Yosemite National Park.

Map, Profile and Doarama:

Bingaman Lake Doarama

Bingaman Lake Topographic Map

Bingaman Lake Profile

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Hiking along Yosemite’s Mono Pass Trail August 15, 2018

Hiking up to Mono Pass Trail’s High Lakes August 25, 2017

Exploring High Lakes Above the Mono Pass Trail July 28, 2016

Hiking and Fishing High Lakes along the Mono Pass Trail August 14, 2013


Bingaman Lake Wikipedia

Pathways: A Story of Trails and Men (1968), by John W. Bingaman

The Ahwahneechees: A Story of the Yosemite Indians (1966) by John W. Bingaman

The above two books by John W. Bingaman were digitized by Dan Anderson, September 2004, from a copy in the UCSD Library. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice is left intact.
—Dan Anderson,

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