Fresh snow was calling and the best place I knew of to view snow covered peaks was in the Tioga Pass area. I wasn’t too sure about how much snow was up there, but our plan was to head up to Gardisky Lake then hike up to Tioga Peak to see the view. We had the snow and we had those views!
Distance: 3.3 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Elevational Range: 9,732′ to 10,960′
Date: October 20, 2015
Topographic Quad Maps: Falls Ridge, June Lake
Tioga Road had closed for a short time while the storm passed through and as we headed east, we caught our first views of the new Tioga Pass area snow.
As we passed Tioga Lake, I saw some beautiful reflections bordered by snow covered mountains and made Steve turn around and head back. I just had to have a closer look. Wow!
Mono County’s website showed that Saddlebag Lake Rd. was open but I wasn’t really sure until we got there if it was still open. We lucked out and were able to drive up to the Gardisky Lake Trailhead. To be honest, I was surprised at how much snow covered the trail at this lower elevation of 9,451′. Gardisky Lake is at 10,502′ and Tioga Peak is at 11,520′ elevation.
The hike up to Gardisky Lake is a short one, but a bit of an uphill climb. It is about 1.6 miles but you gain 746′ in that short distance. We headed up that trail which had fresh corn snow over the top of recent snow. Animal tracks were very easy to pick out and we followed coyote, fox and hare tracks up the trail. As we made our way above the tree line, I could see the beautiful, wide open mountains that featured Mount Conness which towers over this area at 12,590′.
Once the trail started to get closer to the creek, I knew this uphill climb would soon level off some and we would reach Gardisky Lake soon. After we reached Gardisky Lake, we walked along the north side.
It is said that in 1932, Mrs. Everett Spuller named Gardisky Lake after Albert J. Gardisky, a miner who had come to the area around 1914. He had built a cabin at what later became the Tioga Pass Resort that year, later adding a store, lodge and cabins for rent. He lived at the resort called Camp Tioga until 1935, then Lee Vining.
I did a little bit of research on him and discovered that he was born November 1, 1880 in Rochester, New York, his parents were born in Germany. I believe I located his family on records that show that his parents, Charles and Mary immigrated to the United States in 1869.
- On the 1880 census, the Gordiske household includes Charles 39 born Prussia who was a Farm Laborer, wife Mary 39 born New York (parents born Prussia), Fred 7, Charles 3, Frank 2, Albert 6 months and Carrie 4.
- On the 1892 New York census, Charles and Mary’s household includes Freddie 19, Charlie 17, Carrie 16, August 14, Albert 12, Minnie 11, and Mary 7. It says that both Charles and Mary were born in Germany.
- By 1900, mother Mary had died, leaving Charles in the household in New York with sons Frederick 27, August 22, Minnie 19 and Mary 15. So where was Charles in 1900?
- On the 1910 census, there is an Albert J. Gardisky 30 born New York living in Portland, Oregon working as a logger in a lumber camp. I believe this is our man.
- Albert filled out a World War I Draft Card 1917, stating that he lived in Mono County, was a Prospector and his nearest relative was Mrs. Joseph Reis near Rochester, New York. It also stated that he was tall, medium build with Brown eyes and Black hair. I found a Joseph G. Reis with wife of Minnie living in Rochester, New York and that led me to additional information supporting that this Minnie was Albert’s sister.
- I was unable to locate Albert on the 1920 census. I did not find a record of him serving in WWI but he could have been there or possible just plain missed by the census taker. I went page by page through the Mono County census and didn’t find him.
- On the 1930 census, Albert J. Gardisky is shown living in Homer, Mono County, California and has no occupation.
- The California Death Index says that he died in April 3, 1941 in Alameda, California.
It is said that after Albert J. Gardisky’s death, his relatives believed that he had hid his treasure in one of the buildings, so they tore the place apart looking for it. After failing to find anything, they sold Camp Tioga.
Continuing on our adventure, we made our way to the Gardisky Lake outlet where it dropped straight down and we could see Tioga Rd.
We took a look at Tioga Peak to chart a course on how to tackle it. The National Weather Service had modified their forecast that morning before we left and had forecasted a 20% of snow after 1100 but we decided to go for it. As we walked up the mountain, we encountered areas where it was icy and other areas where there were snow drifts 10 inches or so deep. It was about 30 degrees or so and as we headed up, we had about 35 steady winds. We had sufficient layers on and that the cold didn’t bother us. . .except when I took my gloves off to try and snap a picture.
The clouds were starting to lower and turn blacker so we stopped and regrouped. Risk versus gain is one of my favorite sayings. If we continued, fighting the wind, ice and occasionally sinking up to my knees and make it to the top, we would be socked in and wouldn’t be able to see anything. We decided to bail on our plan of climbing Tioga Peak for that day.
We made it back to the car and decided that it would be best if we got back inside the park, just in case this little flurry closed the road on us. We made it back inside just fine.
Next stop was to find a good spot for our late lunch. The wind was back to doing its thing, so we decided to park at Tuolumne Meadows where I ate my peanut butter sandwich and apple. Not a bad view?
Since it was still early, Steve thought it would be fun to cruise through Yosemite, check out the waterfalls since they had started flowing again and check out the fall colors. It was a pretty good idea because it was very nice to see Bridalveil and Yosemite Falls flowing again. The yellow fall colors along the loop were nice but dogwoods hadn’t even begun their show yet. Of course, I am looking forward to a little leaf peeping in the valley when those dogwoods start doing their thing. I never know when this could be my last trip over to Tioga Pass this time of the year. You never know when a good storm can come in and close it down for the winter, so want to get over there as much as I can while I can.