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Ostrander Lake Hike

How about a hike to a beautiful granite bordered mountain lake? Along the trail there are also spots where you can see great views of Half Dome and the high country.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 12.5 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 7,002′ – 8,625′
Date: May 22, 2013

Highlights: Of course, the biggest highlight was seeing beautiful Ostrander Lake, bordered to the south by a granite ridge. On the first part of the hike we walked through meadows and past streams with beautiful reflections. On the latter part of the trail, there were a couple of spots along the trail that opened up to views of Half Dome and the high country. As a bonus, we saw several varieties of wildflowers. This hike is pretty much flat for the first 2.5 miles but climbs steady after that. There is one stretch of the trail that is known as “Heart Attack Hill”, if that gives you any hints.

Before we headed out for our hike, we tried to check the conditions of the trail to see how much snow was still left on it and the best information we received from the park was to expect 30-40% coverage, so we had our snowshoes with us. We drove about 9 miles up Glacier Point Road to the Ostrander Lake Trailhead Parking on the right side of the road, where there was a restroom. When we reached the parking lot, we saw the packers, working on cleaning out the Ski Hut at Ostrander so we asked them about the trail conditions. They said they had been up there the week before and the trail was clear with maybe one muddy spot. So we ditched those snowshoes and are glad we did because we didn’t need them at all.

I snapped a few picture of the pack string as they left the parking lot for their work at Ostrander that morning. Such beautiful stock!

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We hadn’t gone down the trail too far where a stream parallelled the trail. The water was perfectly calm and the most beautiful reflections could be seen it its clear waters.

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After we left the creek, Gail Gilbert took this picture of me heading up the trail. You can also see one of the ski trail yellow flags high up in the tree.

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Up at one of the view points, we discovered a tree that is utilized for snow measurements. See how high up it is?

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And here is one of those views I was talking about!

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We hadn’t quite reached Ostrander Lake when we saw the pack string heading back down the trail, all loaded up.

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These last two mules didn’t have a load and to me they looked a little sad about that situation.

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Heading down to Ostrander Lake with the Ostrander Ski Hut on the right. The Ostrander Ski Hut is a two story stone structure built in 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps specifically for cross-country skiers. It is operated by the Yosemite Conservancy, a non-profit educational organization in Yosemite National Park.

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Beautiful Ostrander Lake, with the dramatic Horse Ridge bordering the south end of the lake.

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Here is a closer look at Horse Ridge, which juts up about 900 feet above the south end of Ostrander Lake.

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Old logs in and around the lake created very nice reflections and places for fish to hang out. We saw them jump occasionally but since I didn’t bring my fishing rod on this trip, I didn’t land any.

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Ostrander Lake 27

After lunch on a big rock next to the lake, we headed down the trail, pulling off at the other great view spot. A few years ago, my mom hiked this trail with us and had her picture taken in this same exact spot. She had asked me to have a picture taken in that spot for her so my hiking buddy Gail Gilbert took this picture of me.

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Views of Half Dome way out to Tenaya Peak.

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On the way down the trail we came across an area that had quite a diversity in the types of flowers, different types than the ones we usually run across! I was stumped as to what these but I had an expert help me identify them. Joanna Clines, who is the Forest Botanist for the Sierra National Forest identified all of these this trip. Thank you Joanna!!

Pine violet, Viola pinetorum ssp. pinetorum, in the Violet Family (Violaceae)

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Joanna said that this is one of the stickseeds, most likely velvety stickseed (Hackelia velutina), in the Forget-me-not or Borage Family (Boraginaceae). In a month or so she said that the fruits will turn into prickly burrs that stick to your socks.

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This is bitter cherry in the Rose Family (Rosaceae) Prunus emarginata. Joanna says that she has seen it in bloom a lot lately, including in the Park. The flowers will produce bright red berries later on, not good eating for people.

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Lastly, this was a stumper because it wasn’t opened up yet. Joanna said that this is a groundsel, Senecio sp. (not sure which species). It is in the sunflower family (Asteraceae).

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We had a wonderful hike, lunch at Ostrander Lake all by ourselves and were basking in what a wonderful adventure we had as we drove home. Coming down Glacier Point Road, we came across this motorhome that had pulled over into the wrong lane to park on a blind curve. What could be the commotion that would cause someone to do this?

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I asked one of the people who had a camera what the fuss was about. He told me there was a Grizzly Bear down there and he knew it was a Grizzly because of the lighter color of it’s fur. I informed him that it wasn’t a Grizzly but a Black Bear.. Turns out an American Black Bear was the cause of this craziness!

The last Grizzly known to have been killed in Yosemite was shot “about 1895” at Crescent Lake, east of Wawona, and the skin of this bear is now in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology of the University of California. The last authentic record of the killing of a grizzly bear for the State of California was in August 1922, at Horse Corral Meadows, Tulare County.

The big reason that I shared the bear incident is to warn folks to use caution when driving in Yosemite National Park. You never know when someone will stop, pull over in a wrong lane or just do something silly to view the wildlife. They are amazing to see so close, but please be careful and use some common sense.
P.S. I was not driving but in the passenger seat, so took these pictures through the window while we were stopped by the traffic.

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