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Tuolumne Meadows, Little Devil’s Postpile, and Glen Aulin Hike

Did you know that we have our very own mini version of Devil’s Postpile at Yosemite? We visited what is known as Little Devil’s Postpile on our hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin. The morning reflections in the Tuolumne River, water holes, mud holes and pot holes were magnificent!

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 12 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 7,866′ – 8,660′
Date: May 30, 2013

Highlights: The hike along the Tuolumne River is a gorgeous one with early morning reflections in the river and just about any other water that is around at the time. On this hike, we still had some water holes and pot holes in the rocks that created gorgeous reflections. Little Devil’s Postpile is not far off the trail and a unique geologic feature of Yosemite.

There are several ways that you can hike to Glen Aulin. On this hike, we stopped at the day-use-only parking lot at the beginning of the road for a bathroom stop, which is where the Dog Lake trail begins. We then drove north on the dirt road to where the gate is across the dirt road and the bear boxes are located. We parked, stashed our snacks for after the hike and our other items that bears could like in the bear box. We then headed north and up the dirt road.

As we started down the trail, we looked back at great views of Cathedral and Unicorn Peaks and several of the Domes.

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I couldn’t get enough of the reflections in the water holes along the trail on this early morning.

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We weren’t sure how deep some of the water crossings on this hike would be and had brought our water shoes to use if needed. We came to our first crossing and utilized a log to get over the creek. The trekking poles helped us keep our balance while slowly walking across the log. We all made it just fine!

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One of the reasons for this hike was to learn first hand about some of the geology of the area. Before this hike, I thought I was pretty smart to tell you that this rock was granite. Turns out there are about a million different kinds of granite. Well, maybe not a million but many, many different kinds, and Yosemite is the home to many of these sorts of granite called Granodiorites.

On this hike we saw granite that had been polished smooth and we saw granite that had stuff inside it, such as the rock in this picture does. Intrusions is the official name that geologists give for the stuff inside the granite and it got there 100 million years ago or so when this rock we see today was magma or molten material. How fast the rocks cooled had a lot to do with their appearances and differences they have experienced in their years of weathering and erosion.

As we hiked along the Tuolumne River we found Cathedral Peak Granite which is filled with large crystals of minerals called feldspars. These crystals look like little rocks embedded in big rocks.

Tuolumne Meadows 12Over the millions of years, the rocks and soil that was once on top of this granite has eroded away. And to make things complicated, about 25 million years ago, this area started to be uplifted and tilted, ultimately creating what we now know as the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. About 10 million years ago, volcanic lava flows, mudflows and streams started cutting through this area.

About 2-3 millions years ago, the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range had risen high enough for glaciers and icefields to form periodically along it’s crest and into its valleys. These glaciers moved an unimaginable amount of rubble and that scoured out the Yosemite area. A lot of this rubble headed down the rivers into the Central Valley but you can still see alot of what was left all around the Park.

I am not that knowledgeable about geology but one of my hiking companions on this hike is and helped make this hike an educational one. Yosemite National Park has put together a wonderful video explaining granite. I highly recommend this YouTube Video:

After our geology lesson, we headed up the trail where we spotted this Marmot watching a deer walk by.

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Taking in the views along the trail.

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Photo of me by the Tuolumne River by Gail Gilbert.

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I took this panorama where the Tuolumne River is the widest and before it starts its set of falls.

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We spotted some flowers blooming and plants awakening from their winter nap. Phlox was fairly common along the trail, ranging from white to a pinkish color, but we also spotted red sierra onion with its white pointy tepals or “petals” with reddish stripes down the center.

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Although the waters of the Tuolumne River look peaceful above the bridge, we could hear the roar of Tuolumne Falls below us. As we walked down the trail, we could see, feel and hear the tremendous power of the river heading downhill. I tried to give you a feel of that through this short video:

We crossed this beautiful bridge, admiring the Tuolumne River.

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After we crossed the bridge, we headed upriver on a trail that is locally known as the “Fisherman’s Trail” about 2 tenths of a mile and Little Devil’s Postpile revealed itself to us. This outcropping of volcanic rocks is jointed in appearance and is a form of basalt called andesite. It is said to be over 8 million years old but still remains a bit of Yosemite mystery on exactly how and when it formed and survived all of that glacial movement in the valley.

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Rick excitingly crawled all over the darker rock, taking out his ocular to look closer at the rocks.

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Tuolumne Meadows 32In some ways, Little Devil’s Postpile looked like something from another planet and from far away, it looked like it was devoid of life. If you looked closer your could see little pockets of small vegetation tucked inside little areas of the rocks.

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We headed down the trail toward Glen Aulin, past the area of the river known as Tuolumne Falls.

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Before we made it to Glen Aulin, we found an area where corn lilies (Veratrum californicum) had started pop up but they weren’t in bloom yet. You may know the corn lily by its common name of skunk cabbage or false hellebore. These plants were only a foot tall or so but they can grow as tall as 6 feet or so. This plant is also poisonous to livestock.

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We had a wonderful lunch spot at the base of the falls at Glen Aulin. The Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp is also located at this site.

I did a little research to discover that the original camp was located in a valley just downstream from the present location. That valley was named by James McCormick, a USGS topographer, in 1913. The correct Gaelic spelling is Glean Alainn, for ‘beautiful valley or glen’, but McCormick spelled it differently to help with our pronunciation.

In 1923 Glen Aulin was chosen as a likely spot to add a hikers’ camp and the Yosemite National Park Company built the camp in 1927. Mosquitoes proved to be too annoying and the camp moved to its present site alongside the White Cascade. The original rate was a dollar a day and a dollar per meal.

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Today, the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp has 8 cabins with a total occupancy of 32 guests. For more information on lodging and rates at the 5 High Sierra Camps, you can go to http://www.yosemitepark.com/high-sierra-camps.aspx

We had a very nice hike on a day that was a bit cooler with a breeze. That breeze helped keep the mosquitoes off of us but I did spray down. I prefer to do this hike when it is cooler because it can be a bit warm when we climb that trail in the afternoon.

You don’t have to hike all the way down to Glen Aulin to see some beautiful country. A hike along the upper portions of the river would be classified as easy and quite lovely.

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Favorite Hikes of the Sierra Seniors Book, Jim Putman, July 2010


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