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June 26-30, 2009

We go to Yosemite and Mono Lake every few years with a local birding group led by Ted Chandik. We have not gone there for about 5 years, however.

We stay overnight at the West entrance to the park (El Portal, CA), and then meet at the gas station at Crane Flat on the Tioga road at 8 am. We bird around in that area, hoping for a Great Gray Owl (and other high altitude birds), but no Owl this year. After lunch we head toward Mono Lake (Lee Vining, CA), birding at a number of places along the Tioga Road (Tioga Pass is 9943 ft). We arrive in Lee Vining (6800 ft) before dinner time (see Map).

Gasoline was 25 cents per gallon more expensive in El Portal than in the Park or in Lee Vining. Go figure!

We then spend two full days birding around Mono Lake, and the hinterlands on the West side of Hwy 395, which runs along side of Mono Lake and through Lee Vining.

We had 51 birds the first two days, somehow I forgot to do day 3.

Perhaps the best bird was the Thick-billed Fox Sparrow (not a Life Bird), which is a candidate for splitting. There is talk of splitting all of the Fox Sparrows.

I did not see any Life Birds this trip, since it appears that I saw them all on 6/11-13/1994. We were new to birding then, so everything that we saw (almost) was a lifer. Here are a few of the birds for the 2009 trip.

Yosemite: White-headed Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsucker, Mountain Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, (Thick-billed) Fox Sparrow, Lincoln Sparrow

Mono Lake: Wilson's Phalarope, Lewis' Woodpecker, Rock Wren (heard), Sage Thrasher, Green-tailed Towhee, Brewer's Sparrow, Yellow-headed Blackbird

We arrived early at El Portal this year, and drove into the valley of Yosemite, since we had not been there for many, many years. We were shocked at how many people were there. I could not find a parking place to take a picture of Half Dome, but did manage to find spots for pictures of Yosemite and Bridal Veil Falls. I finally got pictures of Half Dome from the Tioga Road.

I could not believe how many people were climbing Half Dome. The cable was full, and a lot of people were standing on top (see picture, only 10 power; my scope had more power, but I forgot my camera adapter). Over 50 years ago when Marion and I climbed Half Dome, we were the only two people on the mountain. Times have changed!

Climbing Half Dome is not for the faint of heart. It is about 15 miles round trip, or 11-12 hours. From the valley (4000 ft) you hike to Vernal Falls (5044 ft) and climb it, then hike to Nevada Falls (5907 ft) and climb it, and then hike along the Merced River, and then up into the woods to get to the foot of open rock on the back side of Half Dome. There you find a cable suspended on metal posts imbedded in the rock that you use to pull yourself up with. The top is at 8836 ft. Coming down, my feet sipped out from under me, and had it not been for the cable I would not be writing this. We did not do it all in one day. We carried our camping stuff with us, and left it at the base of Half Dome. After our climb we camped, and returned to the valley the next day. Isn't youth wonderful!

Here are a few pictures.


Trip Map

Lookout from El Portal

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Half Dome from Tioga Road

Half Dome from Tioga Road

Bridal Veil Falls

Tufa Towers in Mono Lake

Tufa Towers in Mono Lake

Tufa Towers in Mono Lake

Alkali Flies Along Mono Lake

Inland Lake from Mono Lake

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