The Ottoway Lakes Loop

Ottoway Lakes Loop Trip

This picture was taken back in the days when most Little Yosemite Valley campground camp sites had fire rings. Now there are just a few common fire-rings for everyone to use. Not that keeps those who fail to read the rules from making their own firepits, which the Rangers promptly destroy and perhaps fine the offenders. Anyway, this is close to what you will find in this particular organized campground. This was taken some years ago in the very late fall on one of my many trips through this area. Note the bear box.

Little Yosemite Valley Camp

The Ottoway Lakes Loop, September 2004

Giving the river a wide berth, the trail remained somewhat viewless and only mildly interesting, but when it finally reached the river again, I knew I was nearing the main camp of Little Yosemite Valley. Sure enough, after crossing a small wooden bridge over Sunrise Creek, I noticed a well used use trail going to the river on my left and tents and camps in the trees on the right.

I headed down the trail a ways and passed a large common fire pit. In these camps, individual fire-rings in each camping spot is prohibited, which is a good idea. This campground probably gets a thousand times or more backpacker campers than anywhere else in designated wilderness. Literally hundreds of people a day pass through this area during backpack season, most of them on their way to Half Dome. If everybody in the camp had a fire-ring (most of the time they would be completely unnecessary), there would be a choking pall at all times in the area, and soon all deadfall a pine needles would vanish. I think that in extensive camps like at either end of this valley and at Merced Lake, common fire pits are a very good idea.

After the fire pit I came to the main Half Dome trail, leading to a destination I have been to three times. I cut right and quickly found the famous solar toilet that serves this overly popular area. I again cut right into the camp, mindful of scar I still have on my shin from a previous visit (step carefully over fallen logs in this area at night). I followed the camp trail past many campsites till I nearly reached the back of the camp near Snow Creek (dry).

Ottoway Lakes Loop Trip

Looking up the Merced River towards Cascade Cliffs from near camp.

My new camp for the night was shared with a monster of a tree, the largest of the entire area that I could see, and as large around as some of the largest coastal Redwoods. It is most interesting to have a neighbor that is hundreds of times older than myself. I quickly set up camp, had a bath in the river (no soap naturally), fetched water and chatted with other campers.

(There was one strange sight. Two guys came into the camp next to mine. They were wearing mostly street clothes and one had a huge duffel bag (which he carried on top of his head), while the other was holding a roughly folded up car-camping sleeping bag. One had an Army-like belt with lots of small pouches. The closest thing they had to a backpack was small day-packs. They busily set up their camp (no tent, just a ground-sheet) and made an illegal fire. I talked to the younger of the two and warned him about the consequences of being caught with an illegal fire pit. The next morning, after they had suffered a freezing-butt night with inadequate gear, the younger guy came over to my camp and quizzed me about proper backpack camping gear and other back-country advice, which I gave. I wish him well on his wilderness journey. It seemed I was officially back in 'civilization'.)

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