“This I must say is the first time I’ve been to church in California,” said John Muir when he traveled the first time to the Cathedral Lakes. And for us turned out to be the same. The Cathedral Lakes trail follows the famous John Muir Trail, a long and winding trail that starts in Mount Whitney, about 200 miles south of the Yosemite Valley. It is a very popular trail, as I was to find out from the many mountaineers I met on the road all carrying sleeping bags and several light pads on their large backpacks. The trail passes peaks and valleys and, based on the chats I had with several of the hikers, it require 15 to 25 days to walk its entirety, based on the endurance and pace of the hikers.
For us it was almost a religious experience to walk in the steps of John Muir even for about 11 miles RT going to the two Cathedral Lakes, two crystal mirrors of waters reflecting the majestic peak that is towering upon you for almost the entire trail. When you enter the trail, you are actually entering the last 21 miles leg of the John Muir Trail that would bring you to the heart of the Yosemite Valley.
The spectacular forest that surrounded us has towering trees that seem never ending, leaving a patch of sky to be seen through their canopy. Fire was always a presence in that forest and many trees are burnt and some fell one of top of the others, balancing incredible in the air on top of the forest in an act that you may be sure that it will end at the first pale of wind.
The path divides, going first to the upper Cathedral Lake, a splash of blue waters reflecting the majestic white peak on whose surface ducklings were cheerfully diving for food. When you reach this point you realize that the hike that is rated at 4-6 hours, it is not about the hike itself that may not take more than 2.5 hours RT if you walk reasonably fast, but it includes the the time that you may spend at the lake, its beauty being spellbinding. From there you walk back to the Lower Lake, surrounded like in an amphitheater by white rock that invites you for a circumambulation around the lake with no religious purpose.
And if the 11 miles RT were not enough we jumped in the car and drove to another path that brought us to another beautiful lake in sunset, Dog Lake, a short trail of only 3 mile RT. …Maybe we should have started early and put a larger effort and walk all the way the all 21 miles to the Yosemite Valley instead of splitting the day to go to different locations and in this way we may have been closer to John Muir’s spirit…