Lembert Dome Hike

lembert-dome-by-jeff-kreiderThis hike is one of the tamer of the park, but it will still take some energy, though. It starts off in the high country just east of the Tuolumne Meadows. The trailhead is at the parking area just off of Tioga Road. I took it in May, 2004 shortly after the Tioga Pass opened that year. I started the hike about 7 AM and it was 32°.

The hike starts off pretty flat (but, still, it’s at the 8600 foot elevation and has an elevation gain of 870 feet). As it heads north, it forks off to the left toward the Stables. Continuing on, another fork will take you to Dog Lake. Taking the right fork, the hike goes around the back of the dome and then comes up on the far side of the Dome. The back side was pretty mushy and even slushy, because there was still snow on the ground. I call the back “the dark side” and it is a completely different looking rock. There is (or was at that time) a small pond of snow melt which “creeks” off and becomes part of the Tuolumne River to the west. About a mile and a half from the start, a trail to the right takes you up the back side of the dome. From there it is a gentle rise to the top (as seems obvious from the photo).

From the top there is an unobstructed view of Tuolumne Meadows and surroundings. Off to the south (maybe a bit west of south), Cathedral Peaks are visible. Leave the dome the way you came up and continue around the back. You’ll eventually hit Tioga Road. The trail actually crosses the road and continues down a bit near Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, but turns west (away) from it and follows a trail past the Wilderness Center and then backup to Tioga Road just across the road from the Parking area and the trailhead. I just took the road back. My objective was to see the view from the top. Once that was done, I wanted to move on as quickly as possible.

The hike, depending on who you like to believe, is between 2.8 and 3.7 miles in a loop. It shouldn’t take much more than 3 hrs, if that. I did it when it was wet and slushy, so I took it kind of gingerly. Later in the season, you’d be able beat feet pretty quickly. Would I do it again? Well, I don’t know. Actually, I did a few years later, when I took my son and grandson thru the park. I may again, if someone else would like to see it. But I have no intention of doing it alone. The views were nice, but all and all, it didn’t exactly “blow my skirt up,” if you know what I mean.

Probably more interesting than the hike itself is the man after whom the dome was named. John Baptiste Lembert settled in Tuolumne Meadows in 1882. He didn’t have a lot to do with Yosemite’s growth or history, other than the fact he was there and was remembered quite fondly by William E. Colby, former Sierra Club Secretary (1900). He was a colorful old hermit whom Colby grew to know in the summer of 1894 while camping in Tuolumne Meadows. Lembert homesteaded 160 acres and built a cabin in Soda Springs covering two or three of the springs. He eked out a living raising angora goats for a while, but lost them in a severe winter. Then he sustained a living by collecting butterflies and other artifacts which he sold to museums.

Colby recalls him as quite fanciful. He told of a woman he knew down in the valley with whom he “had vainly courted” but, in his fantasy, married and when she “fell in disfavor” he turned her into a tree, which could be seen growing on the dome across the way from his cabin and had the shape of a hen. He said this was because he was a henpecked husband. That dome is now called Lembert Dome. Originally, it was called Soda Springs Dome on maps until 1879. John Muir had called it Glacier Rock.

Lembert was murdered in his cabin in the winter of 1897-98, maybe for his “riches” from the museums or, more possibly, in revenge by local Native Americans for his pillage of their burial grounds.

[1] Jean (John) Baptiste Lembert – Personal Memories by William E Colby, Yosemite Nature Notes of September 1949 and see also Yosemite Name Places, Peter Browning, Greate West Books, c2005 2nd edition, page 79-80