Q (right) sizes up the competition just prior to the grueling 6.5 mile hike up to Lower Young Lake. (Or perhaps he's crushing Keke's head... it's unclear.)

Josh (left), meanwhile, tries (successfully) to contain his excitement.

Designated trip photographer (and official Jr. Iron Chef!) Nick wastes an exposure taking a picture of floppy-haired amateur photographer Andre, who was, incidentally, doing the same.

The hike was hot. (O! How it was hot!) And uphill. (O, again!) But our intrepid band of merry hikers reached their first destination briskly. The lovely Dog Lake would serve as a formidable spot for Coach to recuperate and for the rest to enjoy their first backcountry meal: a luncheon of cheese, crackers, hummus, and delectable summer sausage.

Food was eaten, rocks were thrown, iodine was distributed, and a delightful time was had by all attendees of Colleen's (mandatory-attendance) how-to-poop-in-the-woods seminar.

"Oh my god!!"

Sammy takes a gander at Hao's super-plus-sized backpack. (Note the distance between the shoulder straps of said backpack and Hao's shoulders.) Though the highly-audible and frequent complaints might have suggested otherwise, the giant pack was not filled with rocks and the like, but rather Hao's un-compressed sleeping bag and a few other wilderness essentials.

Oh deer...

Though dry, these high mountain meadows were a welcome site after the brutally steep uphill (upmountain?) climbs. Ah flatness, how did we love thee?!

Further up the hike ("How many more steep parts are there?!?!"), our band paused near what was meant to be another watering hole. The raging torrent of Dingley Creek that appeared on our map turned out to be little more than a couple pools of stagnant brown water.

Regardless, Nalgenes were filled while those with acceptable reserves took the opportunity to go bouldering. Heavy packs made this a particularly challenging endeavor.

Though not nearly as dramatic (or on the back of a quarter) there were plenty of granite domes about. This unnamed ridge served as a dramatic backdrop to the last few uphill miles of the hike.

Mountain-woman extraordinaire Colleen and the illustrious Coach supervise the water collecting operation (note the general lack of water) amidst boulders, grass, and scattered backpacking equipment.

From L to R: A-Rod, Keke, Josh, and Fish, the Commander in Chief (as listed on the official attendance sheet).

At long last! The majestic slabs of Ragged Peak!

(*dramatic horn fanfare*)

Our first-day destination, we camped under this magnificent geological masterpiece for two nights, throwing caution to the wind and disregarding the precariously perched (and much-bigger-than-it-looks-in-the-picture) boulder near the top of the peak.

Despite the unceasing whining about the lack of lake swimming during the hike, Andre was the only one to actually jump in the thing when they got there! (Hao, and a few others were seen to dip their toes in...)

The thin sliver of moon set pretty early on, making night shots nearly impossible. Were it not for the incredibly bright stars, all would have been lost!

Andre managed to find the one constellation he knew and snapped a long-exposure shot. (There's a tree-top in the lower right corner.)

Peacefulness settled in for the night... A light breeze wove it's way through the trees. A bear cub snuggled up to its mother. In the distance, a lone jay chirped "Taps." And the melodious sound of teenage boys and their inter-tent arguments and insults filled the crisp mountain air.

A silhouetted Ragged Peak at night...

...and the next morning.

Noticing the strikingly twisted spiral motif adopted by most of the dead trees in the area, Andre proposed a challenge to find a log whose turns spun the other way 'round. For the most part, the group was hard-pressed to find such a sight!

Except, as luck would have it, in the officially-designated meal-eatin' stump.

Trip-leader HQ: just out of (normal-voice) earshot of the din of the three green pup-tents.

Lower Young Lake was a sight to be seen in itself. What more could the upper lakes offer? Join us now as we ascend to further alpine splendor!

Just up the trail from the campsite, the middle lake offered some striking reflections.

SeewhatImean?!

But that wasn't enough. At least not for Colleen and Andre!

The rest of the gang would have been perfectly content to loaf around camp all day. Nuthin' doin'! Sore legs be damned!! Here, Zane and A-Rod slog along the side of a creek on another uphill death march.

Ragged Peak, once again. (This time from a slightly elevated elevation.)

The Commander in Chief just does it, picking up the pace to catch up to his chiefs of staff on the other side of the lake. A saronged Colleen leads the way.

And... Upper Young Lake!

(*even dramatic-er horn fanfare*)

Damn, what a backdrop! (Rollover the image with your mouse to get a better sense of how big the scenery actually was.)

Upper Young Lake... where meadow-y plants and boulders come to meet!

Not to mention some fantastically clear mountain water.

Colleen and I each lasted about 7/16ths of a second in the chilly water. The boys, on the other hand, managed to make a day of it. I saw a fair bit of shivering, but how these gentlemen managed to stay in as long as they did amazed me.

At the end of a rocky peninsula, an underwater shelf led to this small island in the middle of the lake. At first, only a few, dedicated backpackers made the trip...

...and then a few more...

...before comically high-tailing it out of there. (Note the hunched over "the water's not too cold" pose adopted by the majority.)

Sammy and I decided there were a few too many rocks out of the lake. All the credit for this beaut of a splash goes to Sammy.

The hike out (luckily) was all downhill and much easier than the trip in. The relative ease of conveyance allowed for lively conversation. Though other topics were occasionally touched upon, the majority of this conversation consisted of the finer points of World of Warcraft, a fine topic for a stroll in the park!

Varying degrees of fatigue led to innumerable assertions that the trail distance signs were "full of shit." It was generally agreed upon (by those under the age of 15) that Yosemite Nat'l Park signmakers had very little contact with reality. These last five miles, for example, were "totally more like 13 miles!"

One last group shot as the fellers pause for a sip of lemonade-covered iodine-y water.

Towards the end, the full majesty of Tuolomne meadows came into view. Not as iconic as the Yosemite Valley, but certainly just as awe-inspiring.

(I still can't help but imagine myself biking down the side every time I see one of these smooth granite mounds... though it would terrify me to do so!)

Conveniently fallen rocks lead the way to the final stretch of the path back to Tuolomne Meadows, the campground, and the DVD-equipped coach buses waiting to whisk our nine grizzled young hikers back to the urban sprawl of San Francisco.

And, as with many of life's journeys, our hike ends where it began, under the stoic shadow of Lembert Dome.

(Just what does that little tree on the upper right shoulder think it's doing there?!)

Trip stats:

Distance hiked: 15.88 mi.
Elevation gained: 1653 ft.
Distance hiked according to participants: 17 to 43 mi.
Bears spotted: 2
(Potential lies told about bears spotted: 1)
Moments of silence: a couple
Discussion topics other than W.o.W.: 2-3
Tree-borne tortillas: 1.5
Trails conquered: all in sight!

(Click here for route info.)