Another version of the evolving reservation system in Yosemite National Park is back this summer, confusing some visitors and frustrating businesses that cater to Yosemite-bound tourists.

One way to avoid hassles — including traffic queues and crowded parking lots — is to get up early, hit the road early, and get into the park before sunrise.

The current version of Yosemite’s reservation system, which began May 20, requires all visitors to have a $2 reservation in addition to the entrance fee during peak hours, which is defined by the Park Service as from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week. The system is intended to help manage congestion as some park attractions are closed this summer for road repairs and upgrades.

The Park Service explains on a webpage for visitors: “If you don’t have a reservation, you can still visit Yosemite. You must arrive at an entry point before 6 a.m.

I decided to test this. I woke up at 2:15 a.m. on Saturday June 4th. I stayed awake, packed my things and started driving from downtown Sonora at 4am. I stopped to refuel and reached the park’s Big Oak Flat entrance on Hwy 120 just after 5am.

The park had already opened Tioga Road on Friday May 27, so I was heading to Lake Tenaya.

Lake Tenaya is a natural alpine body of water. Scientists say it was carved out by the Tenaya Glacier during the Tioga glaciation, which peaked 15,000 to 20,000 years ago.

The Tenaya Glacier extended from the huge Tuolumne Icefield at Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley.

A new parking lot for the Sunrise Lakes trailhead that leads to Clouds Rest had lots of empty spaces. At 6:20 a.m. I was parked and walking. It was chilly in the 40s, with cloud cover and patches of snow clinging to the glacier-polished rock slopes of Tenaya Peak. Sunlight filtered through clouds and reflected light turned the melting snow waters of Lake Tenaya into various shades, ranging from transparent and turquoise to hard slate and cold steel.

Tenaya Lake and Tenaya Peak are named after a chief of the Ahwahnechee people who were driven from Yosemite Valley by the Mariposa Battalion. The lake is literally just off Tioga Road so sometimes it can feel crowded. That day, thanks in part to the cool, cloudy conditions and the chance of rain, there were groups heading towards Clouds Rest from the west end of the lake, and few people at the lake itself.

I walked east and counterclockwise around the lake, initially under Tenaya Peak, across from Polly Dome and Pywiack Dome. Pie-we-ack was the Ahwahnechee name for Tenaya, “the lake of shining rocks”. Language historians say that Py-we-ack also means “glittering rocks,” which natives used for both Tenaya Creek and Tenaya Lake, because of all the prominent granite domes and polished granite surfaces. by glaciers in the Upper Tenaya Basin.

Lake Tenaya is 8,150 feet above sea level and I could smell it. The summit of Tenaya Peak towered above at 10,300 feet. Polly Dome’s summit is 9,800 feet, a thousand feet higher than its neighbour, the 8,800-foot Pywiack Dome. To the northwest I could see Mount Hoffman 10,855 feet, also with patches of snow high on its rocky slopes.

Tenaya Creek, which flows from Lower Cathedral Lake above Pywiack Dome, was too wide and too deep to cross where it crosses the wetland and east beach into Tenaya Lake. I found a downed tree trunk to cross and continued to Polly Dome, where a pair of climbers were beginning a roped route.

Beyond Polly Dome and near the western end of the lake, I came to another wet spot on the shore with patches of alpine laurel, flowering shrubs with intense magenta pink flowers. Scientists say the alpine laurel is poisonous, can be fatal to humans if eaten, and the honey created by bees that obtain nectar and pollen from alpine laurel flowers can be poisonous.

Alpine laurel, also known as swamp laurel, grows in wet grasslands and bogs from Alaska and the Yukon east to British Columbia and Colorado, and in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada.

Did two laps around Lake Tenaya before 11am. I had to take my boots and socks off to cross Tenaya Creek, where it flows out the west end of Tenaya Lake. Periods of light rain brought splashes to the surface of the lake on a few occasions. The sun came out once. The winds off the lake were cold, especially on the east end. It stayed cool in the 40s and 50s the whole time I was up there.

Saw two park rangers at one point. They were talking to a group of men in waders trying to fly-fish in the windswept shallows off the east beach.

The trail around Lake Tenaya is only three miles long, but it’s the largest natural lake in Yosemite National Park. Hetch Hetchy and Eleanor in northwest Yosemite are larger bodies of water, but they are not natural lakes. These are artificial reservoirs.

Later that day, leaving Yosemite as I came on Highway 120, guards at the Big Oak Flat exit stand ordered people leaving the park to pass without stopping. No one with the park asked me about reservations or fees all day.

Reporter’s Note: Before I started working for newspapers in the early 1990s, I spent seven years with VisionQuest and Outward Bound as a paid, certified wilderness instructor and emergency medical technician responsible for groups of adolescent delinquents, children sentenced by the court and Cuban adults. refugees. I’m in my early 60s and anyone who walks well on their own can follow me.