Our journey down the John Muir Trail, name dropping all the way, continues this week.
Here we go with part 4.
Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River. The Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River is a short tributary that runs north of the John Muir Trail and parallel to it. If you stopped at the Tuolumne Lodge, when you return to the trail (from the lodge parking lot) the first bridge you cross spans the Dana Fork. The fork, as well as Mount Dana and Dana Meadows, was named for James Dwight Dana, an eminent Yale geologist who did his most famous work farther north around Mount Shasta, and – of interest to current and former kamaaina, like me – Hawaiian volcanoes. I could find no evidence that Dana ever visited Yosemite, but then I’m quite sure he never visited either the Moon or Mars, and he has a ridge on the former and a crater on the latter named for him.
Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. Staying on the theme of famous geologists, the Lyell Fork, and Mount Lyell, are named for Sir Charles Lyell – a Scot who was a friend of Charles Darwin and was widely recognized as one of the most accomplished European geologists of his time. Mount Lyell is the tallest peak within the confines of Yosemite National Park, but more than a 1,000 feet lower than the highest point on the John Muir Trail.
Kuna Crest & Kuna Creek. The crest was named in 1883 by Willard D. Johnson (another geologist) and comes from a Numic word meaning fire.
Potter Point. Potter Point is just north of Amelia Earhart Peak and rises to 10,732 feet. It is named for Dr. Charles Potter, a physician from Boston and an Army doctor. It was named in 1909 by the US Geological Survey.
Donohue Pass. You’ll likely reach Donohue Pass on the third, fourth or fifth day, if you begin at Happy Isles. The pass is about thirty-seven miles from the northern trailhead, and is just tough enough to give you a confidence boost, while at the same time easing you into this whole “pass-climbing” routine.
The sense of accomplishment comes from a couple of geographical coincidences: first, at the top of Donohue you leave Yosemite National Park—after starting in the valley you will have walked all the way out. Second, on the way up you have some fabulous views of Lyell Canyon. For the first time during the hike you’ll get a sense of how FAR you’re walking, as it appears on the ground. It’s pretty impressive, particularly to those who are new to backpacking.
Lieutenant N. F. McClure, of the 5th U.S. Cavalry (a unit that still serves today) named Donohue Pass after a sergeant in his unit. There is little known about Sergeant Donohue, but Lieutenant McClure’s fame (and terrain features named by him) stretch throughout the Sierra Nevada.
Good hiking, Ray