Yosemite: Upper Pines and May Lake

We had planned on a family camp-out to Upper Pines in Yosemite, but my oldest daughter was invited to a sleepover/birthday party on the same weekend. Since this was one of her best friends, we decided to let her go to the party. So we headed towards Yosemite, minus one child. At least we could have some family time with our youngest and no fighting!

Even in Yosemite, Sarah doesn’t like to wear shoes!

Sarah at Upper Pines Campground

When I started having problems with my knees in 2005/2006, I thought I’d like to take the family to hike to May Lake after my knees were replaced. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Both of my knees are now permanently fused straight. But I still thought I could make it the 1.2 miles to the lake, but that morning I started doubting. The voice of reason (Stacy) told me I better go and try or she’d kill me!

So we drove the 1.5 hour trip up to the May Lake trailhead and started the hike at 1pm. I originally thought of using my tripod to use as a trekking pole, but decided at the last minute to pack light. I brought my camera (5D) and the 70-200 mm lens. No flash, no tripod, and no extra lenses. Stacy carried the water.

Sarah on a "Big Wall" Climb

It was pay back for all of the times when Stacy and I used to backpack. I had a faster pace back then and every time I stopped to take my breath, Stacy would catch up….and I’d start walking again. Well, she did it to me on this trip, except she had all of the water. I had to tell her to stop so I could get a drink.

Stacy and Sarah on the trail

We made it! It took about 1.5 hours to hike the 1.2 miles, but I made it.

Sarah at May Lake

May Lake

Sarah and I at May Lake

For the trip down, I packed the camera and carried the water and focused my attention on getting down! About half way down, I gave Stacy the keys so they could just hike down at their own pace.

We spent an hour at the lake and I got back at 6pm. Not sure if I’ll ever go backpacking again, mainly because of time/weight, but I’m now trying to think of my next hike. Thinking about Alpine Lake on the way to Mount Conness….

Mike Matenkosky

Mike is a Central Valley California landscape and nature photographer whose subjects include scenes from Merced County, Yosemite, SeKi, and the eastern Sierra. He is currently living in Atwater, CA.

The text and photographs are © Copyright Mike Matenkosky (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from Mike Matenkosky.

15 Comments


  1. Mike, you are awesome, you really make the meaning of keep on trying mean something. these of course are all beautiful pictures, but this blog is much more than that. You are and inspiration to everyone who faces any kinds of challenges.. Great Job. And do plan the next hike, you can do it… We love and miss you all.

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  2. Mike, this is the best and most important blog entry I’ve seen to date. You amaze me. Your strength must come from God, because I can’t imagine any man being able to get you there and back in once piece, let alone to talk about doing it again. Praise be to God… Holy, Holy, Holy… May He continue to bless you with strength and will to do what, at times, must seem nigh unto impossible.

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  3. I have been following you on Facebook, and your strength and spirit are so inspiring! After just finishing my treatment for cancer (three weeks ago), at times I am feeling frustrated about being so tired, but I think about your story and remind myself I have nothing to complain about…to quit whining, get off my duff, and get out there and shoot! THANK YOU for sharing your beautiful work and for being such an inspiration!

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  4. Awesome pictues Mike. So glad you’re doing well enough to do some hiking.

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  5. @Jana – I still complain, ask my wife! But she sets me straight…LOL!!

    Thanks everybody, it means a lot to me. 🙂

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  6. You will never cease to amaze me, Mike… that’s a great post and, as usual, gorgeous pix… thanks for sharing! And my best to Stacy and the kids…

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  7. Never doubt your capacity, Mike! The more you do the more you will be capable of doing. I’m so proud of you, and only wish we could be closer to you. We’re looking forward to our next visit! Thanks for keeping us posted.

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  8. Going way back to our days in Indian Guides, I always knew you had a great love of God’s Outdoors. It was just natural for you to be outside, in the woods, doing what I knew you really enjoyed. And with this trip, I can see that love of Life coming back stronger than ever…….Yes, it’s tough……..but the joy is found in the Journey, and the discoveries we all make during that Journey….. that’s what makes us who we are. When we reach our Destination, that simply means that it’s time to start another Journey.

    And so it is…….as you finished this Journey……..and reflect on what it has meant to so many of your Family and Friends, I know you well enough to realize that this was simply the first of what can only be described as, “The Rest Of Your Life”.

    Our love continues with you and the Family, as you begin to really get back to God’s Wonderful Outdoors.

    Love Ya !!

    Mom ‘n Dad

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  9. Hey Mike — There’s alot to be said about having heart. And you’ve certainly got that! — If you’re looking for a trekking partner, say the word.

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  10. Mike,
    Great entry. I love all the smiles. Never doubt what you can do. With God at your side, all things are possible. Take care my old roommate. I look forward to read about your next adventure.

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  11. Mike these pictures are totally AWESOME! You are a inspiration to us all…When I start to complain about my disabilities, I can now think of you(and your beautiful family)and be inspired to tread on! I love to read Guideposts stories, and yours is one of my favorites. May God continue to give you strength throughout this beautiful journey called LIFE…

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  12. I’ve been toying with the idea of taking nature photos – possibly for sale or donation for use by others – but never considered myself as having enough knowledge of the art. Mike, you just DID it. I guess I can follow that lead also. Thanks for the great photos, and the example you set for others like me.

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  13. Hi, Mike
    I really enjoyed reading your story Into the Beauty, so glad you did’nt give up on our purpose in life. Sometimes it take some longer than other but we know it can be done. You have inspired me this morning as read your story. May God Bless you on this day for I truly thank God for allowing me to read this story. As I begin to read about the different birds it was if I was there, so the point is never give up on yourself. Just take one day and one step at a time.

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