Saturday, August 28, 2010

"What are Men to Rocks and Mountains?"

August 23, 2010 - Late summer in the Sierras.  Paul and I spent a weekend hiking with old friends, while Peter stayed home and guarded the cats.

Paul at May Lake, Yosemite - a most peaceful place!

We drove up to visit our friends Mike and Eleanor who were staying in Mammoth (300 miles, 5 hours north of Los Angeles), and next day went on one of the best hikes in the region, the Saddlebag Lake Loop Trail in the Twenty Lakes Basin.  This is reached by turning off main highway 395, and driving ten miles on the spectacular mountainous Tioga Pass Road, to Saddlebag Lake, a few miles east of Yosemite.

Boat ferry on Saddlebag Lake

At Saddlebag Lake, we took the short boat ferry ride across the lake.  It's a beautiful ten minute ride, and costs $11 return; you book it at the Saddlebag Resort (where they bake fabulous berry pies and make sun-brewed iced tea) and reserve your ride back.  You can walk to the far end of the lake, but it adds a mile or so walk on shale. 

The start of the trail

The loop trail winds past approximately ten of the basin's Twenty Lakes, and is extremely wild and beautiful.  It's a well marked trail, easy to follow and not too steep, though you are at 10,000 feet elevation the whole time, which makes any hiking more difficult! 

The first lake, Shamrock

A steep shale chute down to Helen Lake, filled with yellow monkey flowers

Paul at the chute, which had some of last winter's snow, still there in August.

White alpine columbine

Me and Paul

At this ridge above Helen Lake, we took a detour to look at the overlook into Lundy Canyon (a beautiful place to hike in fall because of the golden aspens).  Can you see Paul, Eleanor and Mike on the ridge?   You can click to see this, or any of the pictures full size.

Beautiful flowers by the lake

Leelee on the trail

Sierra Primroses - first time I've ever seen this flower

A variety of paintbrush called Indian pinks

Greenstone Lake, almost back to the start of the trail and the boat landing.

The next day, Mike and Eleanor hiked to the Conness Lakes, beautiful, pristine, high altitude lakes above the Saddlebag Loop trail, but Paul and I, out-of-shape city dwellers from sea level, wanted to do something easier.  So we had a lovely drive (about 20 miles) into Yosemite, to the May Lake trail.  That's only a mile and a half easy hike, though with about 500 feet elevation gain to 9,250 feet, which took us 45 minutes.  There's a High Sierra camp at May Lake, and our original plan had been to spend a night there, but we couldn't get reservations, so we did it just as an easy day hike.

Paul at May Lake, Yosemite

The day was perfect, temperature in the 60s, and we lounged by the lake for a long, relaxing time.  Then, when we were rested, we climbed the ridge above the lake, to the lovely meadow below Mt. Hoffman.  Many people use this trail to climb Mt. Hoffman, but getting to the meadow was enough for us.  Some years there are beautiful black and white striped gentians there, but the summer was so late this year, they weren't blooming yet.

Me at May Lake, Yosemite

Mt. Hoffman, over the meadow above May Lake

On the way back, I saw a ptarmigan. 

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