Eyes on the Trail

posted Sep 25, 2013, 11:12 AM by Paul Wagner
Atop another rise...and you can see Mono Lake in the background
The scenery in the Sierra is spectacular, and we never get tired of seeing new mountains, new views, and new areas.  It seems that every time we hit the trail, we see new visions of beauty--some vast landscapes, and some that are much more intimate.  It's like walking through one of the great art museums of the world, mile after mile.
But some trails are different. 
When the trail goes steeply uphill, we always find plenty of reasons to stop and enjoy the view--and catch our breath at the same time.  Pant, pant, gasp, wheeze....Look at that mountain over there!  gasp, wheeze. 
The photo at right is a shot from the Bloody Canyon trail up to Mono Pass...which climbs steeply up from Walker Lake.  It was a great opportunity to take a breather and catch a photo.
Shepherd's Crest. ©http://backpackthesierra.com
It's different when we're in a dense forest.  On those trails, we often have to keep our eyes open for a break in the trees to catch a sight of the surrounding territory.  That's why those meadows can be so wonderful--they open up vistas of the peaks that we're missing as we walk in the woods.
The photo at left is a shot of Shepherd's Crest from Virginia Canyon, taken from a nice meadow along the trail. 
But along some trails, sightseeing is just plain hard.  The trail may be steep, or filled with rough rocks, or along the edge of a cliff that requires you to keep your eyes carefully trained on the trail itself. 
We hiked one trail this summer that really met this description:  Virginia Lakes over Virginia Lakes Pass to Summit Lake, on the east side of the Sierra in the northern section of Yosemite National Park. 
It's a steep trail, and it runs through some spectacular country.  But it is also quite rough, and every step requires at least some attention.  If you don't make a conscious effort, you can hike the whole trail staring at your feet, and never seeing the sights of this amazing area. 
We stopped, from time to time, as we hiked down the switchbacks that mark this route, to take a photo and enjoy the view.  An amazing day.
But on the fifth day of our trip, as we hiked back up the switchbacks to get over the pass and down to our car, we stopped a lot more often.  Somehow, the photos ops seemed better in this direction. 
Gasp, wheeze.
            The trail over Virginia Lakes Pass. 
Summit Lake and Virginia Peak in the background.