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July through September 2015

When the leaves fall Post date: Sep 25, 2015 4:09:02 PM It's now officially autumn, and that means that backpacking in the Sierra is a slightly different ballgame. First of all, the days are actually shorter, and you really notice this on the trail. We found ourselves climbing into our sleeping bags at night when it was dark, and then checking our watches to find out that it wasn't quite 8 o'clock yet.

It made for some nice long snoozes, especially since the sun didn't come up behind the peaks until after 7 a.m. When was the last time you spent 10 hours in bed just relaxing?

The fall colors are spectacular in the Sierra, that's for sure. But don't be misled by all this warm sunny weather. It can get cold at night, and a storm can change your outlook overnight. Make sure you check the forecast before you head out on any trips. And this time of year, it's always a good idea to have a shortcut planned out in case you need to escape some nasty weather.

Getting hit by a snowstorm when you are two days from the trailhead is not as much fun as it sounds.

We're in the news again Post date: Sep 22, 2015 6:08:19 PM It IS dry in the Sierra right now!

Brian Lada of Accuweather dropped us a note about hiking in the Sierra during this deep drought. We were happy to send him some info, and pleased that he included it in his national syndicated story!

At Long Last, Island Lake! Post date: Sep 21, 2015 9:45:38 PM If you are a long-time reader of our blog, you'll know that we've made many attempts to hike to Island Lake in the Desolation Wilderness. We chose to cancel on our first attempt because of a nasty storm. Then P got sick right before we were to go the second time. Both times, we lost the $26 reservation fee via The third time we got that fee back, because the trip was cancelled by the USFS due to heavy smoke and fire danger in the area. And by that time, we were wondering if we were destined to never see Island Lake.

Until this last weekend. It wasn't easy. When P went to to reserve our permit, it told him that there were no more permits for Twin or Island Lakes.

It would take more than that to stop us this time. P had also wanted to camp at Smith Lake...and there were permits for Smith Lake available! The itinerary for our trip then specified the second night at Island Lake, as we were on our way! No traffic accidents, no fires, no running out of gas... Our friend Robin joined us on this trip as we hiked the first day from Wrights Lake up to Grouse, Hemlock, and finally Smith Lake. Parts of this trail are as steep as anything you will hike anywhere, but happily the whole route is only a little over three miles. You gain 1700 feet in those three miles, and at least one mile of the trail is pretty darn flat. The rest goes right up the side of the mountain. And when you drive up from sea level as we did, this part takes a bit of a toll. But it is only three miles.

There are few good campsites at Smith Lake, but we found one perched on the ridge to the north of the lake, and enjoyed the fact that all of the day-hikers left in the late afternoon...and we had the place to ourselves. Very peaceful. And beautiful. The views out over the Central Valley in the evening were incredible.

And worth the climb.

The next day we hiked back down to the junction and then took the fork to Twin Lakes and Island Lake. This is an easier trail, and as always in Desolation, we had plenty of company, including a Boy Scout troop and a couple of charming father and son teams who were out exploring. The route up to Twin Lakes is glorious as it heads up long smooth granite slabs. The views open up, the sun was was a good day for a hike!

Once at Twin Lakes, the trail gets a little less clear, but within a couple of hours we were looking for a campsite at Island Lake---with about the same success as at Smith. But we found a spot on the North shore fairly far along and had a wonderful afternoon wandering around and above the lake. From there the views of Island Lake were worth waiting for--even if it did take us about five years to see them.

On the way home, we hiked out on Sunday morning and met a wildly diverse crowd of day-hikers---everyone from young families to old geezers, from urban walkers to Sierra Club vets, locals to travelers from around the world. We've never seen anything like it on a trail outside of Yosemite. But everyone was in a great well they should have been. Perfect day, lovely hike, and the time to enjoy it all.

And now we can finally cross Island Lake off our list of places we'd like to see....and add it to our list of places we'd like to visit again.

High Sierra Hyatt Post date: Sep 9, 2015 5:20:18 AM We spent Labor Day weekend hiking cross-country to Hyatt Lake in the Emigrant Wilderness--an adventure we're glad we did, but not one that we would recommend without reservation. It involved some basic topo map navigation, a certain amount of real effort, and just enough bushwhacking to keep many people from having a good time on a hike. If you ARE interested in going, we'll include a few tips at the end of this post to help you get past the more challenging parts.

The road to the Bourland Trailhead took us about 45 minutes from Long Barn, but the directions provided by the Stanislaus National Forest office where we got our permit were pretty darn good. And although the road is dirt for the last 8 or 9 miles, there are only two rough spots, in the first couple of miles of 30N16, that should make you slow down and ease over them. The trailhead has room for a few cars, but everyone else just parks alongside the road nearby, and the trail itself here is obvious and easy to follow.

For the first two miles the trail runs up to and then along the ridge--easy walking, although the forest limits your views. Then it drops down over the ridge and starts an easy downhill towards Cherry Creek. The only tricky part here is that there are at least two places where a massive tree has fallen across the trail---but it is not safe to assume the trail continues on the other side. Sometimes it takes a hard right turn away from the tree...

The trail runs down into Cherry Creek just west of a large granite knoll that is the end of the rocky part of the ridge on the topo map. That's it in the photo at right. From here the trail drops pretty quickly, and within half a mile it breaks clear of the forest and opens up onto the massive granite cauldron that is Cherry Creek. The trail here is marked very frequently with cairns--which are completely unnecessary, since it's obvious that the route leads straight down to Cherry Creek. At this time of the year, the creek itself isn't flowing, but there was plenty of water in the isolated granite pools throughout the canyon. We stopped at one for lunch. After lunch, the fun started. We headed up Cherry Creek to follow the large and obvious chute that leads up to the saddle below Hyatt Lake. The route was obvious, but the trail wasn't. We ended up trying to stay above most of the aspen thickets on the canyon floor by climbing the south side of the canyon---but occasionally ran into a cliff or a deep patch of manzanita, alders or aspen that slowed us down. Eventually we ended up in the bottom of the creek right at the foot of the dry waterfall where the chute empties into the canyon. From there a few cairns marked a route up out of the canyon and onto the chute, and the easiest part of the cross-country hiking began. Sure, it was uphill, but we were able to follow ledges and granite slopes all the way to the top of the saddle without any problems.

Once at the saddle, we hiked along the ridge to the northeast until we found a clear set of ledges that would allow us to contour across to the obvious location of Hyatt Lake. In a couple of spots, usually marked by cairns, we had to hike down a short distance to land on another ledge that allowed us to continue our path...and the final one of these led down a very steep 8-10 foot crack into the manzanita right above the creek.

Here is where we went seriously wrong. We hiked up the creek itself to the outlet of the tiny lake just west of Hyatt. It involved some bushwhacking, but we felt pretty good that we were only about 300 yards from Hyatt Lake. But that little lake was a problem. The south shore was full of cliffs that looked impossible to climb. And the north shore was one huge patch of manzanita, alder, dogwood, ferns, and bush chinquapin. How bad could it be? It took us over half an hour to work through the 75 yards to the other end of tiny lake. P eventually had to rock climb a ridge to get through,. M chose the wiser path of taking off her shoes and simply wading through the shallows of the lake. Quite a mess. And in that thicket P lost both his whistle and an empty water bottle from his pack. M lost the water shoes that were strapped on the back. That's M wading in the lake below... From the far side of this little lake, the hike to Hyatt was a piece of cake, and we landed on the nice sandy beach along the western shore. Because of the drought, the lake was quite low, and there was a clear "bathtub" ring around it about four feet high. In fact, if the lake had been full, our nice sandy beach would have been mainly under water.

We set up camp and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring the shores of Hyatt Lake...noting the even larger beach at the other end, as well as a few campsites along the north shore. The south shore is pretty steep--with no obvious campsites there. As evening fell, the lake was simply in the photo at right. So on the way out, decided to find an easier route. Sure, we could have tackled that thicket again, and maybe even found our missing equipment, but just as likely we would have lost more...

So we stayed on the cliffs above the other side of the smaller lake. There was a clear trail in this direction from Hyatt Lake, and we followed it to the far end of the little lake, and beyond. And we didn't see any way down from the cliffs. After wandering around for about twenty minutes, P finally found a route down--more or less across from the steep crack we'd descended to get down to the creek on the other side...and we were good to go. The route contouring back across to the saddle was now familiar territory, and we enjoyed the views of Cherry Canyon here. That's one view at left. We eventually worked our way back down the granite chute to Cherry Canyon. This time we were determined to avoid the manzanita and aspen thickets, and so we crossed the chute directly below that last waterfall. It worked great, and we hiked along the granite ridge on the north side of the creek for a while. When that ridge gave out, we crossed over the creek and headed directly into the forested part of the canyon. Hiking here was a lot easier than on the granite above, and we found our way back to that first deep pool, where we ate lunch again. Along the way, we passed three groups of four hikers each, all headed towards Hyatt Lake.

From the pool it was a stroll in the park back up the granite to the trail, and then back along the trail to the car.

IF YOU GO: There are a couple of key points in this trail that make a big difference,. From that first pool, the best route runs right up the right-hand (southern) side of the creek until you can get into the forest. Once in this grove of larger trees, the hiking is easy. Just where the forest ends, you'll need to push through an aspen thicket to get to the granite above the creek at this point---but stay close to the creek. If you can, cross back over to the north side where possible and then hike the granite ridge up to the chute. But that's not the really important one.

The Really Big Clue: when you downclimb that crack into the creek just below the smaller lake below Hyatt, only hike about 25-40 feet along the southern side of that little creek, then find a route through the manzanita to get up on the cliffs above the southern side of the creek. Once there, it's easy to find a route over the tops of the cliffs to Hyatt Lake. Or you can try to bushwhack through the thickets of manzanita and chinquapin on the other side of that lake. If you do, we'd appreciate it if you would look for P's whistle, our platypus folding bottle, and M's brand new water sandals...sigh.

More importantly, there are at least two other routes to Hyatt Lake. One is to hike to Pingree or Resasco Lake and then follow the canyon down to Hyatt. The other is to hike up the larger Cherry Creek (avoiding the chute we climbed) and then climbing the granite on the backside of the ridge to the northwest of Hyatt Lake. And that route is also possible from Chain Lakes...All of those seem easier than the route we took. But we haven't hiked them. The maps always make the routes seem possible...even when they aren't!

CSERC doing good... Post date: Aug 26, 2015 5:26:06 PM If you love the Sierra and want to do what's best for it, the place to start is with a group of well-informed scientists who have studied the issues for years and can make recommendations based on facts, studies, and research, rather than pure greed or the heat of emotion alone.Happily, that's exactly what the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center does. And they go beyond that, getting involved at an advocacy level with many issues that arise in the complex ecosystems of the Sierra.

The latest (Fall 2015) newsletter from CSERC has really excellent articles on:

>> Plans and efforts to replant the devastation of the Rim Fire in a way that will be truly sustainable and effectively replace the natural ecosystem. CSERC argues for a more diverse and less dense planting system that would re-create the natural ecosystem of the forest, rather than the very dense, intense plantings favored by lumber companies. Among the benefits of the more natural system would be a more sustainable and diverse ecosystem, and better resistance to massive fire damage created by dense, drought intolerant "tree farms."

>> Plans to divert water from the Tuolumne River system during the current drought, which have now become part of longer-term diversion. While CSERC supported the initial steps to avert drought disaster, they are very concerned that such long-term diversion would have a damaging effect to the Central Sierra.

>> A call for more discussion and protection of delicate areas from snowmobile access in the winter. Perhaps most telling in this article is the concern that if snowmobiles are allowed free access to some of the most isolated sectors of the Stanislaus Forest in winter, those areas might no longer be considered for Wilderness protection in the future.

>> CSERC'S role in doing photo surveys of wildlife in the Rim Fire areas--complete with a photo of a American marten and a gray fox climbing a tree!If you like what you see and want to help out, you can donate money or simply volunteer for some of their work projects.

Contact or call 209 586 7440 for more information.

Captain Kirk on El Capitan... Post date: Aug 25, 2015 3:08:27 PM

Thought you might enjoy this trailer from Star'd think after all those years these guys would have learned to act a bit...

Speaking of LeConte... Post date: Jul 31, 2015 6:12:51 PM His family roots were French, so his name was probably pronounced LeCONT...with no final "e."

But there are some other names in the Sierra that can be confusing as well.

We've been listening to an interesting series of lectures on Victorian England, and one of the lectures has been about the key scientists of the age, including Charles Lyell, after whom a few features in Yosemite are named--like the Canyon, the mountain, and the Lyell fork of the Tuolumne River.

But we were surprised to learn that he pronounced his name Li-YELL, with a clear accent on the second syllable. We've always pronounced it, and heard it pronounced as if it were a cotton: Lisle.Now you know. It's Ly-YELL. And he was Scottish.

Loving Kings Canyon Post date: Jul 31, 2015 1:43:13 AM Here's what the sober and scientific Dr. Joseph LeConte, professor of Geology at UC Berkeley, said when he first visited Kings Canyon:

"The trail becomes steeper and rougher, and falls more frequent and more beautiful, and the scenery grander and more impressive, until finally as we approached the summit I could not refrain from screaming with delight."

Gotta love those dry academics, huh?

Thirsty Bear Vault update Post date: Jul 30, 2015 12:53:04 PM Sarah at BearVault was kind enough to respond to our recent questions about water getting into the BearVault during a storm. Here's what she wrote:

There is a small lip on the BearVault housing which prevents a bear’s claw or tooth from getting under the lid during an attack. If the BearVault is almost perfectly upright then during a rain this lip can allow a small “moat” of water to form at the top of the housing. If the storm then passes during the night, the atmospheric pressure gets higher and this forces the water in the “moat” up the threads and into the housing.To prevent this, just tilt the unit slightly during the night so that the water cannot accumulate in that “moat” if it rains- it’s that simple.

Where to eat in Bishop? Post date: Jul 23, 2015 4:33:56 PM We're always looking for somewhere to eat that will be a bit different, and a bit better, than the usual small town trailhead fare. Yeah, we've found good burgers in a few places, and every town has a pizza place, a Mexican place, and at least one BBQ joint...etc.

But our last visit to Bishop gave us another reason to return. Not only was the hiking great, but we found a really nice restaurant there.While the location isn't ideal (it's in a small local shopping center on the road that leads to the North Lake/Sabrina/South Lake trailhead)

Sage Restaurant is a step above the usual small town café. The menu is interesting, with enough dishes that we were tempted to eat there two days in a row. The wine list is reasonable, and has some good choices on it. And the whole feel of the place is more sophisticated and food focused than anything we'd expected--at least, anywhere on 395.

True, if it were in Napa, where we live, we probably wouldn't give it a second thought. But it's not in Napa. It's in Bishop. And if you want a culinary experience in Bishop, it may not only be a good choice---it may be your only option. We were delighted with it. Check it out the next time your are in Bishop: 621 W. Line St. #101 Town & Country Plaza.

On the other hand, we also stopped for lunch at the Cardinal Café in Aspendell. The menu had three choices--a hamburger, a hot dog, and a grilled cheese sandwich. We asked if they had a salad, and the very perky and cute waitress suggested that we could order lettuce, tomato and an onion on the cheese sandwich---and that would be kind of be like a salad.

Well, not really. Oh dear. Luckily, the guy running the store in the other half of the building pointed out that he had a green salad in his cold cases...and we bought one of those. It was green, a little faded, and came with a package of dressing in the box. But we won't go out of our way to eat there again...

Found far off trail... Post date: Jul 22, 2015 2:50:18 PM We hate finding trash in the back country at any time, but we were absolutely depressed to take a hike far from any trail across Humphreys Basin and find all sorts of trash along the way. In one short section we found a rifle shell, a comb, a shoelace, a plastic bag, and a Clif Bar wrapper. All this at least a mile and half from the nearest trail, and given the various stages of decomposition of the items, they were left by more than one person and over a period of time. It's pretty sad...

We've found everything from mylar balloons (too many to count---thanks to birthday parties everywhere) to sweatshirts, a perfect good cooking pot (still in use with us!) toiletries bag with toothbrush and toothpaste, tons of old fishing lures and line, a rainfly for a tent, at least two pairs of hiking boots, a day pack...all of this far from the trailhead.

What's the wildest thing you've ever found? And no, you can't count the "historic" items like old mining equipment and refuse, tin cans from 50 years ago, or a steel cable and bucket from the Hetch-hetchy dam project....

Bear Can Suction: Physics at work Post date: Jul 21, 2015 3:18:41 PM On our recent trip to Mono Pass and Pioneer Basin, we had something happen that really took us by surprise. No, it wasn't the hailstorm that clobbered us right at dusk--although we had hoped we would miss that particular adventure. But it's related to that. The next morning, when we got up and inspected the damage around our campsite from the hailstorm, we were surprised to see about a half an inch of water sloshing around inside our Bearvault.

Huh? The bear can was sitting away from our tent, in a small clearing among some trees, and it was upright the entire time---from before the storm hit to the next morning.So how did all that water get into the can?

All we can imagine is that the small lip on the bear can that sticks out beyond the lid was saturated during the rain and hailstorm, and that the can and its contents were relatively warm from the day's hike. As the contents cooled, they must have created a bit of a vacuum, and if the lip were saturated with water, maybe the vacuum sucked the water standing on the lip up through the threads and into the can. And that continued for some time, because the storm lasted a while, and the really cooled down everything--there was still an inch of hail on the ground when we woke up the next morning.

Anybody got a better explanation?

Exploring Humphreys Basin Post date: Jul 20, 2015 2:54:33 PM After giving the weather a couple of days to settle down, we were back at North Lake to spend four days exploring Humphreys Basin. It’s easy to understand why this is such a popular trailhead. The first half of the climb up to Paiute Pass is through forested slopes along the side of a creek. But it gets more serious as it nears Loch Leven, with sections of big stone steps.

Because of the rains of the previous days, we were often stepping from one large step to the next trying to stay out of the puddles of water in between. Not so much fun.

But the views from Loch Leven onward were lovely, and as we climbed we could see the string of lakes and smaller tarns stretched out behind us into the morning sun. Once above Paiute Lake, the views were even better. And when we got to the pass, the whole Western slope came into view—including just a peek at the top of Mt. Humphreys. Later on, the whole mountain came to dominate the landscape.

On the far side of the pass the trail is gradual and in better condition, so we were able to wander into Upper Golden Trout Lake in the early afternoon and set up camp on a sheltered rocky knoll just east of the lake itself. From here we had great views of Humphreys and some of the lesser peaks of the Glacier Ridge.

I fished the steam with success for smaller brook trout and a few brilliantly colored golden trout, and then we ate dinner and enjoyed the evening show. This was a nice first day. The second day we decided to do some exploring. We headed up cross-country to Wahoo Lakes, two small lakes sitting on a bench a few hundred feet higher than our campsite. And from there we continued cross-county to Muriel Lake, closer to the pass.

Then we hiked straight up the ridge to see the last two lakes in this chain—the smaller has no name, but the larger lake at the back is Goethe, after the German scholar. These last two last were incredibly blue, and seemingly barren—only rock and water. But we’re been assured that there are trout in both of them. We didn’t see any.

But we did see the route up to Alpine Col---a rough trip over big talus that would get you into Darwin Canyon on the west side. On our way out, we met three intrepid guys who planned on hiking over Alpine Col and climbing a few peaks before hiking out over Lamarck Col. The trip back to camp was easy and beautiful…and we finished up just around lunchtime. Then it was time for a nice siesta on our z-rests under the trees.

After lunch we spent some time fishing and relaxing around the lake, then enjoyed a nice dinner and the usual sunset show in the High Sierra.That night we had very heavy condensation on the tent, and we noticed a few other campers dealing with the same issue.

Since we were staying another day, we just let everything dry out in the sun and hoped for the best for the next day.

Day three was dedicated to the north side of the basin, and we started by hiking up past Lower Desolation Lake to Desolation Lake itself. There’s an easy use trail for this trip, and it took us to the eastern shore of the upper lake. It was cold, blue and windy up there, and we decided to have a bit more fun on the return trip. We hiked over to the outlet stream, where we saw some large trout in deep pools between the rocks, and then followed the stream downhill---stopping from time to time to fish, admire the flowers, take a few photos, eat lunch, etc. What a great way to spend the day.

The cross-country travel could not have been easier, and the stream kept us entertained at all times. A great way to spend a day.

By the time we got back to camp, it was time for another shady siesta, and the some fishing and exploring down to Lower Golden Trout Lake. No camping is allowed within 500 feet of this lake, and while it was larger than the Upper Lake, it also seemed a bit less welcoming—with more rock along the shore.

The last night was lovely, and we took even more photos near the end of the day. From our campsite we had a really nice view of Pilot Knob further down the canyon. There must have been an article about Pilot Lake recently, as many of the people we met on the trail were either headed towards Pilot Lake, or coming from Pilot Lake. There was a big different in the appearance of Mt. Humphreys. When we arrived, the recent storms had left it nicely powdered with snow. Now there was very little snow to be seen.

Lamarck Lakes Post date: Jul 19, 2015 1:46:49 PM Since we were keeping a close eye on the weather, and we had one day “left over” from our Mono Pass trip, we took the opportunity to day-hike up to Lamarck Lakes on July 7. The weather report was for thunderstorms, rain, hail and snow, so we felt just fine that we were going to end the day back in Bishop, rather than in a tent at 11,000 feet.

After our adventures over Mono Pass, this little hike seemed pretty darn civilized. The trail climbed steadily but smoothly through the forest up to the junction with the trail to Grass Lake. At that point things got a bit rougher, but the views opened up as well.

Before we knew it, we were at Lower Lamarck Lake…and we stopped only for a minute before continuing on to Upper Lamarck. Just long enough to take a photo or two.

It’s harder to really get to the water at Upper Lamarck, and we ended up eating lunch on a rocky knoll just east of the lake—which was just as well, because the mosquitoes were fierce closer to the water. The water here was an intense blue.After a sun-drenched rest on the rock, we started down before the clouds could gather too much momentum. We met quite a few hikers on this trip coming down from Lamarck Col—some of whom told of quarter-sized hail pelting them the night before. They looked pretty whipped.

And while the views were nice on this hike, there was also a lovely flower garden at the base of the trail, just a few yards from the trailhead. We enjoyed the flowers, dodged the raindrops, and spent the night back in Bishop, getting ready for our next trip.

Pioneer Basin Trip Report Post date: Jul 18, 2015 3:20:51 PM The first of our three trips in July was out of the Rock Creek Canyon up over Mono Pass into Mono Creek and the Pioneer Basin. We’d picked up our permit in Bishop, and the ranger there suggested that the backpackers’ campground at Mosquito Flat was likely to be full.

That was a problem, so we spent the night before the trip in Bishop. When we arrived at Mosquito Flat the next morning there were only two tents in the campground…so next time we know to check the campground, not the ranger in an office 45 miles away. This is a lovely hike. The trail leads up along the North canyon wall, with beautiful views of Little Lakes Valley and the peaks above Morgan Pass. For a while you track the stream as it gurgles beside the trail.

The junction to Ruby Lake comes quickly, and then you get into the real climb, switchbacking up on the granite, with vistas opening up in all directions. You get a great view of Ruby Lake from above, and then the trail turns the corner and you are climbing straight up to Mono Pass, at over 12,000 feet.

The far side of the pass is a little disappointing—a barren sandy desert with a meagre little Summit Lake sitting in the middle, but once you reach the edge of the ridge, you get great views of Pioneer Basin, Mono Canyon, and the rest of the Sierra. We ate lunch just below Trail Lakes, and ran into ranger Michael Rodman, who not only checked our permits (a first for us!) but also gave us great advice about all of the various destinations on the route. He stopped by our camp later in the day to check out our tent and talk fishing a bit. On his advice, we camped on a ridge above Fourth Recess Lake, enjoying the 800 foot cascade on the far wall of the lake. Over the course of the afternoon, the clouds had been building, and we watched with some concern as we heard thunder and saw showers in all directions. By 8 p.m. there was only one cloud left in the sky, and P remarked that it looked like we had dodged a bullet.

Five minutes later we were hammered by a hailstorm for close to an hour. While the hailstones weren’t large, they came down in buckets, and the next morning there was at least an inch of hail still on the ground. So much for dodging bullets. Not a lot of fun.

The next day, after we dug out of the hail and dried things off a bit, we packed up and hiked to Mud Lake, the lowest of the lakes in Pioneer Basin. We set up camp on a ridge West of the lake, and then day-hiked up onto the bench above to explore. What a beautiful garden! There were lakes everywhere we looked, small trees and grass grew between them, and we spend a couple of hours just wandering along and enjoying the sights.

As the day progressed the clouds gathered again, and we decided that an exposed ridge was not the place to camp that night. Instead, we packed up again and descending into Mono Canyon, where we found a protected campsite and enjoyed a lovely evening. In fact, we only got a few sprinkles of rain, although we did see dark clouds and heavier rain up above near our original campsite.

Day three, we packed up and started back towards the trailhead. We wanted to investigate Golden Lake, and so we left our packs near where the trail crosses Golden Creek, and then day-hiked up the creek to the lake. This was a joyous hike—beautiful High Sierra scenery, warm sunshine, a crashing, cascading creek to follow, and a lovely lake at the end. There were some big trout near the outlet of Golden Lake, but they were very deep, and completely uninterested in any flies that P tossed at them.

After a rest at the lake, we hiked back to our packs and ate lunch back on the main trail. A decision needed to be made. The weather was looking worse again, and we were not in a great spot. There are a few campsites at Trail Lakes, but they are a bit exposed. We decided to hike up and look at them—at the very least, it would take us closer to the trailhead, and make the next day a bit shorter.

At Trail Lakes, we didn’t really see a campsite we liked, and so we took one more look at the sky, and decided to try to make it over Mono Pass to Ruby Lake before the storm hit. That was a cold, windy hike. By the time we got to the pass, it was sprinkling a combination of hail and rain, but only very lightly, and so we kept on moving East and down.

By the time we got to the junction with the Ruby Lake Trail, the sky was black and it was clear a big storm was on its way. We chose to hike down into Mosquito Flat and camp at the trailhead campground.On the last few miles of the trail, we were meeting quite a few day-hikers, and we all descended with a certain amount of focus, looking up at the sky all the time.

We arrived at the trailhead about 5 p.m., with a black sky overhead, thunder in our ears, and lightning flashing around. When P stopped at the car to chat with some fishermen, he only had time for two questions before we were hammered with rain and hail. We threw our packs in the car and sat inside, waiting for the storm to let up so that we could set up camp.

Almost two hours later, the hail was still coming down, and we gave up and drove to Bishop for a warm bed, a hot meal, and a shower. A real shower, with warm water, instead of hail.

Ebbetts Pass Post date: Jul 1, 2015 9:56:39 PM This last weekend marked the 20th annual company campout for our team. We close the office for a couple of days, and take everyone out into the woods for a few days of R&R, team-building, and mainly just having fun in the mountains. This year we chose Lake Alpine. In keeping with our tradition, we were just a little too close to a large forest fire to be completely comfortable, but in the end the fire was under control by the second day of our campout, thanks to hard work by the firefighters and a little rain.

Did we have fun? We had a great time. We did a couple of really nice hikes: A shuttle hike from Sandy Meadow Trailhead to Woodchuck trailhead, and then a rougher day-hike down the Mokelumne River to Deer Creek and back.

We ate and drank like kings, and imaginary fortunes were won and lost at the gaming tables. We are now all back in the office. sigh.

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