Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rock Creek Canyon

Another Eastern Sierra drainage surfaced in my stream of consciousness.  This time Rock Creek Canyon; from Adventure Pal P's family; excellent recommendation!  Quick research resulted in 'many first come, first serve campsites' still available for the week-end.  Because it was my first visit, I decided to stop over Friday night in Lee Vining to fill and empty tanks as necessary to prepare for several days of 'no hook-ups'.

New semi-metallic pads on Roadtrek's brakes preformed well on the steep drop off the east side of Tioga Pass.  I tend to be extra cautious (too many years traveling Priest Grade!) so stopped half way down for a cool off.

Rock Creek Rec Area is west of 395 between Mammoth and Bishop.  It's ten miles to Rock Lake and the trail head at 10,000 feet.  Along the way there is a series of campground with a total of 300 sites.  Some can be reserved; some are first come first serve.  Too bad for me all had 'CAMPGROUND FULL' signs posted before noon on Saturday!  I found one site in Big Meadow (neighbor ladies said I should snag it while I could!) and another in East Fork on a rock pile.  Back to Big Meadow (first come first serve with 10 sites along Rock Creek) to settle in a beautiful shady site.  Very lucky I got it!

This was my favorite spot to hang out along Rock Creek;  a short walk from my camp.

Many aspens here too, but so thick as Green Creek.  Fire weed is blooming!

Thunderstorms were forecast.  All clear on Saturday afternoon, and I planned to hike on Sunday.  Mosquito Flat trail head at the end of the road is the Cadillac of trail heads.  Paved road, much parking, and rest rooms.   Needless to say, it's very popular due to easy access;  and high elevation (10,000 feet) for start of hike.  The two trail options are Little Lakes Valley to Morgan Pass OR Ruby Lake and Mono Pass.

The Morgan Pass Trail is via Little Lakes Valley,  with many named and unnamed lakes along the way.  A little worried about hiking from 10,000 to 12,000 feet I choose Little Lakes Valley;  I could decide about the pass once I got there!   Up and over a small hill, the trail drops off into a lovely meadow and an amazing view of the back country.

Past Marsh, Mack, and Heart Lakes (no pics due to pesky memory card), it was still early;  the surface of Long Lake was glass.

Time for a self portrait to prove I was here!

I met a family of backpackers coming down the spur to Chickenfoot Lake;  lucky, lucky preteen boys were having a great time.  It's all rocky shore on this side;  I was anxious to get up the trail so didn't stop for long.

Back on the main trail, it's pushing 11,000 feet and four miles;  whoever said this was an easy hike?  I was REALLY feeling the elevation.  The trail to the pass is barely visible near the top of this (crummy) shot.

I always climb slowly at elevation;  a group of grouchy 50something men caught up and passed me on the switch backs.  I didn't care though, I was in no mood to visit either!   Have no idea where they were going on the other side with only day packs.   Looking back to the east (where I came from),  pretty rough huh?  well, it was way WORSE on the west side!

Taking only a minute to snap a shot of Chickenfoot Lake way back down the trail......

Soon I was back to the Gem Lakes spur; too wiped out to walk out to see them.  Truly, I was delirious!  There right in front of me was a volcano!

Heading back down the trail I started to meet people coming up;  yep it got really busy;  not my idea of Wilderness,  but good for those families that getting out there.  This is a wonderful, wonderful hike, but it does require some planning to miss the onslaught!  And truly, not that many folks get past Heart Lake.

The wind was blowing up the canyon, and thunderheads were starting to build as I passed Long Lake on the way back down.

The far shore of Box Lake looks good for exploring another time.

The Little Lakes Valley is regularly recommended as an easy hike;  adding Morgan Pass wasn't easy for me.  Eight miles between 10,000 and 11,000 feet;  not sure if it was if the elevation caused the migraine or the migraine caused the hard hike.  Which ever, I do want to try it again.  

Unfortunately, the next two mornings the canyon was socked in with clouds and had thunderstorms in the afternoons.  Tuesday morning I moved down to June Lake;  very lucky to snag a site with a lake view and no neighbors for one night.  Wednesday morning I watched the full moon set then headed back over Tioga Pass for home.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Green Creek

In lieu of a bucket list there are a bunch of random ideas floating around in my head.  One that has been surfacing regularly for a couple years is hiking at Green Creek on the East side of the Sierra near Bridgeport.  Recently Adventure Pal P and I hatched a plan to meet at the trailhead to hike to Green Lake and maybe more.

The Green Creek road takes off to the west a couple miles south of Bridgeport on 395.  It's 8 miles of rough road back to the campground and trailhead into the Hoover Wilderness.  I didn't take any pics on bright and sunny Saturday morning when I drove in, but this one from Monday morning coming out is pretty with the clouds.

The campground has ten sites; three were available when I arrived and one of those was across from camp hosts Ed and Jeannie from Colorado.  They lived many years in Sonora so we hit it off immediately; so fun to meet new friends!  (BTW, camping is first come, first serve, no reservations).

The nights are chilly at this elevation but the days were warm!  It was good we were heading out at 9 on Sunday morning.  The trail follows an old road a half mile or so to a couple FS lease cabins before starting up the mountain.  (Green Creek is at 8000 feet;  our first goal was Green Lake at 9000, a climb of 1000 feet in 2 miles).  

The Green Creek drainage is literally choked with Aspen Trees.  It's next to impossible to get off the trail.  In a good water year the wildflowers must be amazing because there is a nice display even this year.  On the flip side in a wet year the mosquitoes would be horrible and I'm doubtful I could get across the creeks if the water was any higher than today (as you will see in pics to follow).

Here are a handful of wild flowers along the trail.  Both in wet areas and on the dry sections.

Puff balls.....

Tiger lily.....


Indian paint brush.....

Just shy of two hours we came to the fork in the trail to West Lake.  In the center is Green Lake; to the right (and a bit northwest) is West Lake; and to the left (southeast) of Green is East Lake.  (no kudos to who ever named these lakes, it's really confusing as neither East or West are very far off to the east or west of Green!)

From the trail intersection it's not far from Green Lake and we stopped for an hour or so to soak in the beauty of the mountains.  Green Lake is shallow and the color of jade; tucked in a bowl of mountain peaks it is so worth the climb.

The south (more or less) shore.....

The north shore.......

(yes, that blue spot on the rock is my shirt, how embarrassing!)

And straight across the lake to the west......

After a nice rest we started up the trail to East Lake.  It's another 500 feet elevation gain and about 1 1/2 miles to the lower end of the lake.  Wow, that was a hard climb!   Lucky for us that the water flows were low because the crossings are really scary.  The creek drops off into a water fall directly below this one that P waded and I foolishly rock hopped across.

We left the heavy vegetation behind at Green Creek.  Hiking among big trees in open forest is lovely but still hard.   Then we saw East Lake and ALL memory of dragging up that mountain was gone in an instant!

It's big and deep and very, very remote.  We had seen father and son backpackers at Green, but they were so far ahead of us by this time that we had the lake entirely to ourselves.

The north (more or less) shore......

And looking southwest, this is the intriguing view!  We are on the upper 1/2 or so of the lake,  the rest of it is around that spit of land barely visible on the left of the pic.

(is there a way to fix this crooked water surface?)

After a leisurely lunch we reluctantly started back down the trail.  There are only a couple views of the Green Creek drainage, this is not the best one, but if you look closely, that tiny triangle of green in the middle of the pic is Bridgeport Valley.

It was a fast hike back to the trail head arriving at 4 pm.  P headed off to Lee Vining and I crashed in my camp at Green Creek.  Next time,  fall color on the Aspens and West Lake!

Friday, July 12, 2013

On the Way

There was next to no traffic (nice!) on Sonora Pass Friday afternoon when I drove over to Twin Lakes to hike for a couple days at elevation before a planned hike to Green Lake on Sunday.

Levitt Falls was my first stop on top of the pass.

Levitt Meadow:  the Walker River (fabled among fly fishers) runs through it.

(to the northwest of the right side of meadow is Levitt Lake at the end of three miles of horrible road; so wish they would improve it because the hike from there over Big Sam offers a great view into the Emigrant Wilderness)

With sheer luck I got a site at the Paha forest service campground just below Twin Lakes.  It must have been a cancellation because there is NOTHING available for the rest of the season.   Two big bucks in velvet walked through the camp as I was arriving;  these were the first of many I saw in my few hours there.

Sleeping in the back of the Rav I woke up early and got to see the sunrise coming up on the Sawtooth Mountains.

Friday afternoon it was really windy with white caps on the lake;  Saturday morning had me wishing I had my kayak.

(took this pic with my iPad!)

Back out through the Bridgeport Valley, the Hunewell Guest Ranch horses were turned out to graze.  There must have been a hundred (or more)!  One of those times I was wishing for a beefier camera!

On to Green Creek......