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.