Hiking the Sierras – Blue Lake (almost)

Since I previously hiked East Coast hills, or rode my mountain bike on ‘pretty big hills’ in Fair Hill, Maryland, hiking the Sierras has been a learning experience. I follow a guide-book: “50 Classic Day Hikes of the Eastern Sierra” by Devon Fredericksen and Reed Harvey, to know what I’m tackling ahead of time, particularly the altitude gained and whether they consider the hike easy, moderate, difficult or strenuous. I’ve found out though that the altitude gained doesn’t take into account the switch back downs and then the ups again. A trail marked 1,600′ gain, may actually be closer to 2,300′ gain – a much more breath-taking hike (and I don’t mean just beautiful), although they usually are breathtakingly beautiful too. Interestingly, I had a conversation with some photographer friends recently about reading and studying about places we are about to visit. In the past, I did not want to know too much ahead of time as my expectations sometimes overshot my experience, then I’d be disappointed. I prefer to take the days as they are given to me: cloudy, rainy, sunny, hot, cold, tired, exuberant. Then, if there is no sunrise or sunset that’s worthy of photographs or no nifty photos of animals or birds – it’s ok. But I like being somewhat ready for hikes – it’s safer that way.

Be forewarned, this post is heavy with photos. It took me a couple of hours just to whittle down the number to what I’ve included! 😉 Be like my cousin Wendy, sit with a cup of coffee and take a hike with me.

Starting at the trailhead for Lake Sabrina, I was wonderfully surprised to find water in the lake. When I had visited with my granddaughter earlier in the spring, the lakebed with lots and lots of rocks and boulders showing was clearly visible except for a very small (maybe 500 yard) shallow pond near the back of the lake. At the time, only a very small creek exited the lakebed underneath the dam (which shows as a V shape in the photo below as you’re looking out toward the valley and the White Mountains. This photo was actually taken toward the end of my hike, but I like how it shows most of Lake Sabrina.

Lake Sabrina with water!
Lake Sabrina with water! You can see the water line where the water should be, but at least it’s not empty.
Indian Paintbrush.
Indian Paintbrush and Lupines greeted me early on. There had been a seep here, but it’s dry now.
Soft Arnica around the next bend.
Soft Arnica around the next bend.
Part of the trail was actually flat - but sandy (like walking on a dry sandy beach).
Part of the trail was actually flat – but sandy (like walking on a dry sandy beach). But still flowers galore.
Most of the trail was also not for the altitude wary, as it skirted the late or later a canyon with steep drops.
Most of the trail was also not for the altitude wary, as it skirted the lake or later a canyon with steep drops. These Soda Straws grew almost as tall as me.

The sound of a large waterfall from across the lake accompanied me. If you look at the photo above in the upper right corner, the white water from the Bishop Creek is flowing into the lake. There were lots of people on the trail – I talked with at least five different groups. The last group was six young Chinese men, fully loaded for an overnight at the lake.

These delicate flowers were growing next to a very small creek flowing down the mountain.
These delicate Large Monkeyflowers were growing next to a very small (still flowing) creek flowing down the mountain.
Watercress and moss.
Not Watercress, but the bottom leaves of the blooms below: Brook Saxifrage with moss and a tiny waterfall.
These tiny little flowers are a little less than 1/2" across.
These tiny flowers (Brook Saxifrage) are  1/4″ across. By this time, the wind is starting and it’s difficult to get a clear shot. Even the wildflower book mentions the difficulty of photographing them due to the winds.
The beginning of the switchbacks. There are three legs of a switchback shown here.
The beginning of the switchbacks. There are three legs of a switch back here (I’m standing on one that you can’t see). You can’t tell, but it is really steep.
A shrub called Labrador Tea.
A shrub called Labrador Tea.
Beautiful stripy granite. There was also pink granite.
Beautiful stripy granite. There was also pink granite.
Amazing how the trees twist around.
Amazing how the trees twist around.
A fellow hiker suggested lightning. But having seen so many trees like this, the ever doubtful me Googled it: Whitebark pines are small conifers (3 to 35 feet) found at high elevations between 9,000 and 11,000 feet, growing with red fir, lodgepole and western white pine. Harsh winds, cold temperatures and short growing seasons combine to give this tree a shrubby, twisted shape referred to as “Krummlholz,” a German word for wind-shaped trees meaning “crooked wood.”
A fellow hiker suggested a lightning strike. But having seen so many trees like this, the ever doubtful me Googled it (because I’ve seen so many of them): Whitebark pines are small conifers (3 to 35 feet) found at high elevations between 9,000 and 11,000 feet, growing with red fir, lodgepole and western white pine. Harsh winds, cold temperatures and short growing seasons combine to give this tree a shrubby, twisted shape referred to as “Krummlholz,” a German word for wind-shaped trees meaning “crooked wood.” The almost constant winds here in the pass make perfect sense.
Coville's Phlox
Coville’s Phlox, the start of the tiny Alpine flowers.
Davidson's Penstemon all along the rocky path.
Davidson’s Penstemon all along the rocky path.
Getting into the Alpine flowers - very tiny, not much taller than 1"
Pussy Paws – very tiny, not much taller than 1″.
Mountain Asters.
Mountain Asters.
Only one Sego Lily and very tiny.
Only one very tiny Sego Lily.

LakeSabrina-BlueLake (19 of 35)

I’m too far from the waterfall shown in the middle of the photo for a clear picture, but I can still hear it. I’ve carried less and less camera equipment (read 60mm lens only) – this is when an extra lens would work better.

The hike to Blue Lake was one of those “Gee it looks like not much altitude gain” hikes. Hmmm. I had hiked for almost three hours (taking too many photos to be speedy). There were a lot of switchbacks and beautifully constructed rock steps and walls that it must have taken weeks or months to create way back when using mule pack trains (as the path is the only way to get there, no roads here).

See the trees at the top of the ridge? That's where Blue Lake is.
See the trees at the very top of the ridge? That’s where Blue Lake is. It’s a pretty good distance away – at least another mile. My legs don’t have it in them!
After meeting the man going up in the photo for the second time today, I decided to go back down without trying to make it to Blue Lake.
After meeting the man going up the trail in the photo for the second time today, (he passed me earlier further down the mountain) I decided to go back down without trying to make it to Blue Lake all the way up to the treeline.
This granite is part of the trail, you can see the striations from glaciers passing over it.
This granite is part of the trail, you can see striations on it from glaciers passing over it. Going down on the left beside small rocks, turning right, going down again on right side of photo right beside the canyon wall.
Sun is getting low in the sky.
Sun is getting low in the sky. The trail branches to the right by the trees. Paiute Crags in the distance.
There's gold in this stream!
There’s gold in this stream! The trail is through the middle of the stream.
Perfect columbine.
Perfect Columbine. There were pinks, whites, and oranges growing in the rocks, so fragile yet so hardy. A good day.

 

 

 

11 Comments

      1. Was it a juniper? They commonly do that. Don’t know why. As you say, they can’t all have been struck by lightning. And why would lightning always choose a juniper?

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      2. Gotta love Google: Whitebark pines are small conifers (3 to 35 feet) found at high elevations between 9,000 and 11,000 feet, growing with red fir, lodgepole and western white pine. Harsh winds, cold temperatures and short growing seasons combine to give this tree a shrubby, twisted shape referred to as “Krummlholz,” a German word for wind-shaped trees meaning “crooked wood.” Sounds like the right type of tree and it was high elevation. Never thought about the wind doing it, but the wind through those passes always blows and sometimes VERY hard, so it makes sense.

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