Hiking the Sierras from South Lake

This week’s featured hike is a combination of two hikes from two different weeks that started and ended at the same place. South Lake is the trailhead for Bishop Pass which leads to the Pacific Crest Trail (the west’s version of the Appalachian Trail); the PCT travels a total distance of 2,650 miles through California, Oregon and Washington until reaching the Canadian border. When parking at the trailhead, you will often meet through-hikers coming down from the PCT. Most look exhausted and dirty and anxious for a respite from the grueling trail. I’ve hiked short distances on the PCT and it’s not an easy walk in the park by a long-shot.

The first hike I started late in the afternoon figuring on just a short jaunt. After I parked, I spoke to a woman through-hiker who was sitting alongside the parking lot. She was a solo hiker whose back was not cooperating with her wish to hike the PCT. She had taken a break from the trail previously and started hiking again, but then her back went out again and she had hiked down off the trail for the second time. She was looking for a ride down the mountain. I selfishly told her I’d be happy to take her, but I just needed to stretch my legs first after being at the computer for too long and having just driven up the mountain. Fortunately for her, there was another hiker just coming off the trail who offered her a ride. I had decided that I would not take the fork for Bishop Pass, but instead the right fork toward Treasure Lakes.

The Pacific Crest Trail is up amoung the snow patches.
The Pacific Crest Trail is up among the snow patches.
The trail started roughly, but became smoother after this (for a while).
The trail started roughly, but became smoother after this (for a while).

The hike could have been called: Alpine Columbine Hike. There were many different colors and places they were growing. Most were growing out of granite talus slopes (big rocks, very little soil). There were hundreds on a large area of talus that I didn’t even attempt to get close to, the rocks move and wiggle too easily when trod upon.

TreasureLake (5 of 25)

TreasureLake (4 of 25)

TreasureLake (3 of 25)

Decision Point.
Decision Point.
Whorled Penstemon (part of the Snapdragon family).
Whorled Penstemon (part of the Snapdragon family).

Two bridges and lots and lots of mosquitoes brought me to three small, fast-moving streams. The last stream turned me back from getting to Treasure Lake. Branches and logs haphazardly across the stream instead of sturdy bridges and the setting sun made the decision easy.

The view from the bridge.
The view from the bridge.
These look like common Forget-me-knots?
These look like common Forget-me-nots but are much taller than the Alpine Forget-me-nots in the wildflower book.
This boulder is in the process of becoming pebbles on the trail.
This boulder is in the process of becoming pebbles on the trail. I wonder how many more years it will take?
Hearing things . . .
Hearing things on the trail behind me . . .

I had just hiked back up this part of the trail on my way home and had decided to sit a spell at the top (my first rest stop). I heard what sounded like a rock falling behind me but couldn’t see anything. Just as I was deciding it was getting close to the crepuscular time of night (when bears are active) and I needed to start moving, I heard something much closer behind. Almost expecting to see a bear, I saw a trail runner just emerging from the rocky trail that I had just traversed. He had no pack, no water, brief running shorts and a tank top. I guess he’d done this many times before, but in these mountains, it’s kind of risky being so unprepared.

The  sun is getting low on this part of the hike.
The sun is getting low on this part of the hike. I am homeward bound.
South Lake is not being dammed this summer and is very low on water.
Deep in shadow, South Lake is not being dammed this summer and is very low on water.

Ten days later, I looked for the meadows on the Bishop Pass part of the trail that some photographer friends had told me about. I waited until afternoon as the light is better, then started up the trail toward Bishop Pass.

One of the meadows.
One of the meadows.
Hiker's Gentian.
Hiker’s Gentian, barely an inch long.
Fields of flowers.
Fields of flowers. Arrow-leaf Senecio is the yellow plant; it is growing with a deep purple flower (Monkshood) you can hardly see in the photo, along with Indian Paintbrush. Heartbreakingly beautiful.
Tiny spring fed stream in the meadow.
Tiny spring fed stream in the meadow.
I love Indian Paintbrush. Probably one of the most prolific flowers and I cannot stop taking photos of it.
I love Indian Paintbrush. Probably one of the most prolific and varied flowers and I cannot stop taking photos of it.
Something lily
The white Sierra Rein-orchid and a Swamp Onion.
The purple time of day. A post is coming up about this later.
The purple and blue time of day. A post is coming up about this later.
Looks like the same part of the trail I photographed on the first hike!
Looks like the same part of the trail I photographed on the first hike!
Buggy plant
These Ranger’s Buttons were full of insects.
Lupine near the trailhead.
Torrey’s Lupine? (there are so many different lupines) with a little red insect near the trailhead.
Emerald Green South Lake. You can see the shadow of the mountain just starting to come across the back.
Emerald Green South Lake. You can see the shadow of the mountain just starting to come across the back. A good hike.

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