Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Eastern Sierra Hiking

I spent a lovely weekend hiking and camping in the Eastern Sierra Mountains at Pummice Flat Group site #2 in the Mammoth Mountain resort area near Devil's Postpile with the Loma Prieta Gay and Lesbian Sierrans.

Wednesday night I packed my car with my camping and hiking gear. I got off work at 11 am on Thursday and started my drive to Pummice Flat. The drive was very relaxing and easy. There was not too much traffic getting out of the San Francisco bay area. I arrived in Oakdale at about 1:30 pm and had a late lunch at the Subway sandwich shop. I ordered a foot long sandwich and ate half there and the other half would be my dinner once I arrived in camp.  After lunch, I made the drive up 120 to Groveland where I stopped to fill up the gas tank and then continued on to Yosemite where I popped in using my National Park's pass.  The drive through Yosemite to Tioga pass was awesome per usual. After descending the Tioga Pass to 395, the drive continued to be stunning with views of the Dana Peak, Mono Lake, and the Eastern Sierra's rising steeply to my right. I soon hit 203 and headed to Mammoth mountain where I stopped at the entry station where only people camping in the area are allowed to drive. I showed my National Park's pass again in lieu of the ten dollar entry fee. Then I crept down the twisty mountain road to the campground arriving at about 5:30 pm. About six people in my group had already arrived. I unpacked my camping gear and set up my tent and then ate the second half of my foot long sandwich for dinner while happily conversing with my camping buddies.

My humble abode for the weekend
On Friday, our trip leader had a 14 mile round trip hike to Ediza lake and back planned leaving from the Agnew meadow trail head.  Eight of us tumbled into two cars and drove from the campground to the trail head arriving at about 9 am.  We were all in long sleeves and long pants at the start of the hike as it was a chilly morning (~37F at breakfast) but within 15 minutes or so of hiking and the sun beating down on us we were stopping to strip off our layers and soon were all in shorts and smeared with sun screen!  We hiked past Olaine lake and enjoyed the reflections of the mountain in the lake.

Olaine Lake reflection
After Olaine we started heading up hill a bit more to Shadow lake.  Before Shadow Lake we hiked next to a water fall and at the top had a marvelous view of Shadow lake.

Hiking next to the water fall under Shadow Lake
Shadow Lake
We hiked next to Shadow Lake and soon picked up the creek that flowed into Shadow Lake on the other end of the lake that we would follow to Ediza Lake.  The views just kept coming and coming on this hike.  It was hard to stop taking pictures and just hike!

Ediza Lake

We finally arrived at Ediza Lake and five of us decided to go for a skinny dip.  I got naked but decided to leave my glasses on thinking I would just sedately swim along with a calm breast stroke.  That was a big mistake.  The minute I waded in I forgot I had my glasses on as the cold lake water took my breath away.  I realized that I wouldn't get in by just wading and needed to dive in.  So I plunged in and it was mighty cold and I didn't remember about my glasses till I surfaced spluttering and shaking my head.  Somewhere in that move, my glasses fell off and that was the last I saw of them.  For 15 minutes we stared at the water where I dived in and tried to find them to no avail.  I felt like such a bone head and was bemoaning my stupidity and how much it was going to cost me. I wear very expensive glasses.  This stupid move would end up costing me roughly $590.00.  Ug.  Oh well. I managed to come out of my blues and have fun the rest of the hike.

The hike back to the cars was just as beautiful if a slight bit more fuzzier for me without my glasses, but I could see well enough to hike normally.  I didn't have to worry about seeing my footing.  I had no trouble scrambling on the rocks next to the falls nor stepping over logs, etc. etc.  We got back to the cars at about 6 pm and headed back to camp to make dinner and have a nice couple of hours chatting and socializing.  After dinner as it got dark, we all headed to our tents and said good night.

Saturday we had an even longer hike planned, 16 miles.  8 miles to Minaret Lake and 8 miles back.  I knew I could do another long hike but I also knew it was going to wear me out.  I almost passed on the hike but our leader convinced me that although it was more miles that the hill climb was not as steep and the trails not as rocky as the day before so she actually considered it easier than the previous day's hike.  This hike began at the Devil's Postpile trail head area.

Meadow near Devil's Postpile trail head
As with the day before, we started all bundled up but quickly stopped to remove layers and put on sun screen.  We then hiked at a steady pace till we reached a rest stop our leader had found when she scouted the hike.  The rest stop was in a collection of rusty colored rocks with a creek and some pools.

Rest stop on the way to Minaret Lake
We continued on after the rest stop to Minaret Lake.  We hiked next to another water fall although it was not the Minaret Falls but the nameless falls that originate from Minaret Lake.

Hiking next to a nameless water fall
We were getting to higher altitudes at this point (Minaret Lake is at 9800 feet) and I was starting to slow way down.  The leader was checking with me often to be sure I was OK.  I was fine but the nature of my hiking is when I get to high altitude and up hill I just slow way down.  I am very much a tortoise when it comes to hiking!  I just keep plodding along at a steady slow pace!  I was glad when we reached Minaret Lake and  we sat down for a nice rest and lunch!  I passed on the skinny dipping this time but two dived in the lake and said it was colder than the day before but the views as they were swimming were incredible.

Minaret Lake
View of Minaret Lake from our lunch spot
Cathy at Minaret Lake -- no glasses :-( 
It was about 2:30 pm when we finished lunch and realized we should start back as we had said we would be back at the campground around 6:30 pm.  The hike back was lovely and a bit easier being all downhill.  My feet were sore and I was getting very very tired but the beauty of the area took my mind off my soreness and tiredness!  We got back to the cars at about 6:30 pm and back to camp shortly.

Sunday was my day to drive home but I decided to check out Devil's Postpile before I started my drive home.  I got up at 6 am and had my breakfast and then broke down camp and got all but my food packed in my car.  I left the food in the bear lockers so I wouldn't have to worry about a bear breaking into my car at the Devil's Postpile parking lot.  I got onto the short half mile trail to the Postpiles by about 8 am.  I quickly hiked to the Postpiles and had fun photographing them and looking at them for a few minutes.

I was admonished by the gang at the campground to hike to the top of the Postpiles so I did and got the shot below of the hexagonal shape of the posts.

It was worth the little 1.3 mile hike to admire the uniqueness of the Devil's Postpiles.  I also saw that there was a passport stamp area at Devil's Postpile so I ran to my car to get my National Parks passport and get the Devil's Postpile stamp! Then I drove back to camp to fetch my food and start my drive home. I borrowed a friend's glasses that corrected my vision just enough so I could read road signs with them and would put them on when I was approaching junctions.  I stopped at Olmsted point on the way through Yosemite's Tuolumne meadow area to get this shot of Half Dome.

The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful.  I ran into the usual traffic jams at the junction of 120 with 205 and on highway 580 just before exiting to 680.  I put NPR on my radio station and enjoyed listening to the shows while I waited through traffic.  I got home at about 4 pm with plenty of time to unpack the car, get a shower, and post my pictures online.  All in all it was a fantastic trip if you leave out the losing my glasses fiasco!

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