Friday, July 31, 2015

Sabrina Basin Day Hike From Fresno

Dale Matson
Click On Photographs To Enlarge

Right now you are saying, “Are you serious? This was a good opportunity for a day hike with my friend Faron and his young Rhodesian Ridgeback “Diesel”. Diesel (the dog) got sick in my diesel truck on the way. It didn’t seem to slow him down on the trail however and he probably went twice as far as Faron and me. We kept the windows rolled down on the way back, which helped the dog. This effort was something that worked for both of us. It meant leaving Fresno at 4am and arriving at the trailhead by 9am. We hoped to get to Midnight Lake but the threat of thundershowers even during the morning turned us back not far past Blue Lake. I used the “Bishop Pass North Lake-South Lake Loop Trail Map from Tom Harrison because it shows distances between trail junctions.

By my calculations, we went about 8 miles round trip with 1,675’ of ascent. Our top elevation was around 10,400’. There was adequate replacement water along the way, if treated. Sharing the driving home made for a relatively comfortable 16-hour push. Of course an overnight would have been better but we did avoid the afternoon thundershowers until the last mile inbound. Faron and Diesel went ahead of me and avoided more rain than me. I was prepared for and not bothered by the rain. The thunder was a different matter however. Even for a weekday, the trail was busy with day hikers and backpackers. It is easy to understand why.

My GPS download shows where we parked for this day hike near the trailhead. Overnight folks have to park further back along the road. It seems like the climb up as you hike along the lake, makes the first part quite long. As you travel, you can see a waterfall near the south end of Lake Sabrina. It looks like the headwaters for this creek is at Sunset Lake. You can also see Mt. Emerson (named after the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson) and the Piute Crags to the west-northwest of Sabrina Lake. They are actually north of the north fork of the Bishop Creek trail that goes to Humphrey’s Basin. If you hike to Humphrey’s Basin out of North Lake you will see these rust colored crags to your right also.

I am somewhat embarrassed to say that we got turned around after taking a use trail down to the north end of Blue Lake. The trail is obvious and crosses the lake outlet on stones. There is a much better view of both the lake and the mountains to the south a little further on. There are nice established campsites near the lake. As I examined the map it looks like the Mountain View may include Mts. Powell, Gilbert and Thompson. They are all over 13,000’. It was overcast for our hike which was good for temperatures but less so for photographs. I can only imagine how beautiful the view would be during the golden hours.

I believe one could easily get to Midnight or Hungry Packer Lakes on a day hike with an early start. For most, it would involve an overnight stay after the hike. If it is done with backpacking gear one could stay in these areas too and hike back the following day. This day hike in no way even begins to explore this basin but is an introduction of one of the most beautiful locations in the Eastern Sierra Nevada.    

 Wide Angle Photograph Of Sabrina Lake From The North End

 Faron and Diesel

 Piute Crags and Mt. Emerson (13,204')
 Outlet Near North End Of Blue Lake

 Old Man Blocking A Good Mountain Photograph

 Interesting Rock Colors

Diorite Country Rock Intruded By Granite Pegmatite
Identified By My Friend Phil Mariotti PhD Geologist
Originally Formed 5 Miles Below The Surface Of The Earth 
 Different Rock Types Layered
 Diesel Awaiting Instruction From Faron
Waterfall At South End Of Sabrina Lake

There is a YouTube video slideshow here: 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cottonwood Lakes Basin

Dale Matson

Click On Images To Enlarge
Hike Route

If you are near the Mt. Whitney Visitors’ Center on Highway 395, you will see a zigzag road going higher and higher above you and wonder where it goes. Well, It is the Horseshoe Meadows Road. The trailhead for this hike is off the Mt. Whitney Portal road with a left turn onto Horseshoe Meadows Road. There are informational signs, campsites and toilets at the trailhead. Our hike was about 14 miles round trip with a starting elevation of about 10,000'. As you can see by the topographical map GPS download, our outbound and inbound routes were somewhat different.

We hiked it on a weekday and saw few folks on the trail. The trail begins in the Golden Trout Wilderness but crosses into the John Muir Wilderness. There is about 1,000' of elevation gain. The Cottonwood Lakes Basin reminds me somewhat of Humphreys Basin with both basins being above 11,000’ in elevation and having one dominant mountain. In this case it is Mt. Langley, which is over 14,000’. I found there to be adequate water along the way for resupply. For those who are peak baggers, Mt. Langley has a class 2 route. There is a signed trail junction for the trail to Mt. Langley that goes over New Army Pass.

It took us about 7 hours walking at a casual pace to reach Lake 4 and return to the trailhead. I was hoping to see Bighorn Sheep but they were not to be found this day. This is the Langley herd unit area for the endangered Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep.

Much of the initial climb is in the woods and there is really not much to see until you break out above tree line. After this the walk is a gentle grade with expansive views. What I really appreciate is the high elevation start at the trailhead, which makes this basin very accessible as a day hike. There are no high passes to climb to get there. My brother in law enjoyed catching (and releasing) some Golden Trout.

As an added bonus, we were there the day some of the folks running the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon were turning the corner onto Highway 395 and heading toward the finish at Whitney Portal as we came down. I completed the Western States 100 mile endurance run and that was difficult enough for me. My best advice for those considering Badwater is….. don’t do it.

 Mt. Langley

There is a YouTube video including video clips at the end here: