Eastern Sierra Exploration

We had hoped to spend this past weekend huntin’ for corn snow up around Tioga Pass, but the forecasted precip did arrive, and came in wet enough to encourage us to hit Mammoth for some resort skiing instead.

While we knew it would be a wet storm, we didn’t factor in the ridiculous winds that kept most of the mountain shut and made visibility optional.  We skied anyway, but quit midday when goretex layers had become saturated, and headed to our digs at June Lake, where the weather was windy but not so wet.  Since neither of us had really walked around the town of June Lake, we figured a faux-urban hike would be a way to see parts of the area we tend to overlook for the more exciting hiking trails of the nearby Ansel Adams Wilderness.

In doing so we discovered a bit of history – June Lake, like many other Eastern Sierra towns, had a mining history.  Its history was a mere 5 years (1924-29) but resulted in a fair bit of ore from the various shafts located in the slope above Gull Lake.  Who knew?

Entrance to the mine

Coupled with the first pilgrimage of the season to the Whoa Nellie Deli, where we were rewarded with amazing vistas of clouds and the Sierra Wave along with our fish tacos and mango margaritas, it ended up being a lovely escape from Tahoe.

Rites of Spring

The east side of Tioga Pass road opened this week, allowing backcountry skier’s access to hundreds, nay, thousands of acres of high-altitude terrain.  With this annual rite of spring comes the requisite stop or stops at the Whoa Nellie Deli, perhaps the best gas station cuisine to be had in California, if not the Western U.S.

Lobster taquitos at the Whoa Nellie Deli

Thanks to a meeting change for N, we were able to get down there this weekend, and while the weather gods chased the sun away sooner than we expected today, we still found terrific corn snow off False White.  And it’s hard to complain when you start the day out like this.

Tiogaaa!

The dog, as per usual, was thrilled to be out skiing, and freaked out with more vim than usual.  So it came as no surprise that she was eager to get back into her lair in the back of the truck afterward.

Top off the morning with a stop at the Buckeye hot springs for a quick soak and it made for a great day in the Eastern Sierra.

Hoover Wilderness hilarity

In a fit of ‘let’s hike somewhere new’, we decided to try and new (and ambitious, as we learned) trail in the Hoover Wilderness.  The Lundy Canyon trail is located at the far end of Lundy Canyon, near Mono Lake.  It’s a gorgeous canyon, all red rock and aspens, and especially colorful in the autumn.  The trail itself follows a creek up the canyon, passing waterfalls and wildflowers galore, and then climbs steeply up a scree slope, switchbacking some 2,000 feet.  At the top the trail meets up with the 20 Lakes Basin trail, a scenic 6 mile loop that wends its way past numerous alpine lakes, with view of Mt. Conness at every turn.

Mt Conness

Signs at the Lundy trailhead indicated that the scree slope moves and warned that the trail isn’t always clear.  What the sign neglected to mention was that in some places there *is* no trail, requiring trepidatious hikers to scramble up and down unstable scree.  After watching N and the dog kick down some smallish rocks, I decided that I did not need to continue up to the top of this slope, as I knew of a less dangerous way to access the 20 Lakes Basin trail.  So we backtracked, passing a number of hikers who didn’t realize what lay ahead, and then drove up Tioga Pass to Saddlebag Lake where we accessed the rest of the hike.  All in all we cut out about 2 miles, but it was trail worth missing in my book.