Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Sotcher Lake, Devils Post Pile NM

On our trip to hike to Minaret falls we chose the wrong day as the very small car park was packed full of vehicles including a couple of school buses and there was absolutely no way we were going to get the truck parked.   Rats!

We decided to continue further up the valley to Red Lodge, which turned out to be closed for the season.   I don’t know why we were surprised as we knew that as the road into the valley is so steep and narrow snow can and does close it at any time.

However, on our way we spotted Sotcher Lake through the trees, so back we went to explore more.

A short hike of a couple or 3 miles takes you around the lake, and for some reason I decided to leave my walking sandals on assuming the trail would be flat.   Wrong!  

The trail leads from the parking area to the lake before climbing up a gritty trail to give gorgeous lake and mountain views. 

The view as we started up the gritty trail.

I loved the way the aspens reflected in the water around this duck.   Well, I think it’s a duck.

It wasn’t so bad walking up, but coming down was a little slippery, luckily we both kept our footing, but had I been wearing my boots it would’ve been so much easier, oh well you live and learn!

Against the mountains and blue sky an aspen grove showed beautiful autumn colours across the lake.

At the bottom we followed the trail and then took a path to the left crossing a log bridge over a small stream,

and found a lovely waterfall flowing down the mountain.

From here the trail became narrower as it wound through brush and some boggy ground, side trails in all directions lead down to the lake shore.   Sometimes we weren’t sure if we were actually following a proper trail.  

It was much quieter on this side of the lake and we didn’t actually bump into anyone else until we were nearly back at the truck.

Looking back across the lake this is the rock with the gritty trail we climbed up.

One of the many little beaches at Sotcher Lake.

It was a lovely short hike on a gorgeous autumn day. 

As we drove out we stopped at Starkweather Lake, where an informational board told us about lakes and meadows in the Sierra Nevada.   Most lakes in the Sierras were formed by glaciers about 11,000 years ago during the last ice age. 

Over the centuries silt and organic debris deposited in the lakes is subject to a process known as eutrophication, turning the lakes into meadows.   So one day in the dim and distant future, Starkweather Lake will become Starkweather Meadow, but I don't think we'll be around to see it!

Driving out of the valley, our last stop of the day was at the Minaret Overlook, overlooking the valley.   The mountains still had snow on them and the views were fabulous.

Although there are no trails, theoretically, from Devils Post Pile you could walk across this section of the Sierra Nevada to Yosemite National Park, I don’t know if anyone ever has. 

Have fun, we are!

In search of gold

We decided to explore the remains of Mammoth Consolidated Mine and found the parking area at the top end of a camping loop.   It was a lovely sunny day and we set off around the ½ mile loop trail through the forest.

According to legend, in 1857 two men crossing the Sierra got lost and found some red igneous rock that supposedly contained gold.   Miner’s slang of the era referred to the red igneous rock as ‘cement’ and so the legend of the Lost Cement Mine was born.

In 1877 at the top of Red Mountain (named for the reddish/orange iron sulphides found in the rock), also known as Mineral Hill and Gold Mountain, prospectors in search of the legendary mine, found a vein of gold bearing quartz.  

Over the next couple of years Mammoth City grew from a few shacks to a bustling town with a population of 576.

The Mammoth Consolidated Mine which was started around 1927 in search of gold.

The iron sulphides in the rock made gold extraction very expensive, but the owners and investors wanted to keep the mine operating as long as they could. 

The mine entrance.

About $100,000 worth of gold was extracted before the mine was closed during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. 

What remains of the ore processing mill.

By 1934 the mine owner, Arch Mahan, had purchased Reds Meadow Resort and discovered he could make more money horse packing tourists into Devils Post Pile, than trying to run a gold mine. 

The remains of the Mahan cabin, built around 1929.

Have fun, we are!

Hot Creek Springs

A drive past the airport near Mammoth Lakes took us to Hot Creek geothermal pools where boiling water bubbles up from the creek bed.

The pools are beautiful but deadly, we thought we’d be able to walk right down to them, but they're fenced of and notices warn that the ground is unstable and that people have died falling into the boiling water.

Although having said that you could easily get through the fence, and we saw a few people do just that.   We did wonder if the water would make a good cup of tea, but as the possibility of being boiled alive if we fell in, didn't appeal to either of us we stuck to the path.

About 3 miles below the surface is a chamber of red hot magma.

Scientists believe that it takes about 1,000 years for the heated pressurised water to reach the surface.

It was a really interesting place to visit. 

Have fun, we are!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Convict Lake, California

Wutsunupa – lake in the dent in the ground or Tuvaimawiye’elake that follows the enemy is the Paiute name for Convict Lake.

Paiute Indians believe that all high alpine lakes are places of great power and should be treated with great respect.

Stories tell how a boy named Hai’nanu disrespected the lake and challenged its power.   The lake chased him into the mountains and the only way he escaped was by jumping through the roof of the sky. 

Paiute Indians lived at lower elevations, but came to Convict Lake in the summer and autumn to gather food and materials to weave into baskets. 

The lake got its present name when 29 men escaped from the Carson City penitentiary in Aurora, Nevada in September 1871.   A posse tracked 6 of the convicts to the lake and during a shootout Robert Morrison, the County Sherriff and Mono Jim a Paiute guide were killed.  

Mount Morrison at the west end of the lake is named for the Sherriff and a nearby peak is named for Mono Jim. 

Another tragedy took place at the lake, around the early 1900's I think, when three boys from a local youth camp fell through the ice and two of the camp counsellors died trying to save them. 

Luckily the day we visited was simply gorgeous with absolutely no ice, no convicts and no shootout! 

Have fun, we are!

Davils Post Pile National Monument

During the summer to visit Devils Post Pile National Monument you need to take the mandatory shuttle.   When we visited, the shuttle had finished for the season, although the ranger commented that there were so many visitors she thought the shuttle should run for longer in future years.

The views as we drove into the monument were gorgeous, although as a driver you simply wouldn’t have much chance to appreciate them.   The very steep, narrow, winding road is covered in frost heaves that catch you unawares.

Without the summer shuttle the road would be a permanent traffic jam.  Luckily for us we only met a couple of vehicles as we drove in and out, better still we even managed to find a space or the truck in the very small parking area.

Heading into the monument

Heading out, would you believe there are signs warning you not to overtake? Who on earth would try and overtake on a road like this?

Once the snows arrive the road is closed until the thaw.   The only way into and out of the valley is to ski or snowshoe, I’m not even sure snowmobiles are allowed. 

Devils Post Pile

In 1910 the Forest Service received an application from mining interests who wanted to blow up the formation and dam the river.   Walter L Huber sparked a campaign that resulted in Devils Post Pile being designated a National Monument in 1911. 

It’s only about a ¼ mile along a dirt path to the monument, which is made of fractured basalt that looks just like seven sided posts, if you walk to the top (we didn’t) I believe they resemble floor tiles.

On the way back we crossed over the San Joaquin river bridge where we could see a beautiful meadow.

A sign pointed the way to Minaret Falls, but a ranger told us it was a couple of miles away.   As we only had one bottle of water between us we said we’d leave it for another day.   I’m almost certain I heard him sigh with relief as he passed us that at least here were two people he wasn’t going to have to go out later and rescue!  

When we reached the top, we pulled into the Minaret Scenic Viewpoint and enjoyed the fabulous view across the Sierra Nevada Mountains.   Theoretically you could walk to Yosemite from Devils Postpile, but there are no trails and I don’t think anyone ever has.

Have fun, we are!

Laws Rail Road Museum, Bishop, CA

Laws Railroad Museum, just outside Bishop, is really interesting.   The Carson & Colorado Narrow Gauge Railroad ran from Mound House, near Carson City Nevada, for 300 miles terminating at Keeler, California.

Between 1883 and 1915 the railroad was the only dependable means of transport in and out of the Owens Valley.   The service ran until 30 April 1960 and is now a Registered California Historical Landmark.
Laws Station was named in honour of R J Laws who was the Assistant Superintendent of the Railroad between 1883 and 1915.

The original railroad depot

 The waiting room

Steam locomotive No 9

The Visitor Centre is housed in a building that was built by Paramount Studios as part of the set for the film Nevada Smith starring Steve McQueen.

It’s an interesting place and we really enjoyed our visit.

Have fun, we are!

Catching up

What with having to return home unexpectedly earlier this year I seem to have gotten out of keeping the blog updated.   We were able to resume our travels at the end of August, but blogging seemed to fall by the wayside, so I’m now attempting to catchup.

When we arrived back in Tucson, it was hot and then the remnants of Hurricane Newton hit and with it came a whole day of steady rain.   Tucsonans were delighted but to us it was just like being at home!   There was so much rain we even got to see the wash flowing.

It was quite a sight to see the normally dry sandy wash full of fast flowing muddy brown water and easy to see how people and vehicles get washed away.

Our plan had been to head to Yellowstone, but when we started checking out campsites, we discovered they’d be closing as we arrived.   Not very good planning on our part!

So as we’d enjoyed the Eastern Sierra Nevada so much last year, we decided to head off in that direction and explore some more.

One of the places we visited was the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains, home to some of the oldest living trees in the world, one tree is over 4,000 years old.  You're not told exactly where the tree is just in case some idiot vandalises it. 

We took a couple of short hikes, one of which took us to the remains of a mine and some old cabins built of bristlecone pine logs.   Established in 1863 the miners were looking for gold and silver.

Instead they found small quantities of lead and zinc ore but not enough to make it commercially viable.   An average of 10ft of snow, frigid winters and supply problems meant the mines were soon abandoned.

Our second hike was around the Discovery Trail, this took us through some of the older bristlecone pines.   They really are amazing trees and can continue live and grow on the tiniest strip of bark.

The cones are a lovely purple colour.

Part of the trail took us through some red rocks, once part of an ancient sea bed that uplifted to form the White Mountains.  Grains of sandstone were formed into red quartzite rock, as the mountains rose erosion uncovered the rocks.

Even though both hikes were only only about a mile long we found it really hard going, but we’d forgotten that we were at 10,000 ft, so we slowed down, rested a while, drank lots of water, ate some salty stuff and were fine.

Have fun, we are!