Sunday, September 18, 2016

Saddlerock Lake (11,044') - John Muir Wilderness (Eastern Sierras) - 9/17/16

Saddlerock Lake on Bishop Pass Trail

Long Lake & Hurd Peak

Long Lake

Harvest Moon Setting
 Friday morning, six club members drove from Las Vegas to Bishop, CA in caravan up I-95, across on 168 and up 395. We arrived in the early afternoon and had the remaining part of the day to rest, see the town and two club members went for a stroll on the Little Lakes Valley Trail about 30 miles from town. The remaining four met for dinner at Schat's Roadhouse Restaurant since the Schat's sandwich shop & bakery closed at 4pm.

Afternoon in Bishop, CA
 Schat is a local family that owns many businesses in this and nearby areas.

Dennis leaves the Bishop Pass Trailhead
 Susan and Donette reported that the Little Lakes Valley Trail is a family-type beautiful trail along a valley out from Rock Creek Road.

Hurd Peak & South Lake near Trailhead

Dennis & Pack
 Saturday morning, we met up for a caravan up 168 to South Lake Road and on to South Lake where we parked at the Bishop Pass Trailhead. Dennis was officially delivered for his hike in to meet up with Tim on the John Muir Trail. We started up the trail that began with about a half mile (it seemed) of rock steps; a tough go for someone with a 40 lb. pack on his back. The rest of us had no problem as we hiked up the steps and began a rather loud conversation. We were very aware that we were now in bear country.

Signs along the Bishop Pass Trail
 After the trail hiked up next to South Lake for a short distance, it dove into the forest of trees and granite rocks. We began passing a few backpackers that were already coming down from the other side of the pass.

Trail through Forest
 Laughing, we were calling anything that moved (including backpackers) bears. So, as we neared one of those "bears," we were caught totally off guard when we realized that he was David, Tim's hiking partner for the last two weeks.

Chocolate Peak from Trail

Kay at Long Lake
 David had traveled a much longer distance than planned the night before and was already less than a mile out of the Bishop Pass Trailhead. (We were so flummoxed that the writer forgot to take his photo.) We had planned to meet David at Bishop Lake just below the pass! Anyway, we gave him the key to the car and continued up the trail through the woods. There were a few signs posted for spur trails leading to nearby lakes.

Long Lake Panorama
 Leaving the cover of the woods, we met a few small easy switchbacks and dropped over a small hill. We passed a few more backpackers and sang a few songs to scare the bears away. Then, let the beauty begin!

Ground Squirrel preparing for Winter
 We came to the lower end of Long Lake and the morning light was absolutely perfect for amazingly clear mirror images in the water. We were all in awe!

Long Lake Continued

Rock Crossing
 Working our way up the side of Long Lake, we took photo after photo. Probably spent around twenty extra minutes for this. Although we were aware of a few campers in the corners of the lake, we felt alone and expressed our delight without qualms! This lake, alone, made the whole trip worth it! Right weather, right time of day, right time of year. There were many points of view that we came to that were worth a few pixels.

Nearing End of Long Lake
 After balancing across some large rocks placed in shallow water, we finally made it to the upper end of Long Lake.

Still Nearing End of Long Lake!
 On this end, there is a small island in the lake. Still no sign of bears.

Island in Long Lake

Leaving Long Lake
 As the trail led away from Long Lake, it crossed over a hill but stayed in the floor of the glacial valley. Mt. Goode (13,085') was our constant guard on the ridge ahead of us. We were almost past Hurd Peak on the right. We had already passed Chocolate Peak on the left and before long Mt. Agassiz (13,892') appeared ahead on the left. Mt. Agassiz rises to the south of Bishop Pass along the ridge.

Awestruck Group of Five
The trail is in very good condition. It is a stock pack trail so the inclines are not too steep. There is no trash that we saw and this encourages more people to be clean wilderness hikers.

Color in the Rock & Mt. Goode (13,085')
 The only thing we noticed that was against the rules is one fairly deep cut trail of a switchback shortcut. We did not use this unreasonable eroding shortcut.

Nearing Spearhead Lake

Spearhead Lake
 The next lake we came to was Spearhead Lake. This lake also provided us with unbelievably gorgeous views and mirrors. The trail hiked alongside the shoreline among the rocks. At the end of this smaller lake, we crossed a bridge over the stream that fed the lake. The sound of the flowing water was music to a desert dweller's ears. The trail soon crossed back across the water.

From Top of Spearhead Lake
 Now, the trail started ascending the side of the valley. The valley below was grassy marshland. Still no bears.

Climbing in Up the Rocky Trail
 We stopped for a moment and surveyed what we thought was the last half mile before Bishop Lake, our original destination.

Leaving the Lower Lakes

Donette taking in Timberline Tarn
 There was another set of gentle switchbacks then we reached the Timberline Tarns. There is a rock walkway out into the tarn next to the trail and three of us took our turns out where the views were complete. Next, we climbed a short hill up next to the stream and a nice waterfall seen in a photo below. We had passed several hikers during the morning but most of the time, we felt alone.

Timberline Tarn
 At the top of the water area, we came to the next lake. We thought that this was Bishop Lake at 4 miles in and 11,044 feet in elevation.

Waterfall below Saddlerock Lake
 We decided to stop for our snack break. It was a beautiful view as seen below. Bishop Pass was up ahead and Mt. Agassiz rose pointedly.

Saddlerock Lake toward Bishop Pass & Mt. Agassiz (13,892')

Resting at Saddlerock Lake
 Alas, when we returned, we saw that we had only reached Saddlerock Lake, a forgotten lake half a mile before Bishop Lake. Nevertheless, the hike had been amazing and there were no regrets for not reaching the terminus of the scheduled hike. After the break, two hikers decided to climb all the way to the pass then, on their return, they planned to take in Chocolate Peak, a hike mentioned in Richard Natale's book.

Susan & Donette leaving to Climb Pass
 A short text later that evening, verified that the two hikers had completed their journey.

Rock Crossing above Spearhead Lake
 The remaining three hikers started down the trail. The late morning light made everything appear different and some of the same photos were taken.

Switchbacks down to Spearhead Lake

Trail at side of Spearhead Lake
 We passed a lot more hikers on the way down than when we were on our way up. Many of them were fishing the lakes. Fishing seems to be a popular activity in the Bishop area. South Lake even has many docked fishing boats that we saw on the way in. There is also a lodge at South Lake with cabins called Bishop Creek Lodge. Our hike down went smoothly and we only stopped for the occasional photo.

Hiking back to Long Lake
 As we reached the top end of Long Lake, a pack team of one horse and two mules ambled by. The wrangler was courteous as we were by stepping five to ten feet off the trail.

Stock Packing Resupplies over Pass
 When we reached the bottom end of Long Lake, we noted a few fishermen working their lines.

Mid-Day View of Long Lake

View Back to Mt. Agassiz (13,892')
 The hike back through the forest seemed like the longest part of the hike. Still no bears and none would ever come around. It seems that the hard work that the rangers and hikers have done on the bear issue has paid off. Good job! Finally, we saw South Lake through the trees. David sat patiently waiting at the car and we all returned to Bishop for a sandwich at Schat's. One of the best trails that the five of us have hiked.

8 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 4.75 hours

Hiking back through the Forest

Fall Color at South Lake

South Lake & Hurd Peak nearing Trailhead

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