Monday, September 10, 2018

Saddlerock Lake - Bishop Pass Trail - Eastern Sierras, California - 9/5/18

Reflections at Long Lake on Bishop Pass Trail

Saddlerock Lake

Mule Train coming up from Spearhead Lake

Group Shot at the Wilderness Sign
There were fourteen hikers on the Bishop Pass Trail Wednesday and they were heading to Saddlerock Lake, 4 miles up from the Trailhead at South Lake. When we arrived at the day use parking area, there were three long horse trailers taking up several parking spaces. Men and women were preparing the mules for a food run up the trail where there was a camp full of young people working on maintaining the trail. As we started out the trail, a couple of park rangers asked us where we were headed. Probably just checking to see if we knew!! Anyway, when ready, we started up the trail that rises above South Lake, a large fishing lake found straight up from Bishop, California.

Morning Steam Rising of Logs
The trail climbs a lot right away and puts you into the forest. We found it very interesting that on this cold morning, steam could be seen rising from the rotting logs on the forest floor.

Hiking through the Woods
We stopped, again, at the wilderness sign to take a group photo. Everyone was aware that today's hike would be slightly harder than yesterday's so there was some ambivalence in the air!

Small Switchbacks

Saying "Hello" to the Cute Men ... er ... Horses
Regardless of the difficulty of the hike, we went very slow and made sure that there were plenty of stops. The trail zigzagged through the forest on its way up. At one point, the switchbacks were small and we looked back to see our line of hikers zigzagging like a sewing thread. After that, we pulled aside while the second mule train ambled by. We said "Hi!" From there, we continued on passing the spur trail that leads out to the Chocolate Lakes and Chocolate Peak. (Three club members did this hike later in the week with a good report.) Finally, we dropped down a little and hiked into the Long Lake area. The bottom end of Long Lake is beautiful but there were no reflections, today, due to a mild wind.

Long Lake
At a small nearby pond, there were three brown ducks swimming around. They seemed pretty happy with themselves!

Creek Crossing
We stopped and took several photos at Long Lake then began our hike along the shoreline. At the top end of the lake, the trail crosses the feeder creek and begins climbing again.

Top End of Long Lake

Ducks near Long Lake
After another steep drop, we came to Spearhead Lake. Today, the "spearhead" was clearly visible on the bottom end of the lake as the trail heads up into the scree on the side. At this point, Lettie offered to stay with a few of the hikers that were ready for a break. These hikers decided to forego the remaining half mile up to Saddlerock Lake to wait for us back at the top of Long Lake. We continued up the trail that started a couple of long switchbacks in the scree. This led to two nice lakes on the left side called Timberline Tarns. A creek led up from these lakes to the next level.

Spearhead Shape at Spearhead Lake
As we climbed a little more, we passed a nice waterfall near the trail. Just before another small old bridge, we turned off the trail to the right.

In the Scree above Spearhead Lake
This put us on the shoreline of Saddlerock Lake. Most of this lake spread out in front of us heading up toward Bishop Pass that we could see in the distance. To our right, we saw the huge "saddle" made by nearby mountains. We sat for our break.

Up to Next Level

Waterfall above Timberline Tarns
On the hill behind where we sat, there is a great view of the rest of Saddlerock Lake and the two Timberline Tarns. We enjoyed the time there then, with another 50% chance of rain on our mind, we started down to meet with the other hikers that stayed behind. Yet another mule train passed us on the scree switchbacks (as seen in the third photo), then we saw the first two mule trains coming across the top of Long Lake below. They had been over to the work camp nearby to unload their packs. We met up with Lettie's group and continued down learning that two of our hikers had decided to go down without us. (I'm glad they didn't lose their way!)

Taking a Break at Saddlerock Lake
Our pace down stayed moderate and we made sure that we didn't get too separated.

Saddlerock Lake from Small Hill Above
When we reached the two hikers that had started down before us, we slowed down even more. They said that the elevation was bothering one of them.

Timberline Tarns from Small Hill Above

Creek flowing from Saddlerock to Timberline Lakes
We crossed the creeks, hiked down the little switchbacks, hiked through the forest, and approached South Lake. Near South Lake, we passed three men who were on their way up with large backpacks. They had barely started and were already sitting on logs waiting for their friend who hadn't gone even a quarter mile yet! Gee, I hope they made it! When we hiked into the trailhead, the mule trailers were still there. I guess they made a day of it, too! Great hike! Fun day! No rain.

8 miles; 1570 feet elevation gain; 5.25 hours

Long Pack Train at Top of Long Lake

All Smiles at the Trailhead

Well Deserved Meal at Perry's

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