When I told my friends and family I was going up to THE LAKE and wasn’t going to post a blog, everyone groaned and expressed their utter disappointment. AND so, here is a post of my latest non-backpacking trip to my beloved SIERRA.
June 3, 2016
At the end of a 21 mile bumpy and curvy two way, one lane, half dirt, half pot hole paved road with sheer cliff drop offs on one side and massive granite walls and boulders on the other side, sits a stunningly gorgeous and pristine SIERRA lake. It is a destination you really have to WANT, because for some this road can be a white knuckle, sweaty palms, heart palpitating 90 minute drive. I love this drive! And my favorite time to drive it is at night….for two reasons: first I can see the headlights of on coming cars long before we meet on a curve and two, as I’ve established in previous posts, I love to drive at night and wake up in the morning in the mountains.
I often drive halfway down the road, usually arriving at 11 to a favorite campsite where I set up my tent and watch the night sky as I drift off to sleep.
The view from my tent at 5:30 AM
Two-way one lane road…
who knows what is around the corner.
Sometimes the view makes it hard to focus on the road.
In the morning I drive the rest of the way and marvel at the expansive view all the way to Mt Ritter, Banner and the Minarets. Further down the road the Silver Divide spreads out across the horizon…. I have held these peaks in my heart all winter and now I welcome them and feel welcomed by them… like an old friend with so much to share.
Those of you who know me know exactly the place and Lake I speak of; others will know it by the description of the drive and some may wonder: “Where is this place???” (I won’t give the name away in this blog post but if you really want to know you can email me.)
This year, due to a high SIERRA snow year and lack of work on the dam The Lake is brimming to capacity…..and actually spilling over the dam. I am filled with such excitement that I’m actually nervous! I cannot wait to get out on the water.
I unload my kayak and paddle board and all my gear for the next 9 days….. Ice chest, bear canisters, tent, chair, hammock….all packed neatly and tightly. Although this is not a backpacking trip I still have my trail name, Tidy, to live up to. After I unload all my gear and pack the kayak I wait for my friend who will be joining me for this adventure. As I survey my pile of gear that is on the rocks AROUND my boat instead of IN the boat, it becomes clear that two trips out to the campsite will be necessary. As I’m debating this The Friend arrives and proceeds to unload all her gear….. Lots of piles of gear in brightly colored dry bags and stuff sacks. We agree absolutely two trips….we also decide to pay for the water taxi to take our extra gear. I give the driver some “mom made brownies.” A supreme sacrifice! He is delighted!
Finally on the water paddling out to our campsite.
Our camp and all our gear before we set up.
My boat glides across the water making a delightful swish swish sound. The water is like a mirror reflecting the snow covered peaks. No one is on the lake. In fact for the first five days we are the only campers on the lake.
The lake has a handful of boat-in campsites along the shore. My favorite and only one on the Left side of camp becomes home for the week. I have fondly named this camp LEFT CAMP and always smile at the double meaning. Often when I’m here this site is taken by the group I refer to as The Hubble’s….they have thousands of dollars worth of telescope equipment that they set up on the granite slabs…by day they play frisbee golf and at night they view the solar system.
Looking down on Left Camp.
Left Camp. (just writing that makes me laugh)
On the first morning I heard a loud scampering outside my tent and sat up just in time to see a coyote chasing a deer across the granite slabs.
Alpine glow on The Lake.
Approaching Left Camp from the water.
Not much happens on The Lake which is the whole point of being here. The days fall into an easy rhythm….. Morning coffee and crosswords on the bench and veranda I built 8 years ago…. Glassy morning paddle around the lake exploring coves and stopping to sample delightful swimming nooks. Back to camp for lunch, cribbage, hammock time, lots and lots of hammock time where I stare out at the water and my mind wanders here and there. Despite all this relaxing the days go by quickly…….too quickly in fact.
The Veranda. The place for morning coffee and crosswords and afternoon happy hour.
The cribbage game. I lost more than I won….But still had fun.
This is part of my series: coffee in Beautiful Places.
The view from my hammock. 2 hours per day…non-negotaible.
Night time arrives.
More views of Left Camp.
I found my first Mylar balloon of the summer season tangled in some Jeffrey Pine branches. A few days later I found my second and biggest Mylar balloon that also played music. I repurposed this as the camp trash bag. Again I wish people wouldn’t let these balloons go because the air stream always delivers them somewhere deep into the SIERRA. I know look for Mylar balloons as if I’m on a scavenger hunt….since I started counting them three years ago, I think I have found 10!
Big ol’ Mylar balloon repurposed as the trash bag.
We paddled up to the main water inlet for The Lake. At night we could hear the roar of the water…one mile away!
We went on a big adventure one day leaving camp via kayaks at 7:30 am. We paddled across the glassy lake got in the car and drove over to Vermillion Valley where we then went in a 9 mile hike to Devils Bathtub. It was a beautiful hike under the trees, through meadows and bogs full of Mosquitos and shooting stars and then up, up, up into a cirque that held the bathtub. Lots and lots of freezing cold water tumbling and roaring down the creeks.
Beautiful meadow. BZZZ BZZZ swat!
After the hike we stopped at the hot springs where we soaked in two of the pools. We arrived back at our kayaks around 6 with two bags of ice that we proceed to wrap in my life jacket and paddle the mile back to camp. The next day we had to have double hammock time to make up for time lost the previous day!
Little Eden Hot Springs.
One day for lunch I made biscuits on the fire. We then filled them with Cheese and tomatoes and bacon and had a delicious sandwich. We ate the leftovers for breakfast. MMM MMM MMM.
Preparing the bisquits.
They are actually cooking over the coals!
A little burnt but still tasty.
We had stunning weather the entire time…..until the day we had to paddle out. We woke to cloudy skies and choppy waters. The water rocked the boats back and forth into the granite slabs sloshing water over the sides. Thankfully, AND for once the wind was blowing with us instead of against us as we paddled back to the boat dock. I used rocks to weigh my paddle board down so it wouldn’t flip over as I towed it with my kayak. We raced the storm and the increasing choppy water back to the dock….arriving and throwing our gear into the cars just as the rain began to fall.
Lots of gear to get back to the cars.
All too soon the trip was over and I found myself driving back down the bumpy and curvy two way, one lane, half dirt, half pot hole paved road!
Colorful dry-bags become our flag for the week.