Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hiking Up Little Lakes Valley

Between Mammoth Lakes and Bishop, California on Hwy 395, there is a turnoff at Tom's Place on County Road 12. This unassuming road travels west approximately 6 miles to one of the highest elevation trailheads reached by a vehicle in all of the Sierras. The parking area at Mosquito Flat trailhead, elevation 10,300 ft, was full to overflowing with hikers and their dogs setting off up the trail to the many lakes in the Little Lakes Valley. To access the virtual hike of the entire trail all the way up through Morgan Pass, you can go to the following link , click on Hiking, and read #1 Mosquito Flat, clicking HERE at the end of their paragraph.

As Allan and Mark started up the trail, they were surrounded by the end of summer change of color in the aspens covering the sides of the mountains. The weather could not have been more perfect and the sky was clear. As we got further up the trail we encountered Crankcase Grade, the only moderate climb on the trail causing us to stop periodically and catch our breath and giving us a chance to take some photos.

In the next photo, Renita and I are coming up the Grade. You can see Rock Creek in the background.

Near the top of the Grade is the split in the trail. If you go to the right you will travel up the Mono Pass Trail which is considered strenuous and leads over the John Muir Trail ending up at Tuolumne Meadows.

We took the easier trail to the left which continued straight up the valley to the first lake in the chain, Mack Lake. Although this lake is only 1/2 mile from the trailhead, it seemed to be longer because of the climb up Crankcase Grade. But looking down at this first lake nestled under Mount Morgan, it was well worth the effort. According to the internet information there are trout in all of these lakes and we did see some fishermen during the days hike trying their luck.

After continuing along the trail which still seemed to be climbing, we came over the top of a moraine to look down on Marsh Lake, a lovely lake surrounded by grasses and sedges. Although it is one of the smaller lakes in the chain, it is also one of the most beautiful. We walked along a smaller trail around one side of the lake and found a shady site to have our picnic lunch. Allan, Mark, and Renita are all standing on the path along Marsh Lake as we get ready to continue up the Little Lakes Valley.

To get to Heart Lake we had to cross Ruby Creek which was meandering across the meadow before reaching the lake. This was a lake with a shallow sandy beach and was popular with families wading into the water and dogs swimming out to fetch thrown sticks. Mark found a shady site to just sit for a moment and appreciate the scenery.

Our final lake for the day was Box Lake which is one of the biggest of the Little Lakes. We stopped to just sit and listen to the wind rustling a few branches above us and then reluctantly we got to our feet to begin the walk back to the trailhead. It was the perfect scenery to remember the Sierras during the coming winter and it was the perfect sendoff for Mark and Renita who are departing the Sierras this week.

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