Friday, May 13, 2016

Lundy Canyon, Rush Creek, Tufa, and Snow


On our way to Bodie we stopped at the Mono Basin Visitor Center where Mary and I spoke with a ranger about which trails in the area were accessible and open. He recommended Lundy Canyon, just 7 miles north of Lee Vining, but said he wasn’t sure if we could make it over the creek crossing at 1/2 mile in. Each armed with two hiking poles, we set out hoping for a longer hike if we could get across the stream.

It starts out as a level path through the budding aspen trees to the lake.



Elaborate beaver dam.


From there it climbs steeply up to a rocky point where we had great views of the falls.



Soon we were at the creek crossing, which turned out to be no problem at all.


In fact it was one of the easiest of many that we crossed.




We soon encountered snow but then the trail was clear again.


This was the last photo Jim took, and I took none, when we got into the deep snow and could no longer find a trail or other footprints to help us out. We all went different ways trying to figure out if we could continue, when I heard voices. Surprised that anyone else was out there since we saw no footprints in the snow, we encountered a group of four young people with skis and packs who had been out early that morning skiing down the mountain.


They pointed out the way they had gone, but there was just too much snow so we gave up and turned back. At least we made it a mile and a half.

Our lovely lunch spot on the way back.


Not a good picture but they passed us while we were eating and I hurriedly took this. I’m not sure I could cross all the streams and snow with that baggage on my back.


It was such a beautiful day for our last hike with David and Mary.



The next day after everyone left we decided to take a drive along the June Lake loop and hike the Rush Creek trail at the north end of Silver Lake. Most of the trails in the June Lake area ascend steeply, and this was no exception.


Soon we were high above the lake and entering the Ansel Adams Wilderness.



Starting at 7,200’, our goal was to hike two miles to 8,500’ Agnew Lake, although we didn’t know if the trail was free of snow. At 1.6 miles we had to cross the tracks of a cable car that serves an electrical substation at Agnew Lake.



In another 0.1 mile we came to our turn around point. I could feel a panic attack coming on just thinking about crossing that snow.


Had it been more level, maybe, but it was a long steep drop if that huge chunk decided to slide down the mountain.


Too bad, as we were just 0.3 mile from the lake, although the snow may have been worse up there.


A tree we just liked the look of.


Besides a good workout in a beautiful area, we wanted to visit June Lake Brewing, which just opened last year. Their double IPAs were excellent, so much so that Jim, who hates IPAs, drank my Hutte Double IPA nitro aged in bourbon barrels. They also had a strong ale aged in pinot noir barrels that was really good, but at 13.4% alcohol a few sips were enough.


Unfortunately the gnats ran us out of our beautiful site overlooking Mono Lake.



But before leaving yesterday we went down to the lake to look at the tufa. Although it was breezy we were getting bitten on the head and ears so didn’t stay too long. If you’re not familiar with Mono Lake and tufa, you can read more about it from our 2013 visit.




I was curious how far we could get on Tioga Pass Road, so we decided to drive up and see. The sign said the road was closed four miles from Hwy 395, but we kept going and going well beyond four miles. This is my favorite view, although the vastness doesn’t really come across in photos.


Soon we were passing frozen lakes and many feet of snow, although the road was completely cleared.


We saw at least a dozen cyclists making their way up.






The gate was closed at the east entrance to Yosemite National Park, 12 miles from 395.



So glad we decided to take that drive. I’m not sure spring is the right time to hang around the eastern Sierra, with the threat of storms, crazy swings in temperatures, limited trails to hike due to closed roads and snow, and gnats right now, mosquitoes to arrive soon. But it’s a gorgeous place, no matter what time of year. I think we’ll stick to late summer or fall in the future, but I’m sure we’ll return. The mountains are calling…


  1. This is Allison on Jim's laptop. Did you have gnats in Lone Pine? They're such annoying insects. That was very impressive snow and ice.

  2. Gorgeous pictures. Nothing better than a snow on the mountains. Not so good on the trails, though. ;-D

  3. Lundy Canyon is one of favorite hikes, beautiful! I always figured the beaver dam was built by a Canadian snow-bird beaver, the local SoCal critters should not be that ambitious.

    Good idea to not make the traverse on the snow field. Fran and I were traversing the Conness Glacier above Saddlebag Lake off 120. She slipped and slid to the bottom - fortunately unhurt - but that's not near as steep.

    Mosquitoes are a pest in the 20 Lakes Basin, I have to remember that at that elevation we are the food source.

    Hope to get up there next year, thanks for sharing what the rest of us are missing.

  4. Lovely shots as always. By the way I agree with you on the Spring versus Fall on 395. We did spring last year and although it was an exceptionally early spring (almost zero snow, and pretty much all the hiking trails were open), we still encountered a lot of fickle weather and had to wait it out quite a bit at specific spots.. So I do feel fall is the better time to be there.


  5. So beautiful. The gnats alone make Fall win over Spring for us :-)

  6. Sitting up here in Central Wa..Deciding whether to go left or South next week..With your hints of Gnats and Skeeters...Thanks!...I'm headed East towards Almo Idaho..
    Without the clues folks like you guys give the rest of us..
    I could get eaten..And only a 5.5" stature...Not much left...
    Thanks again,

  7. What gorgeous scenery you two are experiencing. We have never hiked in the snow. Not sure I would enjoy it as much as the desert, but I know I would love the view.

  8. Gorgeous! That is a tough time of year to negotiate in those parts...but I am so glad you did because the scenery is amazing! I'd love to be around there once the flowers start blooming...but I bet the mosquitos would be pretty bad with all the snow melt.

  9. Just spectacular hikes! I do enjoy hiking across small pieces of snow. The hiking poles sure are a huge help with creek crossings. That was my main reason for getting them. Who knew how much they help your over all feeling on a long hike! It is too bad so many places need to be hiked in the fall because of the snow in the spring! But I do love your drive to the frozen lakes and walls of snow by the road...beautiful!

  10. It's good to see that you are getting out there and hiking, snow or not. That looks like a beautiful area and I need to go there one of these days. Thanks for the great pics and reports!

  11. I'm not a big beer drinker, but when it is aged in bourbon barrels I think it is great.

  12. Undeterred by snow and gnats 😄

    1. I'm deterred by the gnats. Unlike Gayle when I am bitten by a bug varmint of pretty much any type I develope large itchy bumps that lasts for days. So, that is why we left a beautiful site on Mono lake early.


  13. Although traveling the 395 is beautiful in the spring we agree that it is best done in the fall, which is when we did the Lundy Canyon hike. Too bad about the gnats. We didn't experience any the spring we were in the area.

  14. Really great post. Your pictures are beautiful. Those hikes with no one but you guys around must have been so spectacular. Sorry about the gnats. They are so irritating and seem to be able to get through many types of screening. And they bite! Thanks for the advice about the visiting the Easter Sierra. It's another thing STILL on my bucket list.

  15. Your pictures inspire us! We area going full time in July and love reading your blog. Thanks!