Adventure Club photo essay and fleeting fall colors

JJ, Mary and I have been having a blast with our outings for our Tuesday Adventure Club. The three of us are heading out to places that we wouldn’t necessarily get to on our own, and we really enjoy each others company. Last week we took 120 into the west side of Yosemite, and hiked a trail just outside the boundary for the park. Twenty Lakes Basin is billed as a “must-do” hike, with a string of lakes arranged in a (rare for this part of the world) loop trail. It did not disappoint!

The trail starts around Saddlebag Lake, a huge lake with a resort on the near edge. During the busy months, the resort operates a water taxi that drops you off at the far side of the lake, allowing you to cut off about 5 miles of not-so-interesting trail. But, it was already closed for the season, so we hoofed it through the scree field, back to the basin. And then we got lost. Unlike the trails in our canyon, the ones leading off from the lake were neither signed nor particularly obvious. When we came to the first trail that turned in the right direction, we took it, hoping it was the start of the loop trail.

Very enticing, but not the right trail:

We passed clear lakes that were teaming with native, not stocked, trout (as we could tell by the white stripe on their fins) and headed towards a steep headwall with lingering snow, probably from last winter! It was a lovely area, but we seemed to be hiking towards a dead end. We crossed the stream to try what looked like a bigger trail, and met up with another hiker who gave us her battered map, and informed us that we weren’t even near the loop trail, but we could pick it up with about a mile of overland travel.

Finally on the trail, the hiking was pleasant. The loop is primarily composed of old mining roads, so they are wide and level. As advertised, we passed lake after lake, with gorgeous rust colored mountains around them. But, contrary to what we had heard, it was not all flat and easy. There were a couple steep drop offs down the sides of cliffs, with no real trail down them. And, there were a lot more areas of loose scree, probably the remnants of mining operations that dynamited out the mountains, where walking was treacherous. (A quick update on my ankle that I busted in March….still giving me some fits. As I look back on the incident, I think I may have had a hairline fracture, and it’s not exactly healed. I can hike all I want on level ground, but I still have to be really gentle on lumpy stuff, because that ankle just wants to twist over again.) Still, the varied terrain was gorgeous, and it was cool to experience so many types of geology in such a short hike.

Forest Service cabin overlooking Saddlebag Lake:

We hiked all the way around this!:


Fall has pretty much come and gone at our elevation in the past week and a half. The whole canyon was filled with yellows and oranges, and then a cold front came in on Sunday and Monday. We had snow flurries all day Sunday, and temps down in the teens overnight. Those cold temperatures turned most of the leaves brown, and they are starting to drop off. I went out for a walk one morning at the height of the colors earlier in the week, and got some great pictures of fall in the Eastern Sierra.

The final day of the season for Rock Creek Lakes Resort is this coming Monday, 10/10. After it’s closed, we will winterize the cabins, pack away all the outside gear, and do deep cleans on the restaurant, kitchen, and store. It’s hard to believe, but we we will only be here about 2 more weeks from this point. Then, we skedaddle for warmer weather! It’s going to be so strange to head through Southern California and on to Tucson, because they are still in the 90s! But, we are most ready to work on our tans!


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