Summer Solstice Photo Extravaganza

Where: our summer job at Rock Creek Lakes Resort

In a stunning reversal of weeks past, this last week was suddenly, unmistakably, and completely SUMMER. After the dusting of snow we got last week, we immediately shot up in the 60s and 70s, and flirted with 80 a couple days. Meanwhile, Bishop has been in the 105 range, and just a little further south has been seeing 110. (And Death Valley hit 124 this week!) The aspens are fully leafed out, the pine trees are pumping out pollen, and the bugs are acting out Cole Porter lyrics. Summer was taking a long siesta, but she’s awake and ready for action!

Even though it’s super warm at elevations below 8000 feet, there’s still too much snow in the alpine zones where we’d like to be hiking. I’ve been studying day hikes and drives options in the lower areas, trying to find something that would meet in the temperate middle. Thanks to a great little publication put out by the Mono County Tourism Board, we have a long list of possible destinations nearby. Our inaugural outing was to Bald Mountain Lookout, in the dense Jeffery and Lodgepole forests between Mammoth Lakes and June Lake. We parked about a mile and a half down from the top and hiked up the rest of the way.  I had no idea that it would be such a premiere viewpoint. We could see 75 miles of the spine of the Sierra, all the way from Crowley Lake up north to Mono Lake.

The log cabin up top is now used as a warming hut for skiers in winter, but was originally built for the Civilian Public Service, which was an option for conscientious objectors during WWII.

A bit rustic, but just fine for winter camping:

We rounded out the day with a trip around the June Lake Loop, stopping for a meal and a cider at a match made in heaven: June Lake Brewery and Ohana’s Food Truck in their parking lot.

Warmer temperatures also mean the start of the Polar Bear Cub Club “meetings”. In years past, there was a group of guys working at the resort who always jumped into the lake at 5:30am on Wednesday mornings, and they called themselves the Polar Bear Club. For those who prefer their freezing cold water at a more civilized time, there’s the Polar Bear Cub Club, which meets on Wednesday evenings for a plunge. Since the lake was finally free of ice, it seemed like the right time to get things going. Four of us were veteran jumpers, and we enticed 3 of the newcomers to try it out. I remember the first time I jumped in, and how debilitating the cold water was to my whole system. Apparently, you build up some kind of tolerance to the situation, because this time was not too bad. I didn’t want to swim across the lake, but I also didn’t fear that I was going to stop breathing!

As a five year veteran of the Resort, Casey was first in.  The rocks I’m standing on are usually a couple feet above the water line:

Proof that JJ and I got in:

Cheering on Annie, for her first time plunge:

Time for a hot shower:

You’d never know it was only about 40 degrees!:

According to a state avalanche scientist that the owner talked to, we are currently experiencing peak runoff.  They said we could continue to see the same level of water for quite some time, but that it shouldn’t get any worse.  Customers who want to rent a boat get a stern warning, because they have to wade through waist deep water to walk on the gangplank to the floating docks.  The lake is way above both the outlet tube and also the overflow tubes, and we really hope the prediction is accurate–we don’t want it to get any higher!

Early in the week, the water was a lot lower and the gangplank was accessible:

It’s a cold swim to our boats:

The day use area right by the lake is not quite ready for business:

And the road to the trailhead is probably also a way from opening:

The trailhead itself is still really covered in snow:

Up for next week: we hike to a huge waterfall and we get a new, vandwelling co-worker who learned about the Resort from my blog!

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