Sunday, September 30, 2012

Graveyard Peak

Graveyard Peak is an infrequently climbed peak in the Sierra Nevada wilderness above Lake Edison (in the eastern end of Fresno County, California). I'm not quite sure what prompted me to climb it, other than a request from my son Michael to climb a mountain this year before the cold weather set in. Graveyard Peak caught my attention as I glanced over several maps looking for possibilities. I'm very glad we climbed it. Not that it was easy - in fact it was quite difficult. But the view along the way, and especially at the top, was indescribable.

Michael, Jon and I left Fresno at 5:00 yesterday morning and drove to Shaver Lake to pick up my friend Chad. We then drove another couple of hours along winding mountain roads to the Devil's Bathtub (an alpine lake) trailhead. It is at a parking area on the west side of the Lake Edison dam. The walk to Devil's Bathtub lake took us a couple of hours and was quite pleasant. It is 4 and a half miles from the trailhead and only climbs about 1,400 feet - not that bad of an ascent. As far as nice alpine Lake go, Devil's Bathtub is something to experience. It is much larger than I expected and has several nice camping areas. And the view is beautiful. You can see the lake with Graveyard peak in the background (upper right corner) in the group picture (below). 

The hike from the lake up to Graveyard Peak (visible above the lake) is quite a different story. It goes up at a steep angle and there is no trail. You have to climb over 2,000 feet through stones and dwarf manzanitas. The last 1,000 feet is all boulders with a few sandy areas between. It isn't easy. There is a trail up to Graveyard Lakes that takes you closer to the peak than the scramble above Devil's Bathtub. But the climb from Graveyard Lakes to the peak is much too steep and dangerous to try unless you're an experience climber.

We didn't risk climbing the last 100 feet to the precarious summit from the ridge. We stopped at the point where I took the picture (above). But the view from ridge was beyond description. We counted over a dozen visible alpine lakes and the long chain of the Sierra backbone along with countless other ridges and forests. We didn't want to come down. 


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Icaricia acmon

Here's a picture of the acmon blue (Icaricia acmon) that I spotted a couple of months ago near San Luis Obispo (California). We were staying at a KOA campground near a local pond that had almost dried up. All that was left was a little water and a lot of mud - perfect for butterflies and wasps that are often attracted to such places.

The native habitat is mixed oak / pine forest with rolling hills. In July it is hot and dry and just holding out for the autumn rains. All, that is, except for the likes of small beauties like the acmon blue that are happy to slake their thirst with muddy water.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Heart Lake

We took a little trip over to the east side of the Sierra Nevada (in California) last weekend. Since I am an early riser, I got out of bed one morning while it was still dark outside and the family was asleep, and hiked to Heart Lake above Mammoth Lakes.

 The lake is not very big and the hike (from the campground and small ghost town above Lake Mary) was maybe a bit over a mile long (each way) with a gain in altitude of maybe 500 feet. The air was cool, changing from the mid 50's at the paarking area to just at freezing at the lake (at around 9,300 feet). But I loved the hike. The air was fresh and the view of the rising sun reflecting off the rim of the Sierra was impressive.

There is also a nice stand of mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) around the lake which is a tree I don't run into very often. You can see them in the following picture.

The view of Lake Mary as the sun comes up is worth the short hike. What beautiful country.