Monday, September 28, 2009
John Muir Wilderness Area,The Little Lakes Valley Trailhead
High above the treeline a terminal moraine marked the end of a cirque,(a bowl shaped depression formed from an alpine glacier). There had to be a lake up there, like Lost Twin Lakes in the Bighorns. Alan pointed out the trail to it and mentioned that he had seen the trail break off from our path. Today was not the day, but the cirque and its hidden lake beckoned,(We looked it up and its called Hidden Lakes).
We were hiking the Little Lakes Valley Trail, high up in the Sierras Nevadas. We had parked the truck at the trail head, donned our packs, and headed for the wilderness area. Immediately the trail steepened, much tougher than climbing Lembert Dome, and we paused as we hiked up a section called the crankcase,(It used to be a road and it didn't take much imagination as to how many vehicles broke their crankcase on the rocky path).
We reached a fork and headed up the Little Lakes trail, the other way went to Mono Pass. Soon we reached a lake and then another. As we hiked we could see that the whole valley was a series of paternoster lakes, a French alpine glacier term describing a chain of lakes carved out by a single alpine glacier,(They were so named because they resembled the rosary beads of a priest).The aspens shared their brillant fall colors with us with groves of yellow and orange trees. It was a perfect time to see the fall mountains display.
We stopped at Marsh Lake for pictures and lunch, before heading further up the trail to Heart and Long Lakes. Our cameras were clicking furiously and we made our final stop at Long Lake where we rested and talked. Others passed us both ways as the trail was busy with hikers all looking for a last breath of the high mountain air. Too soon snow would fly and fill the passes and trails, covering all in the winters cold grip.
We didn't make it to Chickenfoot lake, which was our original destination, but that was fine. Our cameras cards and more importantly our minds were full of images of the beauty of the high Sierras. The hike back was pretty easy as it was mostly downhill and it went too quickly. We all felt lucky, and blessed to spend a day with friends, in the high country. Clear skies.