Today dmbeaster takes us to a lovely spot in the eastern Sierrra Nevada, where snow patches on the granite peaks and sky-blue lakes are a welcome sight for those of us in the grip of mid-summer heat and humidity.
Someone asked me to post pictures from Little Lakes Valley in the Sierra Nevada, otherwise known as Rock Creek. This is an approach on the east side located between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes, and the road leaves west from Hwy 395 at Toms Place, a small hamlet with a fun restaurant and bar.
I have been going here for years, including staying at the cabins and lodge at Rock Creek, and snowcatting into that lodge in winter to cross-country ski. I have also roamed cross-country all over this valley to visit all of the lakes, and enjoying secret places off trail. This is one of the places where I have also hired packers for dunnage trips (mules and a packer carry your gear into your camp).
The east side of the Sierra is noted for is extreme variation in altitude. Most of the escarpment rises up steeply from Owens Valley at 4,000 feet to a continuous 50 mile jagged ridge that is rarely lower than 12,000 feet, with peaks to 14,000 feet. The Owens Valley basically ends just north of Bishop, and the highway climbs a huge slope up to Mammoth over the debris of the massive Long Valley Caldera eruption (Bishop Tuff). Little Lakes Valley is located at the northern end point of Owens Valley at the top of this climb.
For most locations on the east side, getting into the high country involves a massive vertical gain, and the lower country tends to be hot, dusty and barren except for pretty riparian habitats extending into the near desert. But the road at Little Lakes Valley goes to 10,200 feet giving you immediate and easy access to the scenic high country of the Sierra.
It is special. The hiking is easy. You can walk in four to five miles and only gain 800 feet. You can tour the many scenic small lakes and lovely terrain, while never working hard. You can leave the valley to the west side over 12,000 foot Mono Pass, or as I have done, over cross-country passes to the west side (I hiked to Golden Lake and Pioneer Basin, which has a great view of the Mono Recesses).
I am also including a few pictures of another magical and easy place to visit from the east side — the Ritter Range just west of Devils Postpile.
This is Heart Lake, the third lake in the chain and one of the prettiest. It is a little over a mile to get here and a very modest gain. The stream that flows to the lake is very pretty, as are the reeds and grasses that grow on parts of the lake shore.