Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Finding Gold at Fern Lake (Part 1)

(GPS: N37 45.760 W119 06.790)

I wanted to do a few blog entries on a hike I did back in October. The video that will be part of this series will be an exclusive for the blog and unlisted. So the only way you will be able to see it is to follow along the next few blogs.

As I have said a bunch of times before, I love the fall season in the High Sierra. While almost anytime of the year can be relaxing there I tend to be at my most relaxed during the fall. Part of it is that most of the work I had to do in the prior months is over. Most of the tourists are gone which means you can really find that solitude if you are looking for it. Then the cool weather comes in along with the changing color of the leaves.

October, 2015 did not quite work at exactly like that though. Due to my schedule, I had the option of going either early in October or at the end of the month. I took the beginning of the month because I had read some sites that track California fall colors online saying that the time to go was "now". That was irritating because when I reached my destination the area was completely green! Not only that, but it was completely hot too! Even in the evenings it was still hot even as the sun was going down over the mountainside. I felt as if I was still in August because it was still in summer conditions there. I started referring to my short time there as "the extended summer."

I decided to do a strenuous hike that I had never done before to Fern Lake just off the June Lake Loop. I knew Fern Lake had some fall colors every year, but there is a small window of opportunity for that. I almost did this hike near the end of October a few years ago, but found out the leaves had probably dropped to the ground so I didn't do it. This year I reasoned that being at a higher elevation I might find something since everything below was green. In any case, I needed to do some sort of hike so this was it. The GPS coordinates above get you very close to the entrance to the parking for the trailhead.

I was there on a weekday at 8am. Right as I walked into the trailhead two other trucks showed up. I thought they might be workers that were taking out some of the trees in the area. I was in disbelief that they were going to hike exactly where I was going. Don't get the wrong idea. I don't dislike people, but I wasn't expecting anyone with me on this backcountry hike. On a fall weekend I expect a little more of a crowd, which is a story for another time. In any case, I started going up the trail.
When I say "up" I mean it here. The hike does have some switchbacks, but this one is just straight up for about a 1,000 ft. before it flattens out some. As I was going I had good looks of Silver Lake in the distance. If you saw some of my pictures from the previous October (2014), those were taken near Silver Lake. Last October (2015) that whole area was really green by the lake. If I were to tell someone I took this in June, July, or August I think he or she would believe me.
Zooming in down below I could see some of the homes of the locals. I did a tilt-shift effect here in Photoshop to give it the miniature look just for fun.

I'm going to say that it took me about fifty minutes from the trailhead to get here. Just behind me it started to flatten out some. I did get views of June Lake too which would be off to my right outside of the above picture, but you will see that in the video. If you remember my hike to Gem Lake during 2010, the hike that went from around Silver Lake to a tramway, Agnew Lake, and Gem Lake, then that would have taken place off to the left side of Silver Lake on the mountainside in the above picture.
From my final viewing of Silver Lake from this elevation I turned around. After all the uphill I was grateful to get in some regular level ground walking. I did start to see some patches of yellow leaves, but not a lot. I did think my chances of seeing something ahead at the lake would be good.