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Published: August 30th 2006
Tuesday was quite a day. While we had a lot of frustrating moments, we experienced some wonderful hikes and terrific moments.
We had breakfast at Nicely's Restaurant, which has an awesome homemade oatmeal breakfast - perfect for getting a lot of energy. We needed it for our morning adventure, which went a little differently than planned.
We drove to the Black Point area, on the northeastern edge of Mono Lake. Mono Lake is very flat here, and you can see out to the two islands. Apparently, California diverted a lot of water from this lake to San Francisco for years. It got to the point where the lake was drying up, and a sand bridge emerged from the lakebed to one of the small islands. This allowed coyotes to get to the island, which stopped birds from calling this place home.
The hike we'd read about in our book just didn't look very exciting - basically, walk around part of the lake. The lighting wasn't very good, and while there was some beautiful wildflowers and birds, there wasn't much to see. So, after a short visit, we returned to our car.
That's when we accidentally locked the
backpack in the trunk of the car. It had the keys to the vehicle and both of our cellphones. And everything we would need if stranded - except Lynne had about 1/3 of a bottle of water.
Unfortunately, this was a very desolate place. So, we started hiking back toward where we came from. It was very hot, and we were in desert conditions, direct sunlight. Except for a large jackrabbit, some squirrels and birds, we didn't see anyone for miles. We ended up hiking about 6 miles to a Construction company. They were kind enough to give us water and call the local gas station to pick us up and open the car.
Once our very friendly towtruck driver opened our car, we realized that while we'd lost several hours, the day could still be salvaged. We decided to alter our itinerary and take an easier hike than we'd planned for that afternoon.
We grabbed sandwiches to go from Nicely's and headed to Saddlebag Lake. Saddlebag Lake is off of the Tioga Road, but still east of the Yosemite park boundary. We arrived about 2:15 and took a shuttle boat across the lake. While the hiking
The long walk around Mono Lake
After walking around Black Point, we still had miles to go before finding any people!
book we had suggested taking a clockwise loop around the area, through several lakes, the top of Lundy Canyon, and back to Saddlebag Lake, the boat driver suggested we go counterclockwise. He said it would be easier at the end of the hike. We were told it should be 3 to 4 hours, and we had four hours until the final shuttle boat of the day would return us to the parking area, so we figured this would be a good plan. Mistake number two of the day.
We began our hike, and it was terrific! We had a steady climb through the meadows and valleys, stopping along to see several small lakes. Mark picked up a little snow from a patch we ran across, making a snowball.
We found a very unusual sight as we approached Lake Helen - a snow cave. The snowpack had been so heavy and was melting, forming a 60-foot cave of snow on top, rocks below. Mark hiked through the drippy snow cave and took some terrific pictures. Eventually, we made it up to Lake Helen, a gorgeous lake nestled amongst the trees. (ADD PICS)
We hiked a little bit off
Lynne finishes lunch after the boatride across Saddlebag Lake. A long hike is ahead of us!
of the loop, as planned, to get to the top of Lundy Canyon. The waterfalls were incredibly powerful, flowing much stronger than we had ever anticipated. (ADD PIC)
Too bad we didn't decide to turn around and hike back the way we came. As we continued in our loop, the trail would often disappear. It was never marked, and at times we hiked through snow, climbed up rocky crests and guessed which would be the best route. Time was ticking away, and we had no idea exactly how far we had yet to travel. There were no plaques to label the lakes, no trail markers, nothing. We realized that it was getting late, and we may not make it back to the boat shuttle in time. We hurried as much as we could (when hiking at 12,000 feet), estimating the correct direction. It was frustrating when you'd climb a rocky ridge of mountain peak expecting to see Saddlebag Lake on the other side, and instead finding a smaller lake - or worse yet, another mountain ridge to climb. After a lot of stress, we eventually found Saddlebag Lake and moved as quick as we could. We saw our shuttle
boat pull away when we were probably within 2 minutes of making it to the dock. This meant we had an extra 1.8 mile hike around the lake to get back to the parking area. Of course, we also wanted to beat the sunset so that we wouldn't be hiking in darkness. We made it - getting back to the car just after 8:00pm, exhausted and frustrated. What was a wonderful hike ended up being very stressful. We believe if we'd traveled clockwise, it may have been much easier to find the trail. We have no idea how far we ventured off course, but we're guessing the day ended up being about 15 miles of hiking.
Exhausted, we returned to our hotel and went to bed without dinner.
The next morning, we realized that as stressful and frustrating as Tuesday was, we saw a lot of beautiful places and wildlife (wildflowers, the jackrabbit, an eagle at its nest, etc.). We'd highly recommend boating across Saddlebag Lake and hiking up toward the east to Lake Helen, slightly into Lundy Canyon (careful - the climb out is extremely strenuous!) and back the same direction.
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