Mono Lake: Totally Worth a 45-Minute Visit

If I’d stayed longer, maybe I would have spotted a brine shrimp! Although 45 minutes was plenty to spot one coyote (not pictured below). He wasn’t as friendly as my coyote spirit guide I met in La Mesa though.

I took pictures, then.

The trail runs clockwise.

The trail runs clockwise.

Mono Lake.

Mono Lake.

A trail leading away from the lake.

A trail leading away from the lake.

Some tufas. They're made of sodium carbonate.

Some tufas. They’re made of sodium carbonate.

Kind of part of the same trail, only this one leads *toward* the lake.

Kind of part of the same trail, only this one leads *toward* the lake.

  • It cost $3 to park there.
  • There were two other parties there at the same time as me.
  • Only two of the 12 porta-johns were unlocked. The unlocked ones have a sign that says “this one open”, while the locked ones communicate nothing, except through their obstinance.
  • Not far from Mammoth.
  • The water is very still.
  • Considers itself similar to the Great Salt Lake, just the opposite side of the basin.

That’s about all I got, I guess. Tufas. Mono Lake. Salt. Near Mammoth. 45 minutes, 50 for brine shrimp or slow-walkers.

bkd

Friday — Diamond Peak

I wrote all these up on the plane ride home. FYI.

Paid: $49 (Reno Sports Authority)

Quality of Random Lift Strangers: 9/10

Weather: Overcast with some eventual light snowfall.

Would Return?: Definitely

I’m probably just a sucker for ski resorts with lake views, but I loved Diamond Peak, despite its shortcomings and quirks. I liked the laid-back vibe. The unpretentiousness caught me off guard (I figured Incline Village’s hill would be  more uppity), parking was easy, and the random lift strangers were friendly and engaging. The skiing was also pretty good. Spent most of the day on Crystal Express sampling the diamonds with occasional forays on Lakeview. Snow was chopped powder most places, with some fun in-tree, un-tracked around Eagle Bowl and a few other gladey places elsewhere on the mountain

A little fog at the top of the express lift.

A little fog at the top of the express lift.

Looking up-run (this was "Lightning", I think).

Looking up-run (this was “Lightning”, I think).

View from the ridge.

View from the ridge.

View from the sort-of untracked.

View from the sort-of untracked.

I took these using my goofy video cam:

diamond-peak-eagle-bowl diamond-peak-liftline diamond-peak-view

  • Diamond Peak’s biggest shortcoming was pretty obvious: south-facing and with a lower elevation than some of its competitors, there were a lot of bare spots and some closed runs.
  • The views of the lake were fantastic; the lake is more than occasional scenery here, it’s a constant companion.
  • Visibility was tough up on the ridge before about noon, but got better during the day. Everything coming down off the ridge offered good visibility (even at the top).
  • I bought a sandwich at Wal-Mart in Reno on my way up so I have no idea how the Diamond Peak food is. However, I now know that the sandwiches at the Reno Wal-Mart are bland.
  • Crystal Express doesn’t ski as weird as it looked like it would from the map.
  • I liked that there was always something easy to bail out onto and something harder to bail back into on just about every run and gladed middle-ground.
  • The conveyor belt on-loading on Lakeview (and Lodgepole) was a new experience for me.

The place would probably start feeling small after a couple visits in a season, but I liked Diamond a lot.

Wrap-Up (for the Whole Trip I Guess)

The trip turned out to be phenomenal. I like spring skiing days and I liked getting to experience powder conditions that I haven’t seen since I decided to start skiing again last season. At the risk of igniting an east coast-west coast debate, by Monday afternoon I’d decided my next year’s ski trip destination wouldn’t be Vermont again after all. Even if Squaw wasn’t as transcendent as hoped, the trip overall was generally very nearly euphoric. I was mad when the lifts closed down every day and when I skied my last off Diamond on Friday, it felt like I was, I dunno, being sent back into some sort of dungeon or something.

Chained,

bkd

Monday – Heavenly

Paid: $93 (bought at Sports Authority in Reno the night before)

Quality of Random Lift Strangers: 5/10

Weather: Absolute Bluebird (my bro’s thermometer read 42 degrees on our way up Sky Express the one time)

Would Return?: Definitely

Given the advice I’d read on EpicSki, we chose a side and ended up spending almost the entire day skiing Dipper Express (we took a couple of runs on the California side since it seemed obligatory). No complaints about traverses. I think they’d had some snow the day before, so things weren’t too scraped and, in the trees at least, conditions could be described as soft. Our favorite run was in the trees alongside Big Dipper and Meteor – left us with a long, blue run-out, but I like hard-packed bombing runs, so all was good by me.

Heavenly-Dipper

View of the lake from the California side.

View of the lake from the California side.

Ski-Heavenly

This is what the snow looked like in the trees (on the Nevada side).

This is what the snow looked like in the trees (on the Nevada side).

Other observations:

  • The pulled pork sandwich at East Peak Lodge was huge, but otherwise merely okay. Barbecue baked beans were generous, but I would have preferred a sweeter sauce with a little more vinegar and somewhat less chili powder. #yelp
  • To me, the oddest thing about the layout was that we were kind of “trapped” on the upper mountain. If any of us had left anything down at the car (we parked at Stagecoach), it would have been a blue square-and-slush hassle trying to retrieve it.
  • Stopped at the Red Hut (Kingsbury Grade) on the way up the hill. The bacon there is something to write home about.
  • Plenty of people there, but the Nevada side was pretty roomy and lift lines were close to non-existent (things were decidedly more crowded California-side).
  • People here had a somewhat disturbing penchant for making high-speed, lane-shifting entries into the lift lines. I imagine they learned that on the 880 somewhere around Hayward.
  • The ski patrol dude who rode up the lift with us should probably be friendlier toward people who paid $93 just to be there for the day.

In the net, I loved Heavenly. The price is silly, but the views were awesome, the tree-skiing was fun, and there were plenty of places to roam even without entering California. Just for the price, I can’t imagine going there more than once a year, but next time I’m in Tahoe to ski, it will be on the itinerary.

Glacier Lake Fishing (Beartooths, Montana)

It all starts looking the same. I should probably delay publication of this one for two weeks just to get a little air between this post and the last one. Fine, there, I’ve done that: an artificial two-week delay. Now maybe these photos will look exciting, fresh, or, whatever it is that they otherwise wouldn’t look.

So there’s a miraculous story here that explains how I ended up going to Glacier Lake at all. My cell phone (with Virgin) gets no reception between Minnesota and Spokane. That is to say, it doesn’t work in Idaho, Montana, or the Dakotas. When I was heading from Tacoma to Montana, I stopped in Spokane to call my brother in South Dakota to see if he wanted to join me for fishing in Montana. He said he couldn’t make it, so I figured I’d leave Montana Saturday after finishing the Lake Fork hike.

But then when I got to Butte or so, I checked my phone and it had received a text message. Somehow, *somehow*, despite being in coverage no-man’s land, my phone had gotten a text message from my brother saying he could make it after all. And then I found a pay phone and confirmed plans. Yes, they still have pay phones. Everyone who saw me using it was also surprised.

(And: I said the story was miraculous, not that it was interesting.)

Fishing at Glacier Lake was great. The guy at the hotel in Red Lodge recommended it. Good job, guy!

Garry crossing a creek.

 

Elevation: 10,000'.

Ibid.

Glacier Lake shoreline.

Fishing was, as said, good. Used dry flies trailing behind a plastic float. Mostly 12- to 15-inch cutts. Caught one 12-inch brookie. All were good fighters. Also caught this:

The largest trout I've ever seen.

Two pounds? Two and a half maybe? It was a big trout. Caught it on four-pound line and apparently my knots don’t suck. Took probably 10-15 minutes to get him ashore. He took a lot of line. Awesome fish, mad respect.

Gebrüder (I'm not really six inches shorter than him).

Emerald Lake (in Wyoming!), just below Glacier Lake.

  • This is a short hike, btw. Two miles each way.
  • But steep (ca. 1,500 feet in elevation gain).
  • And at high altitude.
  • Glacier Lake is a perfect fishing lake: no grass, plenty of shoreline, lots of places to sit.
bkd

Beartooths: Keyser Brown Lake, September Morn Lake, and First Lake

And then I woke up. Ended up hiking up to September Morn lake (decent climb!). It’s a cool lake and would’ve been a better place to camp (better sites) if not for the fact that it’s another two (three?) miles from Keyser Brown and another 1,000+ feet in elevation climb. Das Leben ist ja schwer.

Morning reflections in Keyser Brown.

September Morn Lake, where I presume Neil Diamond danced until the night became a brand new day.

A 12-inch brookie I caught there.

A 120-inch brook I crossed there.

View of Keyser Brown and First Lake from the trail above.

First Rock Lake (with rocks).

Big Thunder Mountain.

  • Should have spent more time fishing at September Morn.
  • Not having a working watch is hard.
  • Had serious line problems, but was able to salvage enough to jam knot a couple strands together for fishing up at September Morn.
  • Then lost most of the rest of my line hiking back from First Lake and, thus, was out of the game.
  • There was a nice fishing hole for nine-inch cutts at the bottom of a cascade between First Rock and Keyser Brown. I thought someone should know.

bkd

PS, More SEO fodder in the title. Sorries.

Beartooths: Lake Fork Trail Hike and Fishing (Day 1)

Mal sehen how that title works out for the SEO.

Originally planned to hike up to Black Canyon Lake and probably to Sundance Pass, camping, I dunno, somewhere. After about a mile of hiking, I realized that I’d just spent seven days at sea level and was now at 8,000 feet and climbing. Objectives were toned down accordingly.

The Lake Fork of Rock Creek.
Teeth of bear.
Broadwater “Lake”; the fishing guidebook says there are fish in here, but I saw none.
Called “Thunder Mountain”, although there were no trains, no dinosaur bones, and no bobble-headed turtles (as far as I saw).
Smoky Sunset on Keyser Brown Lake.
  • So ended up camping at Keyser Brown Lake — about seven miles from the trailhead and 1,500 feet of elevation gain (I think the lake is at a little over 8,000 feet).
  • Just about passed out trying to get my tent set up.
  • Took about 45 minutes trying to get my food appropriately hung.
  • Trail follows the river most of the way, although there are some miles where there are trees that get in the way of seeing the river.
  • Some dude coming down the trail said he saw a grizzly, but I’ve pretty much determined that grizzlies are merely legendary like, z.B., Sasquatch.
  • There was one other dude camping near the lake. He was from Minnesota and so, naturally, he helped me get my rain fly on tighter than it was. I told him he was only reaffirming the stereotype.
  • Mountain House lasagna is good, but it’s hard to get all the cheese off your fork.
  • The good campsites are all on the back side of the lake.
Fished a little bit here. Keyser Brown has a ton of five-inch brook trout in it, so if you’re into that kind of thing, you know, here you go. There’s also a weather thing in the area where every day (apparently) it’s nice all morning and early afternoon, then clouds begin rolling in around 2, then it rains lightly off and on until the next morning, sometimes with wind and thunder and lightning. Never rains hard enough to get anything too wet, though. So it’s got that going for it.
bkd

Mt. Robson and the Berg Lake Trail

I’m just gonna throw a bunch of photos up. Two nights, two days essentially. Park up in British Columbia, borders Jasper; Mt. Robson is the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies iirc. Iffy weather. Photos.

Highway 16 running through Mt. Robson Provincial Park (Fraser River at left).

The goat welcomes, the clouds warn.

You can ride your bike for the first 3.5 miles -- but no further.

Bridge over Robson River near Kinney Lake in-flow.

Disappointingly stable.

Lunch-time view from the shelter at the Whitehorn campground.

Whitehorn Mountain and the Robson River: the money shot.

Same place, other money shot.

Photo of the Falls of the Pool

View from the Emperor Falls campground.

Berg Lake and Berg Glacier from the trail up Toboggan Falls.

Mt. Robson and Mist Glacier and clouds.

 

Outflow from Berg Lake.

 

It's sort of like the waterfall is dreaming of the mountain. It used to live there after all.

The bottom of the steep part.

The river below Kinney Lake.

Enough.

  • Camped first night at Whitehorn, second night at Emperor Falls.
  • There are a lot of people backpacking in this area. Many are friendly. It’s supposedly the most popular back country trail in all of Canada.
  • It was way less crowded than Banff/Jasper.
  • Very nice, very well-maintained camp sites — there are pads with bark and benches and stuff.
  • Have to make reservations a month or so in advance.
  • Took my point-and-shoot camera, which doesn’t do well with bad lighting; i.e., it’s prettier than these pics make it look.
  • On second day hiked up to Emperor Falls, set up camp, walked down to Lake… eh, I forget. Some lake on the Jasper side of the line. Then hiked up Toboggan Falls (probably worth it), then went back to camp and played solitaire.
  • Mountain House Chicken Teriyaki is pretty good.
  • The two miles between Whitehorn and Emperor Falls is the steep part, but you pass by three big waterfalls, which sort of breaks up the horror.
  • The first three miles (to Kinney Lake) is a tourist hike. I saw a Mennonite family biking up to the lake (the women were wearing dresses, it was sort of cool).
  • I think the weather there is usually iffy.
  • I don’t like breakfast.
  • A&W in Canada (the restaurant) is awesome. Just really, really awesome. No joke.

bkd

Assorted Other Tourist Photos from Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay

Banff and Jasper are the ultimate in drive-up outdoorsmanship. So few reasons to go more than a hundred yards from your car, all packed into a 200-mile highway. It’s brilliant in its way.

Emerald Lake in Yoho NP -- so I shouldn't blame Banff/Jasper for this one.

And this guy was in Kootenay NP -- but still.

And so was this -- but all the rivers look the same there anyway.

 

This is Marble Canyon, but there isn't even any real marble there.

Another interchangeable river view (Bow River, Banff NP).

The mountain peaks are likewise interchangeable.

Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefield, the ultimate drive-up glacier experience.

Athabasca Falls, which is mostly covered by a highway overpass.

Maligne Lake + Bad Lighting = Tourist Nirvana.

 

Maligne Canyon and by trying to get as few tourists in the shot as possible I totally missed the story.

And when I finally left Jasper for the last time, heading west into the unknown wilds of Mt. Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia, it was with a profound sense of relief.

bkd

Mt. Edith Cavell Is Sort of a Hike On Which You Can Go

Or I went on a hike at least. The hike is to Cavell Meadows and is in Jasper National Park and pretty well encapsulates why hiking in Banff and Jasper is kind of counter-productive. To wit: (1) there are a lot of people on it; (2) it’s very steep; (3) it offers the same view for its entire length; and (4) the view gets less interesting the higher you get.

It’s not the mountain’s fault. Or the glacier’s or the marmots’. I mean not as such.

Mt. Edith Cavell waits to swallow the unwary.

The lower part of the trail looks like this.

The One View.

That photo was basically the peak in terms of photography (lighting aside). The peak in terms of topography came two hours, five miles, and 3,000 feet later.

The view from (near) the top.

So I was walking back down and there was this family stopped on the trail ahead of me and the guy gives me the *shh* sign, so I sneak in quietly expecting to see a moose, bear, big horn, or cougar, only to find out at the family has been paralyzed by a small rodent. "Is that a marmot?" the guy whispers to me. Yes, sir, that is a marmot.

Back at the bottom, a great view of a pond with ice bergs.

And then I went back to my campsite and watched TV on my iPod for two and a half hours.

bkd

Misty Mountain Hopping

Walkin’ in the park just the other day, baby, 
What do you, what do you think I saw? 
Crowds of people sittin’ on the grass with flowers in their hair said, 
“Hey, Boy, do you wanna score?” 
And you know how it is.
I really don’t know what time it was, woh, oh,oh 
so I asked them if I could stay a while.

The sad part is that I don’t really know if the song is referencing sex, drugs, or both. I suppose neither is also an option. I didn’t do much hopping myself, just driving from spot to spot within Banff and taking more stupid photos. It occurred to me in Banff that I was wasting what was left of my youth. Had to be done somewhere I guess.

Mist, mountains.

Mist, mountains, Bow Lake.

Peyto Lake with reflection and clouds.

True story about Peyto Lake: I got up and moving by about 6:30 that morning (ergo the earlier mists) and then reached Peyto Lake at about 8. I was the first one in the parking lot, although they make passenger cars park in a lot that’s about a ten-minute uphill walk from the observation platform. About the time I reached the platform, a Chinese(-Canadian) tour bus pulls up — and the busses are allowed to park in a lot that’s about a ten-second walk from the platform.

I waited for them to leave.

Waterfowl Lake, more mist.

Same lake, same mist.

The captions become difficult to differentiate.

Ibid.

So I’m packing my bags for the Misty Mountains 
where the spirits go now, 
over the hills where the spirits fly. 
I really don’t know.

And then I woke up.

bkd