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Sierra Nevada Mountains

Summer vacation

Monday July 25, 2011: Pinecrest Lake

Happy campers at Pinecrest Lake

After a pleasant four-hour drive, which gave us time to listen to two of the very informative Pamela Gay "Astronomy Now Podcasts", we arrived at Pinecrest Lake in the stupendous Sierra Nevada Mountains. The main part of the lake was filled to overflowing with happy summer vacationers, all slathered in sunscreen and lounging under beach umbrellas. Julia and I decided to leave the fun lovers behind and head out on a four mile walk around the smooth, flush, aqua blue body of water. This hike was a surprise.

The day's weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky, cool air, and warming sunshine. As we walked for an hour away from the crowed beachfront the feel became more and more one of isolation and wilderness. The Sierras are brimming with gray granite outcrops and this hike had us wandering through great monoliths of the stuff. It also had the added advantage of the azure lake always being within sight, wildflowers in bloom, and powerful cascades to inspire and attract us. Along our way we located an ideal spot to take a swim in the cooling waters of the picturesque pool. It was cold at first, but we soon became accustomed to the fresh mountain melt water. What a terrific day this was.

Video from Pinecrest Lake

Tuesday July 26, 2011: Trek of the Gargoyles

The elusive Snow Plant

We drove for half an hour from Pinecrest Lake, past Strawberry, into the Stanislaus National Forest. After leaving the blacktop and bumping down some dirt road we eventually arrived at the trailhead of the "Trek of the Gargoyles". This is a three mile hike on the precipitous edge of a massive granite and conglomerate escarpment. At 7,000 feet above, the oxygen rich, sea level Julia and I found tackling even the relatively small hills on this enchanting walk difficult. However, gasping for air was definitely worth it, as this hike is most beautiful. Besides from being filled with innumerable colorful wildflowers, towering rock pillars, tall pines whispering in the breeze, and stocky sequoias; the view of the vast Sierra Mountain range was astounding!

Gargoyles video

Wednesday July 27, 2011: Kennedy Meadows to Relief Reservoir

Churning waters on the way

If you like craggy gray canyons contrasted against aqua azure lakes, foaming frothy churning white rivers cutting through hardened diamond-sparkling granite ravines, gnarly fractal red brown and gray giant trees, then hiking in the high Sierras is for you. Julia and I spent four hours of our very finite lives hiking from Kennedy Meadows to the Relief Reservoir, traversing some very churned up dusty track. The trek took us up into some of the most spectacular of the Sierra's high country with our final reward, the view of snow speckled granite peaks surrounding a mammoth and remote reservoir. It was time well spent from anyone's finite and precious life.

Relief Reservoir

Thursday July 28, 2011: Ebett's Pass, Pacific Crest Trail, Mosquito Lake

When mineral crystals meet biological cells magic ensues. It's the place where the richest life thrives, where microscopic biomass creates the plushest soils, where millions of creatures form the foundation of all life.

Life on the edge

The volcanic cauldron of mother Earth spews forth lava that crystalizes and solidifies into granite, basalt, and all the rocks. Wind, water, heat, and cold combined with the stored energy within the rocks, slowly crack, split, splinter, and crumble them into smaller and smaller bits. The minerals and chemicals from these rocks pool with water in just the right order to form replicating cells. These cells, over eons of time, evolve via variation and natural selection into every living thing we see today.

However, in the realm where crystal and cell meet, life is at its richest. Where granite boulders erode into sand and living creatures decay into dust, this is the place where true magic is found.

Ebett's Pass

Friday July 29, 2011: Woodchuck Basin

The frozen summer

We hiked by far the most glorious walk of our whole trip today. The Woodchuck Basin to Wheeler Lake trek was filled with mountain vistas, wildflowers, and snow dappled hillsides. In fact, the snow became much less spotted once we reached the ridgeline at 8,000 feet above the magnificent Sierras. At our zenith we were blocked by vast barriers of ice and snow, so we never made it to Wheeler Lake. However, what we encountered along our way took our breath away. To see bald eagles drifting effortlessly overhead, ospreys dive-bombing into azure lakes, life changing mountain views, natural gardens beyond compare, then you, must take the time to experience the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Pinecrest Lake


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