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Eastern Sierra Fall 2009

Day 4 of 4

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Monday, October 12th
Lundy Canyon, Baker campground, drive home

Today, unlike the previous days, was not sunny and clear. It was overcast to start the day. I knew that rain was forecast in the Bay Area later today, but I double-checked the forecast and rain/snow was not forecast for Sonora or Bridgeport until Tuesday. It would suck to be stuck on the eastern side if they closed Highway 120 and 108.

Even so, I didn't plan to do a hike today. We'd just look for fall colors and play it by ear. So, around 9:30am we checked out of Tamarack Lodge and headed north along 395. I briefly considered doing the June Lake Loop, but decided against it because we'd already been there twice on previous trips. I love to explore new places, and there were several places I hadn't been to before that I'd read had good color now.

So we continued north on 395, past Lee Vining before turning left onto Lundy Lake Road. We immediately saw some bright yellow aspens near the road next to some houses. We continued along the road, up into the canyon. Unfortunately as we drove further in, the colors did not improve. The best colors were probably near the beginning of the road. Still, there were patches of yellow aspens, and pretty Lundy Lake came into view, backed by Gilcrest Peak and Mount Scowden.

Mount Scowden behind Lundy Lake

Lundy Lake

The road follows the lake shore to Lundy Lake Resort at the western end of the lake. Past that, the road is not paved. It didn't look like there were many colors beyond that, so we decided to turn around here. There didn't appear to be easy access to aspens from this end of the lake, either, so we drove back along the shore, looking for a good place to stop. I stopped at some roadside pullouts to take pictures of the lake, but there weren't any trails leading down to the aspens or the lake.

Mount Scowden and Lundy Lake

Lundy Lake reflection

Mount Scowden and Lundy Lake

There is a parking area at the end of a gravel maintenance road at the eastern end of the lake. From there, it looks like you can enter an aspen grove on the southern shore of the lake; a couple people were there fishing. We kept going, though, instead stopping at one of 3 or 4 day use areas. These are barely noticeable as you drive by, but well worth the time to stop. We stopped at the one closest to the lake, but at least one of the other ones has better access to the aspens. Still, the place we stopped at was pretty nice, with access to a picnic table (albeit decrepit), pretty little Mill Creek, and a forest floor covered in pine needles.

Mill Creek at day use area east of Lundy Lake

Forest floor at day use area east of Lundy Lake

Mill Creek at day use area east of Lundy Lake

After spending an hour there, enjoying the creek and having a snack (and taking more than a few pictures), we continued along the road back to Highway 395, where we turned north. I had thought about visiting Virginia Lakes and Twin Lakes near Bridgeport, but it was already nearing noon so we decided to start heading home. So we turned left onto Highway 108 and almost immediately had to stop. Workers were repaving the road, leading to delays of about 20 minutes. After we passed the construction zone, we continued on up to Sonora Pass. Doing this drive in the day made me wonder how I managed to do it at night. It is very steep and winding. It is pretty, though.

We kept looking for places to stop to have a picnic lunch. We finally stopped at the Baker Campground, just off the highway on the way to Kennedy Meadows Resort. The campground was closed for the season, but we walked through it to reach the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. Here we found a nice gravel beach to have our picnic.

Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River at Baker Campground

Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River at Baker Campground

After lunch, we headed back to the Bay Area. Despite the fact that we reached the Bay Area at rush hour, there wasn't much traffic in our direction. This was probably partly due to us going against the commute, and maybe partly because it was Columbus Day. When we arrived home it was dark and stormy looking, but the rain from the big storm wouldn't start for a few more hours. By the next day, both Highway 120 and 108 were closed due to snow, along with Highway 4 for good measure. That made us happy that we managed to get in our fall trip when we did.


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