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2017 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

20 Lakes Basin 9/7
Bishop Creek 9/28
Bishop Creek 9/29

2017 Trip Chronicles:  Page 19

20 Lakes Basin 9/7

Leaving Bishop mid afternoon after completing the 9-day Humphreys Basin backpack, I would not be driving all the way home as was usually the situation before retirement in order to return to my hi tech job the next day, but rather would just drive north to somewhere in the Mono Lake basin to overnight. At a Bishop free wifi fast food location, I had looked at windy.com weather forecasts on the Internet. So on Thursday would rise early and if weather was reasonable, drive west up SR120 to the Saddlebag trailhead in order to hike into the 20 Lakes Basin area a few hours for photography. Thus reached Lee Vining and stopped at the Mobil Mart for a slice of their $5 pepperoni pizza before driving out east on SR120 a bit where I pulled off a ways onto a lonely quiet dirt road to spend the night pleasantly sleeping in the rear bed of the Forester.

Dawn Thursday September 7 showed a few clouds to the east for what were mostly sunny hazy skies. Thus quickly shifted gear in my vehicle around from night to day use and drove up west on the steep grade of SR120 and then gravel of the Saddlebag Lake Road to the trailhead just south of the dam at 10100 feet where only 5 other vehicles were parked. I suspected those low numbers were because of both the thunderstorm weather and smoke from Yosemite fires driving visitors away. The temperature at 7am with sunlight hitting crest peaks above was at about freezing and a minor up canyon breeze was causing reservoir surface waves. Noticeable smoke was absent though a light haze might have something to do with either water vapor or smoke? I've visited the basin northwest of the 1.3 mile long reservoir several times over the years both as a day hiker and backpacker. It is one of the most scenic trailheads for quickly reaching timberline elevations with alpine lakes and unusually there is not an entry quota for backpacking. My body of work already contains good numbers of strong 4x5 Provia 100F film images plus a few good digital panoramic images of the area. However I'd yet brought my A6000 out to what is my favorite zone east of North Peak where colorful metasedimentary geology lays. Online   mapper.acme 20 Lakes Basin topographic map

For the first time in years, waters had been flowing over the dam spillway after the big winter but now was a few feet lower going through control gates. That must have had something to do with operators opening for the first time the walkway across the top of the dam versus a small bridge maybe 20 feet below the dam over the creek. For unknown reasons, the ferry boat taxi service from the resort was not running this day meaning the usual easy crossing many use was not available. There is a more level old gravel mining road along the east shore that is a half mile longer than the west shore trail I always use. Footing on the trail is somewhat awkward as it crosses rusty metamorphic scree and small talus. I was not surprised to see more wildflowers still blooming than ever in the past including columbines. Reaching the north end were also considerable Pierson's paintbrush.

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By 8am I had completed my 2.2 mile hike reaching the Wasco Lake zone that has numbers of shallow tarns, more than the map shows. And I'd never seen them all so full in September that provided more possibilities of reflection subjects. Without wasting time I set up for the image above in a lushly green turf meadow with a few flowers. It was at the edge of a small still shadowed pool I declined to include except for a sliver that was in sun. Nice clouds were above North Peak in deep blue skies with a bit of Mt Conness at frame left. Behind the meadow is a low height rib of dirty white rock that is actually much closer than another whiter band just above it beyond visually blocked Wasco Lake.

Note the dark water at the lower left frame edge. The sun at the solstices rotates 180 degrees across the sky over 12 hours thus 15 degrees per hour. Until the sun reaches an altitude of 48.7 degrees above the water surface, illumination of underwater elements mostly be from Raleigh scattering blue skylight above due to the phenomenon of total internal reflection at the air water boundary. That is why early morning reflection images tend to be more saturated as light from below is not combining with light reflecting off landscapes above water. And that is why views of underwater elements are much more vibrant after mid morning when sunlight on elements below water is then reflecting back out the surface.

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The meadow would need about an hour before the sun altitude was high enough to illuminate the meadow enough for my purposes so I moved out to a nearby knob with some boulders where at 9am I set up the above image of the metasedimentary rock and a bit of Mt Conness in the background at frame right. The north end of Wasco Lake is at the left frame edge center with a vibrant green meadow. Clouds by this time had evaporated leaving totally deep blue sky.

Although I have occasionally seen backpacking groups tented behind whitebark pine trees in this view, such is illegal because it is within the Harvey Monroe Hall Natural Area that lies across a few square miles on Yosemite's eastern border. The northern boundary of the above lake is in fact also at the boundary of that area so visitors can tent at locations at frame right that is within the Hoover Wilderness of Inyo National Forest. Although the boundaries are on the USGS 7.5 minute topographic map and Inyo NF maps, that information is not otherwise adequately communicated as I would recommend they simply add signs at the north end of the reservoir and along the mining road trail.

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Although smallish Wasco Lake itself had been in sunlight, there had been enough of a breeze that those waters were too wavy to allow the quality of reflection I sought thus was content to work the small pool, the wonderfully turfy green shores of which by 9:30am were in enough sunlight. I thus worked this larger 4 column 2 row stitch blend above with my 60mm lens. At frame left behind the back edge of this pool, one can see a sliver of Wasco Lake and above that Mt Conness at 12590 feet pokes out above the right shoulder of North Peak at 12242 feet. The lovely turf, a mix of mostly alpine grasses, dwarf bilberry, and arctic willow, unlike one's urban lawns, never needs to be mowed while maintaining a nicely low height. And unlike urban lawns walking atop such turf is wonderfully soft to one's bare feet because the turf complex is several inches deep with dense roots that have evolved over centuries.

After unsuccessfully waiting for the breeze to lull at Wasco Lake, I climbed up atop the knob that had been blocking early morning sunlight on the small pool to take the image at page top looking north northwest. The long granite ridgeline, a part of the Sierra Crest, has a cross country route into Yosemite National Park and down to popular Upper McCabe Lake. For those not afraid to wander about off trails, the darker metamorphic rock areas at frame right and beyond towards Z Lake contain numbers of small shallow rock pools most of which are not on the map some of which provide nice reflections of the big peaks. Notice how grass is growing up from the bottom of the shallow pool. That is not water grass but rather most summers this pool dries up quickly and instead of water the perennial grass and other plants are there with the species underwater tolerant of being below water for awhile.

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With the breeze by now too consistent to allow reflection subjects, I moved west of Wasco up into the metasedimentary rock areas for some subjects keeping my eye out for interesting layered rock patterns in the bedrock. The above shows how hundreds of millions of years ago, the original rock strata that was laid down in horizontal beds have since been tilted to a nearly vertical orientation.

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At the lake edge at the end of the above lake pool, were a few wildflowers. By now at 10:30am sun altitude was high enough that light from subjects below water were much stronger than surface reflections so by climbing up above the water, I would capture the underwater rocks without much unaesthetic interference from the wavy surfaces. I just needed to wait for occasional lulls in the breeze so the foreground flowers and grasses stilled. One could have used a polarizer to eliminate even more reflections however I don't even carry one in my gear as I prefer the more natural look.

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After 10am landscapes granite elements in most front lit directions were becoming too harsh, a look I don't like despite being able to reduce exposure levels and then during post processing play with luminance. The above is an example of that. Along Greenstone Lake were the best areas of Pierson's paintbrush I've ever seen in the basin but by time I came upon those areas, it was near noon. Although the above is a rather nice image it won't be one I would ever display in public because of just that visual affect. Smoke haze had also begun to flow east over the crest from Yosemite. Had the weather forecast been favorable, I would have delayed my road trip home yet another day, just to work those areas during 8 to 9am hours however it was to be windy carrying smoke from the west and then more days of thunderstorms.

Instead of driving west on SR120 over Tioga Pass, in order to avoid smoke, I took the longer route back east on SR120, then north on US395, and west over SR108 over Sonora Pass. After the trip upon processing, the few morning hours I spent at 20 Lakes Basin produced three stronger images than any I had managed during either of the previous two backpacks to Laurel Creek and Humphreys Basin. Both the later had landscapes I saw during my trips that had potential to be just as strong, however the cloudy skies, thunderstorms, and breezes left those subjects un-captured so I will just need to return in the future.

As a several decades landscape photographer in the Sierra Nevada, I have a considerable list of strong aesthetic subjects that I've seen in the past particular during years I used a 35mm SLR camera, that for some I will try to return to. However as someone also at retirement age not as strong as during my youth, I do not have enough healthy years ahead of me to do much more than make a minor dent in what is out there. During the six years I took off from my career before 2008, I did do very well with my Wisner large format view camera, however again, I looked upon far more strong subjects than I was able to work simply because doing so often requires stubbornly sitting on a subject multiple days sometimes over multiple trips. In any case the greater value personally is not the images captured but rather the experiences lived while pursuing them.

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Bishop Creek 9/28

My next adventure would be a short road trip with brother Joe to Bishop Creek areas with a primary focus of fishing and not photography. Decades ago before picking up a camera, I was an enthusiastic fisherman. This was something we had talked about doing for years. After returning from the Humphreys backpacking trip, I enjoyed three weeks to catch up with processing images and coding HTML for my 2017 Trip Chronicles web site feature. Thus by September 27 completed that task adding 6 new pages to the 13 already there including 3 backpacking trips and my Oregon eclipse trip. I had also been keeping tabs on early Eastern Sierra aspen fall color reports that as expected related color change was significantly delayed versus average years. Accordingly would fit in a fishing trip before most aspen groves were worthwhile to make the long drive and hopefully find a few worthy subjects.

So at dawn Thursday September 28 we linked up in Manteca then in my Forester continued driving SR120 eastward, over Tioga Pass, down to US395, then south to Bishop, about 305 miles along. Joe's little female white chihuahua, Pooter, was with us that provided continual fun and amusement during the trip. After visiting Vons Supermarket for drinks and perishables, we drove up SR168 west visiting all three of the creek roads before deciding on camp spot #10 in the Sabrina Campground at 8960 feet along the Middle Fork of Bishop Creek. That small campground has just 20 spots and just 2 were available when we arrived. We set up per my moto g image above using our cheap Walmart tents instead of our smaller expensive backpacking tents. As a hard core dispersed camper, I infrequently camp in public campgrounds mainly because I find it difficult to sleep due to nearby groups enjoying their evenings and camp fire smoke I find unpleasant to breath. However dispersed camping is not allowed about higher elevations of most paved spur roads along the Eastern Sierra where instead public campgrounds or private lodges are the only allowed way to legally remain overnight. Most of the usual well known aspen groves on all 3 stream forks were still green to lime green with areas of increasing yellow. Only slopes with orange leaves were below Table Mountain group camp and above the road to North Lake.
Online   mapper.acme Middle Fork Bishop Creek topographic map

After setting up camp and cooking dinner, we rigged up our fishing gear. I put on a clear float with a #14 foam black ant dry fly 5 feet down at the end of my 4 pound monofilament line. The stream is heavily planted with catchable rainbow trout all summer thus had considerable numbers of planted trout. During fall fishing pressure is much lower than during summer though there are still good numbers of visitors. After fishing about half an hour my black ant had gotten a few soft bites by trout but no hook ups. About the same time a special truck courtesy of the local chamber of commerce arrived that dumped a scoop of large Alpers rainbow trout into the sizeable stream at the North Lake Road bridge including 2 at least 20 inches long. When I got down to the little bridge there were 3 people fishing for several of those large fish that told me what had happened. These newly arrived fish were swimming just upstream of the bridge but ignoring what was being tossed their way, no doubt very aware of the human monsters above while just figuring out their new environment. As more fisher people arrived, I switched to a #12 wooly booger with a red metal bead head that would keep the wet fly down near the bottom of the fast flowing cold stream. And immediately received a strike from a mid sized Alper. A couple casts later, the same rainbow grabbed the fly and everyone began yelling as I brought the really fat 14 inch beast to shore that Joe netted. After inverting the hook with needle nose pliers, the fly removed, gave the very scared and flopping about fish another chance to live, plopping it back into the creek. Heck I'd already had a large can of chicken corn chowder soup for dinner so would just snack a bit the rest of the day. But hey I was from then on the talk of the little community...that guy who actually landed one of those Alpers.

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Deep down in a canyon east of the Sierra Crest, sun had set long before warm light signaled sunset on high peaks above. By 6:50pm that was over and within a half hour with the temperature dropping quickly under a clear sky, we two were inside our tents and sleeping bags. Most of our neighbors were members of Christina and Ryan's wedding party that would be Sunday including lots of small children having much loud screaming fun. But that did not seem to keep us awake as both of us had not gotten our usual hours of sleep in before the drive. When I woke up at 10:30pm all was quiet with temperatures already down to the high 30F's. Fall nights are unpleasantly long so by the wee hours I was waking up frequently wondering when the night would end. As dawn broke on Friday September 29 we were slow to get up because the temperature was now a cold 28F. But not long after the high peaks to the west showed warm light, we got out all bundled up and then set about heating water for hot chocolates.

Just east the canyon walls of Table Mountain rise up steeply so sunlight takes awhile to arrive beyond sunrise. By 8am breakfast was over so we drove up the gravel North Lake Road that receives shining warming sun earlier. Its aspen groves were still mostly just lime green with bits of yellow or at least a week away from being interesting. Accordingly there were few photographers about and rather just a dozen fisher people scattered about the small lake's shores. I introduced Joe to North Lake and as we left at 9:15am, shot the above 3 stitch panorama of fire on the mountain that I hoped to return to Saturday morning for a longer session. Notice shadows on boulders that indicate the sun somewhat back lit position above to the left. Leaf color and vibrancy on trees like this are highly dependent on time of day and lens shooting directions.

But today would be all about fishing as we then drove to Lake Sabrina, a reservoir, then hiked along the good trail along the steep north shore. Joe caught a nice 11 inch rainbow and a couple smaller fish and David one small fish but after a few hours still did not have much of a meal for the two of us. Then a bit after 12 noon, using the smallest 1/12 ounce silver Kastmaster connected into a large trout that immediately was zipping out line as I loosened drag. The big fish jumped totally out of the water and continued to make run after run for some time before eventually tiring and being landed into Joe's net. The trout was 18 inches long with a broad salmon like body and typical orange mature salmonid flesh.

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Joe took a quick picture with my cellphone. I did not waste time dispatching the two fish, then cleaning them. I greatly dislike having to kill any larger creatures including fish. However as someone that regularly eats minor amounts of meat including occasional burgers, chicken, and fish, believe having to infrequently end the life of creatures we will eat gives a person more respect for what we humans are doing. In this era people are vastly detached from what our ancestors had to do daily as organic creatures on this planet eating other creatures. Within a half hour we were back at camp and began making our big lunch feast. Joe is more a fisherman and cook than I am so he worked frying the fish in a frying pan while I cooked the rice in a pot.

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We usually remove the head, scales and tail during cleaning and then the skin, fins, and bones during cooking after a fish is nearly cooked. Then will combine broken up fish flesh mixed in with rice that we go through a couple more pan heating sessions with. With so much fish flesh, we divided the mixing into our two frying pans, one pan of which is above. I could barely eat it all. What a delicious meal!

By mid afternoon after token naps we then explored down a trail below the bridge as clouds increased to the east over the Owens Valley with some rain. I vectored off the trail trying to get down to the steep stream slopes, only to enter a most unpleasant aspen, water birch, willow jungle that had us sweating with little Pooter exhausted. Before returning to the road we found a nice spot to jump into the cool refreshing stream that in the evening would make getting into our sleeping bags much more pleasant. We then drove back up to Lake Sabrina but the sun went over the ridge. Instead of fishing we drove back to the north side of the North Lake Road and without fishing gear enjoyed exploring areas on the other side of our camp zone stream.

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At sunset with a thin cloud deck above the big peaks up canyon, I hiked up above our campground climbing atop a boulder at the highest point on the rib that hides the camp from the highway. From there I had a clear view of the big crest peaks that are otherwise within a frame of unaesthetic power pole lines. Light on an even layer of clouds above the crest changed from light orange through darker orange as the sunset sequenced occurred. I then took a series of single shot images with my Sony SEL55210 zoom lens with the above at 158mm. Peak 13254 is southwest of the Schober Lakes. Just poking up above that peak ridge a bit right of frame center is Mt Darwin at 13831 feet the tallest peak for several miles along the Sierra Crest.

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In the campground below, numbers of people were out in open areas talking and looking up at the fine sky color. I then set the zoom lens at 144mm for the above with more saturated color. Mt Haeckel at 13418 feet is the triangular peak at frame center with Mt Wallace 13371 just left. Picture Peak is at left frame edge, and peak 13332 is at frame right frame edge. Note the warm light also on the landscape and snow. Below those peaks are several wonderful alpine lakes, one long day's effort up from the trailhead.

Friday night temperatures only dropped down into the high 30F's. Little Pooter was one very tired pup. During nights I tend to wake up a few times and always rotate to another position, either side or less on my back and occasionally on my stomach. I am very unusual in that I dream every moment I am asleep, even if that is just a few moments. Before dawn at 5:30am, Saturday September 30, I woke up and turned to lay on my right side. As I opened my eyes in the dim tent, I saw my full visual field rotating right to left repeating every half second or so. As I sat up, I felt dizzy and began to feel nauseous. This had never happened to me before and I wondered if I was having a life threatening stroke? When I turned again onto my back or left side, the revolving visual field stopped but then would return if on my right side again? Since it was not getting any worse and I did not feel numb anywhere or mentally incapacitated, I declined getting up and instead waited more than an hour till the 7am sunrise when my brother got up. Upon leaving the tent, I continued to be dizzy, awkward, with minor nausea. We decided to pack up gear and get down the road to the Bishop hospital but if better continue driving home as I wondered if I had suffered a light stroke something both my parents and one brother have died from?

Over a couple hours the dizziness left as Joe drove my Forester till Oakdale where I then drove to Manteca where we had left his Explorer as he and Pooter parted. An hour plus later, I was home. Later in the afternoon I contacted my Medicare health provider Kaiser where the phone assistance nurse and her team advised me against my simply setting up an appointment and instead go into their Santa Clara hospital emergency room. Thankyou Kaiser for doing the right thing! The emergency room's very competent doctor's diagnosis was to my great relief, that I did not have a stroke. Instead had the condition, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo aka BPPV Vertigo. BPPV is not usually triggered by acrophobia although that does trigger it with some people. Apparently many people that get this for the first time and are not familiar with the condition think they may be having a stroke just like I did. It is apparently common and is more likely to start occuring at older ages. It is caused by calcium crystal deposits called otoliths that form and then move about in cochlea balance canals of the inner ear. Moving into different positions, the crystals may lodge against cochlea hairs in areas that trick the brain in thinking one is moving.

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Too bad I had never heard of this before as Joe and Pooter would have much enjoyed spending Saturday fishing and this person with more photography. But better to be on the safe conservative side of decisions whenever something potentially life threatening is involved. In any case I'll be driving back to those areas within a week or two.

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