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Middle Fork of Bishop Creek basin 8/9
Middle Fork of Bishop Creek basin 8/10
Middle Fork of Bishop Creek basin 8/11
Middle Fork of Bishop Creek basin 8/12
Middle Fork of Bishop Creek basin 8/13
Middle Fork of Bishop Creek basin 8/14

2022 Trip Chronicles:  Page 4

Middle Fork of Bishop Creek basin 8/9

A week after our Hilton Creek backpack, the large Oak Fire began in Mariposa County that would delay my consideration of any further central Sierra Nevada backpacking for a couple weeks until smoky skies were replaced with clean air. After looking at a list of possible trips I've carefully analyzed on Excel sheets, I decided to return to the upper basins of the Middle Fork of Bishop Creek above Lake Sabrina Reservoir. I had previously visited the basin in August 2015 with limited photography due to smoky skies and thunderstorms as well as in 1981 and 1993. So on August 7, 2022 secured a 6 day solo wilderness permit reservation via recreation dot gov for Wednesday August 10 through Monday August 15 though only expected to use 5 days. Just days before my trip, large Mexican monsoon thunderstorms caused floods along the Eastern Sierra that would fully clean landscapes and trails of dust. Created a couple custom topo maps from Caltopo I then printed out at a nearby FedEx Office.

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With gear ready, I decided to drive out a day early on Tuesday and then hike up the 1.2 miles up 260 feet to the wilderness border so I would be able to reach Blue Lake early enough the next morning to work a planned panorama. Thus on Tuesday August 9, 2022 drove across the range via SR108 then south on US395 to Mammoth Lakes where I picked up the reserved permit. Drove south on US395 to the SR168 cross over then up that road to the trailhead parking beside the Lake Sabrina Campground. Secured my smartphone up in bushes above my parking spot and locked up the Forester. Late afternoon headed out along the paved road and then the trail along the reservoir's south shore until reaching the wilderness boundary where I found a tentable spot about 30 feet below the trail under mountain mahogany.

After a reasonable night of sleep, rose at dawn on Wednesday August 10, 2022 then at 5:50am set out in shade of towering Table Mountain slopes on my left and reservoir waters on my right. Before reaching the George Lake junction, large groups of Bob Burd's High Sierra Challenge hikers, rapidly passed me on their way to climb Baboon Peak. For water needs, there are two small all year streams along that section of trail. Blue Lake at 10380 feet was up 1200 feet over 2 miles on the sometimes steep switchbacking trail through mostly lodgepole pine forests. Three hours later, while stopping frequently given my heavy 62 pounds of carrying weight, at 9am reached Blue Lake's northwest end, then vectored east, stashing my pack, and up to a sketchy viewpoint nearly 200 feet above the lake I'd figured out from Google Earth work. At page top is that fine perspective above the lake, a 3 column focus stack stitch blend of 9400 by 6000 pixels shot with my sharp Sigma 30mm F1.4 lens. The maine negative is the dim lake waters reflect the green forest across the lake instead of a more aesthetic blue sky I captured at the end of the trip from the south end. Notice how the large cloud reflects white in the lake with 11818 foot Donkey Peak below it. To its right in the background is striking 13418 foot Mt Haeckel, then mid right 13831 foot Mt Darwin, and at frame right the west rib of 13253 foot Mt Tom Ross.

In another hour of twisting up and down trail, had reached the outlet of the north Emerald Lake at 2.7 miles on the day, my planned destination. I decided to push on to Dingleberry Lake at 10450, another 0.9 miles and reached there before noon. Clouds were indicating some trivial showers were possible as I set up my tent a ways back from the trail above a small gully under lodgepole pines per image above right. Later I found 2 other groups camped above the popular trail lake. During the afternoon, without any photography interests, cooked a freeze dried meal lunch, explored the area, and took a refreshing dip in the sizeable creek. After retiring early spent time analyzing the map for a shortcut up the Topsy Turvy Lake versus the regular trail.

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As sunrise light hit upper elevations of the basin on Thursday August 11, 2022, I was up packing gear and soon on my shortcut route that turned out to be as unpleasant as I expected staying north of the stream moving through glacially formed cliff bands and dense vegetation near the stream. At about 10750 gambled climbing out of the cliff lined creek ravine that I was able to traverse around and onto the main bench west of Topsy Turvy 0.6 miles along on my route. Crossing the creek turned out to be a more tedious effort than it should have as I climbed into boulders with willows instead of just getting my boots a bit wet. From there was a winding 0.4 mil route up to the ponds at 10900 feet below Sailor Lake. I worked the above wet turf meadow image with past peak lupine and Picture Peak in the background.

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A short distance away was my prospective camp zone that I took a long time to choose a spot for because there is a lack of shade in locations with flat spots. This image above shows the delightful shallow stream pond I was camped at behind the image's tripod position. The majority of visitors to this area don't venture hereabouts, but rather are upstream 60 feet higher at Sailor Lake or well off to frame left at a vertical waterfall. I eventually chose a spot against some whitebark pine and set up camp.

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As it was still mid morning, I did a tour of the zone. Breezes precluded any lake reflection subjects. The waterfall was partially still in shadows. Met another person up at breezy Sailor Lake, and then shot minus lake waters, the above impressively detailed 5 column 85mm panorama of 13130 foot Picture Peak with 13411 foot Mt Haeckel.

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Most of the subjects I worked were rather weak given light and breezes, so they were deleted after the trip. The above shot to the north down canyon at 8:24pm shows modest dusk color and clouds. Spent much time late in the day inside my tent planning the following day's photography strategy and preparing photo gear for my morning session.

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Sunrise Friday August 12, 2022, was up and quickly out on a one mile route to the peninsula on the north side of Hungry Packer Lake at 11072. The whole zone is in shadows until the sun rises above the 1000+ foot ridge to the east. The formal trail ends at the lake's outlet zone. There one will find use paths that climb up as much as 150 feet above a cliffy section of bedrock in order to drop down to the peninsula. Well above the water on a bench are legal tent sites with excellent views over the whole lake. Not a wise place to site during wind or lightning and thunderstorms. Had to wait till 9am for the sun to rise up enough to shine enough on potential subjects. The above shows the view over whitebark pines across the lake towards impressive 13130 foot granitic Picture Peak including the talus fan that reach down into its deep cold lake waters where larger rainbow trout swim than in any of the nearby basin eastern brook trout lakes. In a few places, its lake shores are abrupt impossible to bypass cliffs. Large storms a few days before the trip had washed considerable amounts of glacial rock powder into the lake that became much more aquamarine colored than normal. Had the lake water's been calm for reflections, I would have used my sharp 30mm instead of the lower resolution 19mm. I downsize all 19mm shots 10% due to its lower resolution. Thus the standard 6000 pixel A6000 sensor width becomes 5400 pixels.

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After a few more 85mm shots of the peak, began a return where I shot the outlet zone above from the high route.

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As the sun's altitude gets higher, so does color saturation of the aquamarine water color that tends to be best side lit. The high traverse was also a unique opportunity to place a tall whitebark pine, pinus albicaulis, looking down against the beautiful aquamarine background color.

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Near the lake's outlet was a pleasant small drying grassy meadow with a few wildflowers where I mounted the 19mm again. Note at mid frame where a water level section of the peninsula I had been at shows conenient access to the lake edge.

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My last morning subject at 11am as the sun finally was high enough to illuminate parts of the slope and whitebark pines was this 56mm capture of the south shore cliffs. I returned to camp while working a few othe modest subjects.

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This 19mm from the inlet creek zone of Moonlight Lake with the loose 600 foot face of the Mt Powell rock glacier in the background. About a mile from my camp, shot at a late 6:30pm. Note in drying foreground grasses Lemmon's paintbrush, castilleja lemmonii, pink hued little elephants head, pedicularis attollens, along with gone to seed white heather. Most summers, this early August trip would still be looking at vibrant green meadows with more wildflowers than during this droughty year. Also along the stream is the common Sierra willow,

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Another 19mm subject showing an isolated quiet reflecting stream pool next to the fresh stream, Mt Powell rock glacier. Note the blue hued lupine behind the stream.

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A section of the stream full of aquamarine hued rock powder with an abundance of still blooming wildflowers including Lemmon's paintbrush, castilleja lemmonii, silver lupine, lupinus argenteus, and yellow hued five finger cinquefoil, potentilla gracilis.

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My last shot this late afternoon in shadowed blue sky illumination was of a rusty granite rock beside the bluish gray hued rock powder filled stream water showing how those dried sediments appear atop the rock that obviously flooded days before.

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Friday morning August 13, 2022 packed up gear then set off with photo gear to Sailor Lake where I finally encountered breezes calm enough to capture a couple reasonable reflection images. The above 30mm shot at 8:30am after the rising sun finally reached this shore in a small bay with less waves, shows Picture Pk and Mt Haeckel. At one point tossed a small rock into the lake in order to scare away pesky brook trout causing surface disruptions.

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Another similar Sailor Lake reflection of Picture Pk. Notice brook trout feeding rings at frame left.

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I then quickly hiked the 3/4 mile to the inlet zone of Moonlight Lake at 1030 feet I'd visited Thursday afternoon that would present morning landscapes in the opposite direction. Due to the tall ridge just east this area is in shadows earlier during mornings. The large lake was only marginally calm so I once again fell back on just using my wide 19mm lens to capture the above at 9:45am considerable talus poking up in the shallow lake waters. In the background frame left is Clyde Spires below which out of view is Echo Lake.

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Above is another isolated stream pool beside the creek. One I regret not mounting my sharp 30mm instead of the 19mm that would have been a worthwhile 3 column 2 row stitch blend. Note the water grasses in the pond. I was surprised, that I didn't see any tadpoles or frogs in any of the basin's lakes. This pond would be ideal for Pacific tree frogs so am wondering why?

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Another 19mm image across talus boulders in shallow lake waters that also shows how lake waters further out were wavy from breezes. In the background frame right is the distant rusty Piute Crags and at frame left, 13253 foot Mt Tom Ross.

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A similar view to the previous image, about 100 feet further back along the creek, stitch blending two 19mm shots.

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While on my return hike back to camp, captured at 11:25am this optimal aquamarine lake color shot from along Moonlight Lake's west shore with 11818 foot Donkey Pk at frame right. Like other nearby waters, pan sized eastern brook trout waters. Notice the better color shade of lake waters with the sky background above versus the peak. Due to flows from the Mt Powell rock glacier, it is consistently one of the best lakes in the range with aquamarine lake color.

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After returning to camp about noon, I grabbed my ready backpack and began the several miles hiking effort to the east fork above Blue Lake. Instead of taking the trail, I went cross country around Topsy Turvy and Pee Wee Lakes then down the rib to Emerald Lakes. I did not manage to stay on an optimal route, having to negotiate more strenuous sections. By a weary 3pm had reached my destination granite bedrock bench zone, well away from the trail to Baboon Lake. What a superb zone that obviously few ever visit because it has no lakes. See my camp shot at page bottom. After setting up camp, taking a refreshing dip in the sizeable stream, and making dinner, I explored various nearby areas. The above is a close-up of dry fallen lodgepole pine needles that the previous week's heavy rains had left pointing in water flow directions. Also was a pleasantly quiet zone for sleeping.

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Saturday August 14, 2022 would be my last day on this trip. After packing up, I would work a few subjects mid morning then endure the 4 mile hike mostly downhill back to the trailhead. Again given the tall ridge just east, the sun rose late so the above 3 column stitch blend landscape of erratic boulders atop the glacially smoothed granite bedrock was shot at a less than optimal 9:40am. Rusty Piute Crags in the background frame right. Notice the fine lodgepole pine, pinus contorta, that lives up to its "contorta" species name. All the short trees on distant ridges are whitebark pines.

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And yet another erratic boulders atop bedrock landscape in the one spot I found a view of the lake waters. Notice how given the background blue sky above, how the lake water appears a much nicer blue than the image I shot Wednesday morning from the other end of the lake.

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And my last image of the trip, shows the nearby stream lined with tall sedges. And yes there are a couple pan sized brook trout visible in the full image. Back at camp I hefted my backpacked and began the trudge back to the trailhead that I reached a bit after 2pm. As it was now Saturday, there were numbers of groups I passed along the heavily travelled trail.

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   David Senesac
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