Every so often I get this extreme urge to go hiking in rugged high mountains like those in the Sierra Nevada just south of Reno. When this strikes (usually in the middle of the summer every year) it seems to stays with me until I get above 8,000ft (2,400m) in elevation, in the midst of soaring peaks and exposed rock faces.
One of the severe disadvantages of living in western Washington is the significant lack of locations at this elevation. Don’t get me wrong, the Cascade mountains are very beautiful and I love hiking around them, but the majority of them are forested and significantly shorter than 8000ft. The Coastal Range in British Columbia is a bit taller and more rugged in nature, but it still pales in comparison to the southern Sierra Nevada.
Growing up in Reno, NV spoiled me in this regard, where many high elevation peaks and valleys were only a short drive away. One specific hike I keep remembering over the years is called the Bishop Pass Trail, near Bishop, California and Kings Canyon National Park. The trailhead starts at just under 10,000ft and climbs to almost 12,000 at the pass before descending into the National Park, though my sister, Mum, Jazmine (our Australian Shepherd), and I only went to the pass and back to make for a 10 mile day hike instead of a longer 17 mile one.
The scenery was amazing; beautiful blue skies, a plethora of small lakes and streams, blooming wildflowers, various pine trees, chipmunks and deer, and snowfields just waiting to be played in. We could not have asked for a more perfect day to go on a hike.
When hiking in high mountain areas one must typically start early to avoid afternoon storms that build up over the course of the day, and that day was no different (though much more calm than our experiences in New Mexico two years later). We got to see a few rain showers blow across South Lake as we were ending the hike, and it was fun to race the storm to the car (we lost badly but luckily it was only a light rain).
Having a geologist as a dad and learning a great deal about physical geography (it is half of my major after all) makes me appreciate the surrounding landscape and understand what formed it. It is very easy to tell that the region used to be heavily glaciated, with its wide U-shaped valleys with evidence of old moraines, cirques with snow year-round (most years), and sharp peaks and ridges (called horns and arêtes) slowly shaped by the ice forces at work.
Finally, to celebrate a successful hike and camping trip we stopped at Erick Schat’s Bakkerÿ, a family tradition any time we are in Bishop. Their bread and sweets are enough reason to travel to Bishop, the scenery is just a bonus. This great trip set the standard I try to meet each year as I long for high mountains and the relief the provide from the summer heat (I know you doubt it, but it can get hot in Bellingham, Washington too).
Pictures taken 7 July, 2010 with my Canon PowerShot A560