Sierra Nevada – Sabrina Basin


This trip took us back up California Highway 395, where we headed inland 15 miles west of Bishop. The weather was rainy and overcast for most of the weekend, but there were still some slivers of sunlight every once and again. Clouds capped the mountain tops, making it impossible to see the full depth of the Eastern Sierra. However, the same cloud cover that blocked distant peaks also made for some pretty cool and ominous scenery.

Trip Details:

Date Range – May 6-8
Campground – Forks
Distance – 290 miles
Closest Town – Bishop, CA

The first morning was cloudy and in the 30’s, but in the absence of wind the stillness made the temperatures very bearable. A drive up to Lake Sabrina was covered in snow, much of which had melted away by the next morning. Fishermen took advantage of the great weather, and had surely reeled in plenty of trout before we were even awake. In only the second weekend of open fishing season, there were far fewer people out than I expected.

Mono Lake

After a quick stop in Bishop, we headed north on 395 to June Lakes Loop, where the plan was to stop after Grant Lake and hike up to Parker Lake. The weather still looked gloomy, but the trail was short. After about 20 minutes on the trail, the drizzling rain quickly turned into a snow flurry. After only a few minutes we struggled to see 100 feet ahead of us. We turned around and headed back towards the trailhead to try and salvage any dry clothes in the car.

The next stop was Mono Lake, a lake more than 760,000 years old with salinity levels 2-3 times what you would find in oceans. Timing was perfect, as the rains subsided and the sun appeared as soon as we pulled up. Not only did we now have sunlight, but the entire South Tufa area was empty. The rains may have magnified this, but the chloride and sulfate levels were strong – even from a quarter-mile away in the parking lot.

Sunday morning brought clear and sunny skies, and the chance to get some better photos of the Sierra’s peaks. The first trip was a drive along the South Fork of Bishop Creek up to South Lake. At 9,760 feet, South Lake was still frozen over but yielded some amazing views of Hurd Peak and Mount Thompson. On the way out we stopped at Weir Lake, where ducks were swimming between all the wild onions growing in the banks.

Lake Sabrina

Before packing up and heading out, we drove back up to Lake Sabrina to try and catch the view with blue skies. The colors of the lake were split between an emerald green and a medium-dark blue, which combined with the snowy mountains for a surreal photo opportunity.

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