June Lake Loop (Hwy. 158) was a short 20 mile drive from Convict Lake via Hwy. 395N. Btw, trip note: No wifi at all along this section of 395, but the made-to-order chile verde breakfast burritos at the June Lake Junction Shell station were deeelicious! Diet food it ain't, but who's counting calories when you're trekking around?
Enroute to Parker Bench, we passed by June Lake, Gull Lake, Silver Lake, and finally, Grant Lake. A serendipitous stop at Grant Lake Overlook brought us to an interesting expanse of grassy fields adjacent to Rush Creek, which flows into Grant Lake. Of course, when we first saw the creek overhead from Grant Lake Overlook, I had no idea that it was Rush Creek. Google is da bomb!
Rush Creek, which runs a little over 27 miles, is the largest creek in the Mono Basin that eventually feeds into Mono Lake. It's part of the long, contentious history of water diversions by the LADWP in the Eastern Sierras, but after lawsuits by Audubon, Mono Lake Committee, and other concerned parties, a lot of the habitat is now slowly being restored.
Next stop, Parker Bench. I'd never heard of Parker Bench until I came across it in the Bureau of Land Management's publication Wildflower Hotspots of the Eastern Sierra. Here's the description:
Turn to the east and you are faced with another land—some say more lunar in appearance. The light-colored Mono Craters stand tall above the sagebrush basin, lined up as if sinking into or rising out of the lake. Note the stark contrast of Paoha and Negit islands in Mono Lake: Paoha with its glaring-white alkali soils, Negit with its dark volcanic rock. Add the changing hues and gemlike quality of the lake itself, and it is a landscape unlike any other.
Take some time to wander through one of the many quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) stands in the area. Feel the smooth white bark of the aspen trees. Its smooth bark made an excellent carving surface for Basque sheepherders that herded in this area beginning in the late 1800s. The names, dates, poetry, and images of these “arborglyphs” help us understand the history of these people and their summer wanderings in the Eastern Sierra. This record is now disappearing, as aspen trees typically live only up to 100 years. Basque carvings were done carefully to prevent injury to the tree.
I have to say that I was a bit disappointed that the blooms were not as prolific here as I'd hoped they'd be and/or they were past prime. July is usually primo time for wildflower viewing in the high Sierras, but I think because the ersatz, so-called Godzilla El Nino of 2015-2016 didn't quite materialize throughout California as promised and prognosticated by many of our celebrity TV meteorologists, the bonanza I had been hoping for was just meh. Nonetheless, it was fun four-wheeling it up Parker Lake Road. We initially missed the turnoff as we headed north on June Lake Loop from Grant Lake, but after passing the Mono Craters marker, I knew something was amiss. After consulting our trusty map, we u-turned back down the road and eventually found the sign for Parker Lake Road. Parker Lake Road is unpaved and, although slightly washboardy, is quite passable for a conventional 2WD vehicle, as long as you don't drive like you're on a NASCAR track. After a leisurely 3-mile drive, we reached the road end at Parker Lake Trailhead. The views here were stunning and endless: snow-capped Sierra peaks on one side, and Mono Lake on the other. We wandered around a bit near the trailhead but opted not to hike to Parker Lake this time, especially with our very furry fur babies in tow, since it was warming up and there was no shade in sight. We'll be back one day, though, to do the trek.
We arrived back at Convict Lake around 6pm and decided to walk the dogs around the lake, as we hadn't ventured out there at all since checking in the day before. I thought the babies would be calm, zen, and all pooped out after a day of adventuring. But, NOOOO - Sasha got some weird hair up her fluffy butt and decided she wanted to bark at everyone and anything that passed us by on the trail around the lake. Then Addy decided he wanted to join in - so now we had two akitas STEREO BARKING!!! Bad bad! Anyhoo and needless to say, we cut the walk short and drove back to the cabin. Highlight of the evening was seeing a deer outside of our cabin around 7:15pm. We saw a deer, probably the same one, earlier this morning at 7:30am, which triggered a volley of barking from the Sasha meister. But since it was her first deer sighting, I decided to cut her some slack. Addy, as usual, couldn't care less...
A beautiful, clear, comfy 64F this morning.
below us a large field of billowy grasses near a sizable creek flowing towards Grant Lake.
Gil found a dirt track that seemed to lead down towards the creek, (Rush Creek, according to the map)
so we four-wheeled a short distance to that location. Surprising, there were a couple RV's parked nearby and,
despite the rather monochromatic expanse of grasses in the area, there were actually quite a few
flowers blooming, with the showiest being being Silvery Lupine and Hooker's Evening Primrose.
(Pahoa Island is on the right and the smaller volcanic Negit Island is on the left)
America's Got Talent?