Sunday, June 25, 2006

The prettiest little valley ever

Up above Rock Creek Lake on the Tom's Place exit is this little glacial valley full of lakes that are full of fish. The runoff was still really high, and there were five little lakes all spilling one into another. After the sweltering morning at Owens River Gorge, it was the perfect hike because the snowpack still lay across the trail in many places. There are not a whole lot of things that are more fun on a hot June day than a snowball fight.

At Long Lake, the fourth in line up the trail, three feet of snow still extended all the way down to the water. It was fun (and a little unnerving) to look down at the steep snowbank underfoot and into the glassy water. Tyson caught about half a dozen little brookies right at this spot while I hiked about another mile down the trail to the north shore of the lake.

On the way in, we passed a two people with cross-country skis on their packs who, we guessed, had come up over Mono Pass from King's Canyon. You can't make it out in the photo, but you could see ski tracks coming down one of the snowfields up on the ridge. Talk about hardcore.

The trail at the north shore of the lake was completely covered in snow, and Tyson still hadn't caught up to me, so I found a sunny rock and sat down to read my book (Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen). After about half an hour I looked up and happened to see a marmot sunning himself on a rock a few hundred feet back down the trail. I got up and moved closer, slowly, then found another rock to sit on. The marmot didn't move, so I read a few more pages, then looked up to make sure he was still there, then read a few more pages, and so on. After another twenty minutes, I noticed another marmot a little further down, who waddled off his rock and came over to play with the first one. Then he trotted to a grassy spot about twenty feet from me and started chewing on the wiry blades of grass poking through the rocks.

At about this time Tyson came around a bend in the trail. I tried to tell him to come quietly, but I was afraid making wild hand signals or yelling might scare off the marmots. On the other hand, he had the camera, so if I wanted pictures he'd better not scare them off, either.

The marmots didn't care. They played around, ducking under and peering out from over the rocks, letting us get ten or so really good pictures.

I like to think if I am really, really good, I'll get to come back one day as a marmot. They get to live in really pretty places, where they hibernate for up to ten months out of the year--during the long winter and again in the heat of the summer. When they do come out, they lay around in the sun and whistle back and forth to one another. Sounds like the life for me.

No comments: