An autumn day in the Eastern Sierras

Stray birds of summer come to my window to sing and fly away.
And yellow leaves of autumn, which have no songs, flutter and fall there with a sigh.

  ~  Tagore   (from Stray Birds, one of my favorites from Rabindro)

Tagore heard a sigh in autumn leaves as they drop down. I hear a song of triumph and celebration of life in autumn leaves. Leaves in general, main source of food generator. At least for land bound animalia.  Task well accomplished through the summer, as fall approaches, leaves of deciduous trees present their master piece to the world with shades of red. Autumn spectacle brings joy to the world.  There is a grace and elegance as they finally drop down to ground to a slight fall breeze. A song of accomplishment, beauty and grace flow in the autumn air.

I’ve never been to Eastern Sierras in fall till this week end. I have been to Tioga Pass in mid October couple of times but never crossed to other side of the mountains. I wanted to shoot fall colors in the day time and shoot sunrise at little lake valley basin with Mt. Morgan, Bear creek Spire and Mt. Abbot in background. Drive to Mosquito Flat on Friday was nice. As I was crossing Tioga pass, I recognized that my beloved weather forecaster’s prediction of 0% change of precipitation on Friday yet again wrong. Strom clouds are looming on South Sierras threatening to rain anytime.

Here are images right out side east exit of Yosemite.

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Eastern sierra elevation varies approx. from 4000ft. and to tree line and above. Fall colors change starts early at higher elevations starting around late August and continue till November at lower elevations. I knew that June lake area, which is known for best fall colors in eastern sierras is at it’s peak. So I took small diversion from highway 395 and covered 15 mile loop. I did not stop to explore the area, as I was getting late to reach Mosquito Flat camp grounds. Aspen grove on the Junk Lake loop are at their peak, shimmering in gold.

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I reached Mosquito Flat with faint twilight is all left. I quickly found a spot and pitched tent and started cooking diner. It started drizzling. Mosquito Flat is at 10,250 ft. elevation. It is the highest designated trailhead in the Sierra, where you can drive.  By the time, I finished my dinner and got into tent, drizzle turned into rain. Autumn rain at 10,000 ft. is pretty cold. It rained through out the night.  Fist time in my entire wilderness experience, I shivered in my 13 degree Fahrenheit down sleeping bag in the night. I wore my jacket and gloves, but still was cold. While I was preparing dinner, I left tent flap unzipped. Sleeping bag got slight wet. Although down based sleeping bags are lighter in weight for same rated synthetic bag, when get wet, they lose their loft so their ability to keep you warm. On top it, my air core sleeping pad got flat. Despite all that I had good night sleep. Back in my mind, I knew I have my car 100 yards away in case cold is unbearable.

Got up at 5AM and hiked up to Marsh lake. It’s an easy 1 mile hike. Even though stopped raining, cloud cover was pretty thick.  My hopes of seeing alpine glow on Bear Creek Spire is gone as it passed sunrise time. At 9:00 AM clouds cleared a bit allowing me to shoot this image. But with in 15 minutes, clouds covered the mountains again and started drizzling.

(Click on image to see large)

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There are some back country camp sites at Marsh lake. But one needs wilderness permits to camp at these sites. So next time, I will camp right next the lake to avoid 1 hours hike in the cold. I wanted to go up further and check out the trail for better compositions for next time. After contemplating, I err on the side of caution. Stormy weather and improper sleeping gear can put you in tricky situation. Mountains are unforgiving to unprepared visitors.

Fall in Sierras is not all about Aspen groves and bright yellow color. In fact most of the color is close to ground.  Grass and brush change color dramatically.
Here are few images …
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(Click on image to see large)

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While driving back home, took this image with familiar deserted home on highway 395 with dramatic clouds on mountains.

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Happy Clicking
Swamy

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