Mid to late August is the perfect time to explore the Eastern Sierras. Warm days and cool nights are typical at 8,000 feet elevation. The mid summer mosquito hatch has already died out, but the Golden Trout are still biting.
Tucked away a few miles south of Highway 120 and Tioga Pass leading into Yosemite National Park is Gibbs Lake. The area is often overlooked because of the relatively short hike in, the 4×4 road access, and the plethora of other more lucrative popular gems of the Sierras (i.e. Thousand Island Lake, Big Pine Lakes, Little Lakes Valley). Located on the edge of the Ansel Adams Wilderness the flora takes a drastic change from the drier high Pinion desert of the Mono Valley and becomes a lush, dense forest more typical of Yosemite but without the trash bears.
We started out on the 395 and passed the Roosevelt Tree in Big Pines.
After a quick stop at the Mono Lake Visitor Center for our wilderness permit we headed up Horseshoe Meadows Road to the trailhead.
With a thunderstorm looming over the next ridge we felt a few raindrops as we loaded up and got started up the trail.
Gaining 1,500 feet over about 2.5 miles the route scrambles up the mountain following a rushing creek.
Here’s Bullwinkle rocking his Ruffwear pack loaded down with all his goodies.
Looking back downhill I could see the Mono basin where we started.
Passing the Ansel Adams Wilderness boundary from Inyo National Forest we came upon Jeffery Pines whose bark smells like vanilla.
Closer to the creek a mixed riparian vegetation starts to grow. Here a nice grove of Aspen stand tall. By fall the area will show a beautiful array of colors. Sierra Gooseberries are wild edibles that taste like a ripe cherry tomato.
We finally approached Gibbs lake and set up camp. After filtering more water and other chores it was time for dinner. Knorr pasta side dishes, Spam singles, and baby food fruit pouches made for a tasty meal.
The trusty Hydroflask keeps me hydrated and happy.
Sunrise greeted us over the lake with a jaw dropping view. Trout were beginning to rise and sip on flies. We could watch them cruise the shallows in search of breakfast. Nearing mid day the fish activity waned and we followed suit with swimming, laundry, lunch, and napping.
The Arcade Adventure Belt is super comfy, low profile, and fits under my backpack belt. It’s stretchy so it makes my pants feel like they have an elastic waistband.
By afternoon Adam had caught his first Golden with a Tenkara rod, on a Parachute Adams fly, in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
Saying goodbye to Gibbs lake we headed down the mountain. The going was a lot easier descending from 9,500 feet elevation.
The next stop was the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest – home of the some of the oldest living things on earth. High in the Mono-Inyo mountains east of the 395 north of Big Pine these Bristlecones slowly grow over millennia. Some trees date over 4000 years old. A small foot tall sapling is as old as my grandmother. A decent Christmas tree sized Bristlecone started out it’s life when the Declaration of Independence was signed.