Thursday, June 27, 2019

Snowy Hike to Stella Lake, Great Basin National Park

 On June 23, 2019, we took a family hike to Stella Lake. Even though it was late June, about three-quarters of the trail was covered with snow!

Hiking poles really helped us out.

The aspens only had the tiniest leaves on them. 

This slope nearly has lots of flowers at this time--not this year!

Even with hiking poles we had some falls on the slippery snow.

But the kids did enjoy the snow, especially for an impromptu snowball fight!

Then we arrived at the lake. Some of the surface had melted and refrozen.
The kids went to the edge for a photo--and Emma fell through the ice! She flooded her boot and wasn't too happy.

We got a family photo with the snowy scene.

Then my husband and our kids sat down and took a nap!

On the way back, Desert Girl couldn't resist sledding.

I always enjoy these curved aspen trees. The bottoms are curved due to the weight of the snow pushing against them.

Through the tunnel of aspens--except it's not much of a tunnel yet!

 We didn't see many people on the trail, but the parking lot was packed!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Snow-Covered Wheeler Peak Area in June 2019

 On June 18, 2019, I wanted to go take a look at the Wheeler Peak area--the campground, lakes, and bristlecones in Great Basin National Park. The only problem was that the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive was still closed due to a big snowpack and wet and cool May and June. That meant I had to start my hike at Upper Lehman Creek Campground and take the 3.4-mile steep trail up to the campground. I found that about a half mile of the trail was under water (see photo above for an example).

About half way up the trail is this beautiful meadow. I got there just after sunrise.

Farther up, the stream had taken over the trail again.

In a little less than two hours, I reached the Wheeler Peak Campground. The Lehman Creek trail had very little snow on it.

The campground was like another world, with snowbanks and little snow buttercups emerging.

Some campsites looked like this:

While others were all melted out.

The kiosk was rather snowy.

So was the trailhead. I started following tracks that led generally in the direction to Teresa Lake.

With some modifications, I was able to get there! (Note: for those not used to the area, I highly recommend using GPS, map and compass, or some other navigational system to get around this area. The trails are covered with snow and the footprints are not reliable.)

About half the lake was covered with just a thin coating of ice, indicating that it had been warm enough to melt off it. The logs also led credence to that idea.

I really liked the ice along the edges, as well as how transparent some of it was.

At the other end of the lake, the snow bank had partially collapsed at the inlet.

The west side of the lake was more frozen over.

Next I decided to go to Stella Lake. I took a roundabout way there, and ended up on the slope above Stella, where I got a close up look at this avalanche, caused by a collapsing cornice.

It was cool to look back and see my footprints.

Stella Lake was a different world from Teresa. It was still completely snow and ice covered.

I even walked out on the lake.

Here's a traditional photo from where the trail meets the lake.

The clouds had now gotten big and were making interesting shadows.

I decided to hike back to Teresa Lake and try to get to the bristlecones again.

While I was taking another snack break (I took a lot!), I saw the amazing reflection in the lake.

I found I couldn't follow the regular trail to the bristlecones, as it crossed a 60 degree snow slope. Instead, I had to drop lower and follow the moraine around. It wasn't easy.

I found an amazing tree on the way, with lots of wolf lichen on it.

I stayed there a bit, just in awe of the tree.

It was so gnarled and twisted.

On the backside I found wolf lichen decorating a cavity.

The curves were amazing.

I was waiting and waiting for the sun to illuminate it. I finally gave up and started hiking on. Then the sun came out, so I scurried back and caught this photo.

Eventually I reunited with the bristlecone trail and saw this iconic tree.

But then I lost the trail again and just wandered. It was so beautiful!

I found I really liked the dead trees and their unique shapes.

By this time I was wandering north, back to the trailhead. I was hoping to intersect Brown Lake. And then, off in the distance, I saw it!

After stumbling down the steep, snow-covered moraine, I arrived at the ice-free lake. Deep snowbanks lined the north-facing side.

Although the clouds looked threatening, I wasn't worried, the forecast was good for the day. But I didn't want to dawdle too much.

I continued on, cross-country to the north, stopping at this amazing tree.

Here's a close up of it's twisted growth pattern.

I arrived back at the campground and then took the wet trail down.

It had been a great day in the high country. It was the third week in June and yet still so snowy up there. Down lower, more flowers bloomed.

Now the Scenic Drive is open to the top, but it's still snowy. If you go, be prepared for rugged conditions, such as wet feet, no trails, postholing unexpectedly, and quick changes in temperature. 
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