Then I stumbled on a posting about Little Lakes Valley on Outdoor Project (www.outdoorproject.com). It basically said you could get the alpine views without the lung-busting grade challenges generally associated with alpine views in the Sierra. I checked out a similar review on All Trails (www.alltrails.com) that said the same thing. Big experience on a small (fitness) budget.
OK, got a destination. Now logistics.
I figured out a time slot where Susie and I were both free. Weekend before Labor Day. That’ll work.
Then I figured out how to get there (ranch > central valley > Tioga Pass through Yosemite > Hwy 395). (Google maps)
Then figured out where to stay (camping? Too beat to bother. Mammoth Mountain = off season room rate!). Within the budget.
Then get somebody to feed the horses and watch the ranch (thank you Malia).
And one more thing: Order a couple of Zeiss Batis lenses from Lens Rentals (www.lensrentals.com) just to round things off.
We loaded up the car (no chihuahuas this trip) and headed across the Central Valley and up into Yosemite. Got to the entrance with my debit and senior discount cards in hand, only to find out access to the park was… free that particular day. It just keeps getting better.
Tioga Pass, August 2017
Mammoth Mountain, 2017
We pulled into the almost full parking lot (it was a Saturday after all) loaded up the cameras and some water (in that order) and started the GPS tracker. To my astonishment, we were already at 10,000 feet. I’m like, wait… what? We’re already at 10,000 feet? It just doesn’t seem that high. I just never thought I could drive to a parking lot in the Sierra that rests at 10,000 feet.
A few more minutes on the trail took us to Box Lake, offering the classic Sierra lake vista I had imagined:
The light at 10,000 feet is different, especially if you’re coming from somewhere much lower in altitude where the humidity is high. It is certainly more intense, but it also seems to sharpen and clarify everything you see. I was so pleased with the images I got with the Zeiss Batis lenses, but in retrospect the light at that altitude didn’t hurt the images a bit.
Actually, I feel like we got away with something, that we beat the system a little bit: the pleasure of rolling streams, alpine lakes, Sierra mountains topped with snow and a late summer wildflower display that rivals any I’ve ever seen, all without the pain of a lung and knee-busting backcountry trek.
Are the bigger rewards with bigger hikes? Absolutely. But this was a really worthwhile, easy-on-the-knees trek.
Fitness factor: One staircase rule in effect. If you can do a single flight of stairs you can enjoy this trail. All of these pictures were shot along the trail with very little incline. I wish I could report that at least some of it was wheelchair accessible, but that’s not the case.
Photo factor: Look at the pictures. These were all shot with either the Zeiss Batis 18mm or the 135mm (on my Sony A7ii) with just an absolute minimal post work in Lightroom. I was astonished. Susie walked behind me when I was first reviewing the raw pix back home and was equally startled. And the 18mm +135mm selection proved to be perfect, as I find myself always shooting real wide for landscapes and in tight for flowers and other detailed compositions. The glass is just superb.
I’m sure the alpine light played a role in the results, but I’ve rented the Zeiss lenses before (the 85mm and the 135mm) and was equally blown away just shooting around the ranch.