Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rocky Basin Lakes 7 Day Backpack in the Southern Sierra Mountains

One thing I learned on this trip is I need to pay more attention to my route planning when it comes to ascents and descents. I showed Gary the map of where I planned our route and he looked at it and said...looks good but we probably should go in reverse order, that would save us from going up hill all this way and on the way back would be a lot easier since we probably won’t find water in any of these creeks since everything is so dry right now...dry in June in the Sierras?? Yep, pretty damn dry, water was scarce enough that we had to plan our days to make sure we had water. And it turns out Gary was right (as always) and 2 days were dry until we made camp at the end of the day.

We started at the Schaeffer Meadow trail in Monache Meadow and did a figure 8 loop going up to Rocky Basin Lakes and back. Water was available enough thru Templeton and Ramshaw Meadows but dry on the trail to Rocky Basin Lakes from Tunnel Meadows. It was also dry from Rocky Basin Lakes all the way down Johnson Creek to Salt Lick Meadow, where Johnson Creek splits and the trail crosses the creek there is good water. The trail up from Salt Lick is a bit tricky to follow for a few miles from lots of downed trees as there doesn’t seem to be much trail maintenance happening. Luckily Gary was smart enough to make sure we came *down* the Johnson Creek trail and not up like I had planned.

Here is the southern portion of our figure 8 route

Here is the northern portion
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Caltopo gave me a profile of our route. I did not track the trip but instead drew it up on Caltopo as close as possible to the marked trails. While it was off in a few places it is amazing how accurate it is on the GPS, I did bring a GPS and pretty much used it only to amuse myself and for a few areas where we lost the trail big time.

This trip I took 3 Cameras, a 4x5 sheet film cigar box pinhole camera I made recently, my waist belt holstered Canon S95 point ‘n shoot and a recently acquired Fuji GA645W medium format film camera. The pinhole camera stayed in the truck and I only took a few pictures with it when we were car camping. I have been using B/W film on almost all my trips for the last year or so and it is kinda growing on me. I have recently started doing prints with an enlarger in the darkroom and that has been a lot of fun, learning how to Dodge & Burn with my hands and pieces of cardboard. I am really happy with the film photos from this trip, I used Ilford HP5 Plus 400 and developed it in Formulary PMK Pyro.

I originally had some really long lenses, a tripod and my Fuji X-E1 in my pack thinking it would be good for wildlife but the weight of a 600mm lens, it's carry case and a tripod was more weight than I wanted to carry so it stayed home. Turns out it would have been great to have as we saw 2 bears, deer, marmots, coyotes and many birds all close enough to fill a 600mm lens frame. Ended up having to use the Canon S95 to zoom in on the distance wildlife so the pictures are not that great.

On the road into Blackrock just before the Monache Trail this sign was worked into a Bigfoot Crossing, I thought it was kinda cool
Bigfoot Crossing

Here is where we started the trip down in Monache Meadow
Schaeffer Meadow Trail Sign in Monache

There were many great meadow views and the first day we had lots of puffy big white clouds but that didn't last any longer than one day. Here is Schaeffer Meadow with Templeton Mtn in the distance
Schaeffer Meadow and Templton Mtn in the background

In no particular other order here are some other photos from the trip, B/W is medium format Ilford HP5 Plus film, color is noted as either digital from the Canon S95 or Vevlvia 50 film although I think the difference between the Velvia 50 and the digital is somewhat obvious.

Gary at the Snow Survey Cabin in Little Whitney Meadow
Snow Survey Cabin at Little Whitney Meadow

Snow Survey Cabin Horse Shoe Station
Horseshoe Station at Snow Survey Cabin

Horseshoe Rack at the Snow Survey Cabin

Dragon Outhouse
Pink dragon toilet seat

Trail Cross Roads
Crossroads of Big & Little Whitney Meadow Trails

Lower Salmon Creek Falls
Lower Salmon Creek Falls

Rocky Basin Lakes - #25A Filter and Polarizer
Rocky Basin Lakes Red 25A Filter & Polarizer

Rocky Basin Lakes Evening Shadows
Rocky Basin Lakes Evening Shadows

At the top of Red Hill you can look down thru Ramshaw Meadows and see Olancha Peak off in the distance. Olancha & Kern Peaks are prominent landscape features in the southern Sierra range
Ramshaw Meadows looking down from Red Hill. Olancha Peak is way off in the distance

According to the topo map this is Rocky Basin Lake WL 10802T, the west'ish most lake of the bunch
Rocky Basin Lakes

There are many burned out trees in the Sierras and many have some stunning colors and patterns, here is one I tried to be artsy with but probably failed at since it really is not in my blood to be artsy
Burned out tree trunk

Handing the camera over to Gary you get a rarely seen photograph of yours truly in a uniquely split tree trunk
Me in a split tree

One of the teachers where I work did a project with cigar boxes and had a few left over so I built a 4x5 sheet film pinhole camera out of one of them and took it on the trip with us but only for car camping. We stopped at Sherman Pass and it was a cloudy, windy and just about to be rainy day. I set up the pinhole camera and guessed at a 1.5 minute long exposure, here is the result...not bad for a small hole in a box
Sherman Pass in the Sierra Mountains. Photograph taken with a Pinhole Camera made from a cigar box.using 4x5 sheet film, 0.5mm pinhole, 110mm focal length. Arista Edu 100 ISO film @ 1 minute exposure developed in Rodinal 1:10 @ 60 minutes

Here is another I took on the last morning of our trip in Monache Meadow before we drove off
Monache Meadows Morning. Photograph taken with a Pinhole Camera made from a cigar box.using 4x5 sheet film, 0.5mm pinhole, 110mm focal length. Arista Edu 100 ISO film @ 1 minute exposure developed in Rodinal 1:10 @ 60 minutes

The last day of our trip I put a roll of Fuji Velvia 50 slide film in the Fuji GA645W camera. I was skeptical of how it would turn out and I knew it wouldn't be cheap to get just one roll developed but my curiosity won my wallet over. I have to say, looking at the color slide film on a light table with a loupe is just amazing, the transparencies are razor sharp and almost 3D like with amazing colors. The scanned B/W negatives and transparency photographs really do not do justice to the actual film photographs, the film is just so sharp and beautiful to look at that the scanned images are almost painful to show you....but I am gonna do it anyway....

Here is the sunrise in Strawberry Meadows (Fuji Velvia 50)
Strawberry Meadows Sunrise

The Schaeffer Meadow Trail Sign, I have a B/W version in the beginning of this TR for a comparison (Fuji Velvia 50)
Schaeffer Meadow Trail Sign

Here is Gary on the boulders overlooking the Kern River near Strawberry Meadows, this was my most favorite place in the whole trip, I could spend days there. The colors of the film photographs to me have a kind of visual appeal I just don't get in the digital photographs..not sure how to really define it though, maybe just nostalgia, childhood memories of waiting for Thrifty's to develop my film..not sure but I do like it. (Fuji Velvia 50)
Gary on Rocks in Strawberry Meadows

Brown Cow Camp, it was pretty run down, it has not been used in awhile (Fuji Velvia 50)
Brown Cow Camp Cabins

Kern River in Strawberry Meadows (Fuji Velvia 50)
Kern River near Strawberry Meadows

Kern River near Strawberry Meadows

Here is a west view of Strawberry Meadows with Kern Peak way off in the far distance and a Marmot perched on the boulder in front of me (Fuji Velvia 50)
Marmot in the Morning Sun

Kern River flowing south down towards Monache
Kern River near Strawberry Meadows

The rest of the photos here are from the Canon S95 digital camera, a fine little 8oz camera.

Small yellow flowers like this bloomed for 2-3 days before all dying off
Yellow ground flowers were blooming everywhere for about 2 days

We had several Marmots check us out at various parts of the trip
Marmot checking out our packs

Morning with the Marmots

Morning with the Marmots

We also saw 2 definite bears grazing in the meadows and 2 more we believe at sundown but it was getting dark so we could not be certain.

Looks like bear tracks
Bear Tracks

Looks like bear crap
Bear Scat

Must be bears....
Brown Bear in Strawberry Meadows. Olancha Peak in the background

Brown Bear foraging in Ranshaw Meadows

Brown Bear in Strawberry Meadows. He finally ran off once we got pretty close

The last bear we saw was about 1/4 mile away from where we setup camp so we were extra careful about hanging our food really high
Campsite in Strawberry Meadows, this was my favorite area of the whole trip

We crossed paths with deer a few times also

We spent quite a few hours hanging out by the Kern River watching the Golden Trout swim by and every now and then there would be some pretty cool reflections
Reflections in the Kern River South Fork in Ramshaw Meadows

Gary and I share the same cultural and historical interests and we are always looking for signs of the past in our backcountry excursions. The Sierras were also home to Native Americans and evidence of their habitation can be found if you look close enough
Native American Morteros

Native American Morteros

Native American Arrow Point, Desert Side Notch

This was another great backpack trip with Gary and I hope you enjoy the photographs as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Total Balloons this trip - 3 (1 mylar + 2 latex) Sorry, no photos