“THE trail we were on is at the treeline, 8 or 9 thousand feet. Most of the time it’s buried under 6 to 10 feet of snow, so not too many people get up their until late spring or early summer… First people in are rangers who maintain the trail by removing tree falls or routing around avalanches.”
So began a recent email from James Mayeau telling me about a hike up to Round Top Lake with Larry Fields. They were returning to get some photographs of the White Bark Pine Trees… remember Mr Fields told us about them in the Sierra Nevada Range of California along with that lesson on climate change?
Anyway following is the official account from Mr Mayeau:
“GUIDED by an experienced hiker with an encyclopaedic familiarity of the trails of the central Sierra Nevada, we made the assent to the headwater of the American River.
The trail was fairly well-maintained. A few of the tree trunks had “i”-shaped trail markers–called blazes–on them. These served as historical reminders of the Wild West days, when the trail itself was considerably less distinct.
Still there were a couple iffy places where a novice could get lost taking the wrong line at the fork in the road.
We passed an abandoned gold mine attended by the skeleton of a model T, and spare engine block, with the wheels knocked off and a rear hub adapted to power the sluce box.
I’m guessing the enterprise folded circa 1910-20. How the miners got the car up here is a head scratcher. If they drove, then the T was one hell of an SUV.
Leaving the mine we immediately faced the problem of fording the river. One, two, three steps… done. Thanks to some handy stepping stones. Where I live you need a trestle bridge to do it.
The walk was a steady grade with switchbacks snaking up the side of a gradual rise. It didn’t feel like climbing really.
Whitebark Pines overlap with the ranges of other high-altitude conifers. These include Western White Pine, Lodgepole Pine, Mountain Hemlock, and Red Fir.
We cruised over a rise, and there it was!
Round Top Lake surrounded by a semi circle of Whitebark on the North, and a semi circle of glacial cirque on the South. There were only Whitebark Pines, the kings of the mountain.
Although the trip took an hour or more it seemed shorter because we were met by a trickle of hikers coming down as we went up. Everyone was cordial, happy to be there, passing small-talk and banter.
More photographs http://picasaweb.google.com/JamesMayeau/RoundTopLake#
More about whitebark pines http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/cone-bearing_trees/white-bark_pine.html
Part 1 http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2009/08/white-bark-pine-trees-a-note-on-climate-change-from-larry-fields/