Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday Adventure: Fourth Recess Lake (Sierra Nevada, CA)

You may have noticed that I'm better about posting these Thursday adventures than I am the Monday book recs.  Part of that relates to my day job work schedule (I work a full day on Monday and this year seems like Mondays are always kind of frantic).  But really it's because when given a choice between sighing fondly over pictures of mountains vs. doing...well, just about anything else other than actually hiking in them!...I choose the mountains every time.

Today's picture is of a place particularly special to me, because I visited it on my very first backpacking trip to the Sierra Nevada.  I was a student at Caltech, working at JPL that summer, and one of the engineers there invited me and my boyfriend of the time on a weekend backpack from the Mosquito Flat trailhead into the Recess Canyons.  I've talked elsewhere about the life-changing moment when I first saw the jagged pinnacles of the Sierra looming above the Owens Valley.  The beauty of the Recess Canyons only sealed the deal.  Gorgeous blue-green lakes, so clear you can see every pebble on the bottom, under shining white cliffs...oh man.   (Sadly, pic was taken with teensy little point-and-shoot camera, so doesn't do the area any kind of justice!)  Colorado lakes are pretty, but I tell you, it's just not the same.  Lakewater here tends to be much murkier and not nearly so blue, and the mountains are far less rugged.

Lake in Fourth Recess Canyon, Sierra Nevada

The pic is actually from a much later trip to the same area, this time with my husband-to-be. I wanted his first experience of the Sierra to be as beautiful as mine, so we backpacked into those same canyons, scrambling up trailless cirques and lazing by the lakes.  (Afterward, we climbed Mt. Whitney via the mountaineer's route and spent the night stargazing on the summit, but that's a topic for a different adventure post.)

The picture's also serving as motivation for me right now: it's inspired the setting for a scene very late in The Tainted City.  Can't wait to get to that point in the book, and see if I can evoke for readers some of the same beauty that I experienced while camping in the Recesses.



  1. (Sadly, pic was taken with teensy little point-and-shoot camera, so doesn't do the area any kind of justice!)

    I can see the potential of the area for a bigger and better camera, though.

    So the Sierras are more rugged in general (appearance and climbing) than Colorado?

  2. Paul - definitely. The Sierras are far younger than the Rockies, geologically speaking. In fact, the Sierra peaks are still growing, rising by an inch or so every couple years (more sometimes when big earthquakes happen along the continental plate), whereas the Rockies have been eroding away for ages. Granted, certain parts of the Rockies are younger and more rugged than others (just as the northern & western Sierra is more gentle than the eastern escarpment). But even the San Juans (the most rugged part of Colorado) are far gentler in terrain than much of the southeastern Sierra. (Trail work in the SE Sierra often involves blasting to cut trails into a cliffside!) The gentler terrain of the Rockies also means they are a patchwork of 4WD roads, so it's really damn hard to get away from people. Whereas no roads whatsoever cross the Sierra for a nearly 200-mile stretch between Sherman Pass at the far southern end of the range, and Tioga Pass up at Yosemite. Get more than a day from the nearest trailhead (and venture off the few big popular trails), and you can have the mountains to yourself: bliss for the backpacker.

  3. You're speaking Geology to me! I love it. :grins:

    You're absolutely right, though, to think on it, younger, growing mountains are going to be rougher than ones which are eroding down.

  4. Geology is awesome! :) If you ever drive up from LA to the Owens Valley and eastern Sierra, you've got to bring a copy of Robert Sharp's "Field Guild to Southern California" (sadly out of print)

    Points out all sorts of fascinating geological features (of which there are many, the Owens Valley is a geologist's wet dream!) & explains the processes behind them.

  5. I'm a big fan of the "Roadside Geology" series of books and have several of them. Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Yellowstone, in fact.

    I think I mentioned this before though...and when I make it to Colorado, I will get that one too.

    Funny, there is no Roadside Geology of Iowa...not that there is much to see outside of Bluff Country.

  6. Gorgeous photo, and funny to hear anyone describe the mountains in Colorado as being "far less rugged." But in terms of mountain climbing terrain, I get it.

    Yep, just checked: the Sierras are about 4 million years old, the Rocky Mountains 80 million, and the Appalachians 480 million. That’s like the difference between a 1-year-old, a 20-year-old, and a 120-year-old.

    Now I feel guilty for stomping up and down the mountains here. :-)