Moraine Lake. Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks, California. August 7, 2008. © Copyright 2008 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Moraine Lake shoreline in evening, Sequoia National Park
I have only been to this remote lake twice, but as I think back on it now it seems a special place. My two visits were separated by decades. The first was when I was in my twenties and one half of a young couple on our first very long Sierra pack trip, a trip that had us taking two weeks to cross the Sierra from west to east. When I think back to pack trips from so far back, I realize that I have forgotten many details but this lake remains. On the second visit I came here on a trip retracing that earlier trip, though this time with a larger group of friends who had not been here before. It takes me a solid four days of walking to get this place, and the route covers some spectacular country and takes me into and across some very high places.
That route, and the contrast between it and what I found at this lake may account for the special feelings I have for this place. Both times on this route, the first day was a hard one under a heavy, long distance backpack load. The second day is about the same length, but it ends with a moderate climb to a lake. Day three starts right out with a brutal climb up the walls of the cirque above the lake, then crosses a high pass, drops into timberline country, and descends mostly open terrain to a camp where the trees grow thicker. Then on the fourth day things ease up. Much of the trail is though Sierra high country forest, mixed with open views, and then it leaves the main trail and takes a lateral out through more forest to this lake. I recall an expansive area of open forest along the shoreline, a shallow and pretty lake with forest on the other size, and a few peaks in the distance to catch the morning and evening light. From the right spots I could catch my first views of the summit of Mount Whitney, where I would stand a week or more later. And from this second trip I recall a slow and quiet evening with my hiking partners, hanging out in camp and sitting lazily on shoreline logs.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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