A Ruby for Father’s Day

Mosquito Flats to Ruby Lake via Mills Lake
(5 miles, +1,700/-1,000 feet).

This morning we set out on a trip that was gifted to me by my sons—a Father’s Day camping trip to Ruby Lake and Mono Pass in the John Muir Wilderness.

For a couple of weeks I have been watching the snow melt and trying to decide when to go.  Go too early, and the snow can make it really tough to hike, especially for beginners.  Go too late, and you might walk into a spring swarm of mosquitoes.   For our hike today I think we might be a little on the late side, but fortunately a consistent breeze kept the mozzies mostly at bay.

The drive up from San Diego was mostly uneventful, but about halfway we realized that DoubleSub had forgotten his hiking shoes!  And then we realized that I had forgotten my whole hiking outfit.  This was not the hardest trip in the world, so I figured I could just hike in my car clothes, but sandals were not going to cut it.  So we stopped at the Kmart in Bishop and picked up a pair of cheap running shoes (lucky for us they were having a 2 for 1 special!).

Once we got to Mosquito Flat, we got ourselves organized and then made our way over to the Little Lakes Valley trailhead.  At 10,300 feet above sea level, this is the highest trailhead in the Sierra, so we were already feeling a little light headed.

Here we go!

The first part of the trail was flat and sandy.

Into the woods

Soon we hit the wilderness boundary.

DoubleSub, Pasta Jay, and John Muir

Before we left I printed out maps for all of us so we could find our way and identify area landmarks.

Pasta Jay spots Mount Abbot in the distance

About half way up to Ruby Lake we saw our first signs of snow.

What’s this white stuff?

As we kept going up, there was more and more.

Snow banks below Ruby Lake

By 4pm we made it to Ruby Lake, which was still beautifully encircled with snowy granite mountainsides.

Ruby Lake!
Pasta Jay negotiates the Ruby Lake outlet

After we set up camp, we decided to do a trip cross country up to Mills Lake, the next major lake up above Ruby.  At first we crossed several snow fields as we traversed around the east side.

DoubleSub traverse
Pasta Jay traverse
Double traverse

Although I had brought micro spikes for all three of us, the snow was quite icy and I was very worried about a fall, so we started trying to stick closer to routes that were mostly scree.

Not easier, but safer!

By 6:30pm we reached a ridge where we got amazing views of Mount Morgan to the east and the glaciers below Mount Mills.

Mount Morgan
JimmyJam and the glaciers below Mount Mills

Just below the ridge was our destination: Mills Lake.

Pasta Jay and Doublesub above Mills Lake

Remarkably, wildflowers were already going crazy in the rocky crevices.

Clinging to life

We started making our way back down as the sun dipped below the western ridge, casting shadows on the path we had forged on the way up.

Ruby Lake in shadow

By 8pm we were back in camp ready to sleep for the night.  What an amazing day!!!

Cozy campsite

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