Glacier Trail and Alpine Lakes Loop

3 September 2020
Glacier Trail and Alpine Lakes Loop
(6 miles, +1,200/-1,200 feet).

Half Cookie and I wanted to do a Sierra trip this September.  But then all of California caught on fire.  So we searched the map for places that were a similar distance by car from San Diego.

One place we have always wanted to go is Great Basin National Park.  We took a trip out west (when we lived “back east”) in 1997 and intended to go then but couldn’t quite add it to our ten park itinerary.  Then in 2003 when we moved to California, we also planned to stop there, but we got eager to reach our final destination and skipped it again.

I guess the third time is the charm!

It took us about 9 hours to get here, but we finally made it.  The Wheeler Peak Campground is closed, so we ended up at the lower elevation (and much warmer!)  Upper Lehman Creek Campground.  We grabbed what might have been the last site available, pitched our tent, and then headed up the road for a quick late afternoon hike.

First stop: a view of the Wheeler Peak Glacier, the only glacier left in Nevada.  It is due to expire in the next 20 years, thanks to climate change.

Half Cookie, whole climb
(What’s left of) the Wheeler Peak Glacier

Next up: Bristlecone Pines!  A grove of trees, many of which are older than 3,000 years, sits right off the trail to the glacier.

Bristlecone Pine
So old! (I mean the tree)
Heading back down

We picked up the Alpine Lakes Loop on the way back, which goes by two lakes, Teresa and Stella.  Teresa was essentially gone (it’s been a very dry year) and Stella was also less than half its normal size.

Stella Lake

We felt a little ho-hum about these lakes, especially since just a month ago we did a big trip on the John Muir Trail.  But just as we were feeling as jaded as possible, a flock of birds landed in Stella Lake and then decided to fly all around it in a beautiful pulsing swarm.  We watched them for about 15 minutes before heading back to the car as the sun set.


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