Journey to a Natural Alpine Lake – “Convict Lake”
Wednesday, June 7th, 2017
It’s no secret that I am absolutely in love with California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada so naturally I have added yet another venture blog from that region. With the weather getting a lot warmer in the late Spring, the immense snowpack that graced this beautiful granite range has started to melt at a furious rate. Convict Lake was looking a whole lot different than it was just a few months back during a Wintery Spring in the Eastern Sierra 2017.
After enjoying a hike at June Lake’s Rush Creek Trail just the other day, I felt that it was time for another great hike before hitting the highway back home. Although I had been to Convict Lake several times before in the off season, this time would be different. I arrived at the peak of fishing season and the marina parking lot, which was always available in the off season, was now only available for patrons of fishing. This of course wasn’t an issue so I drove around for just a moment and lucked out as I found a prime spot just beyond the outflow bridge. I grabbed my backpack, put on the sunscreen, and started my hike.
“The view from the bridge is always so mind blowingly awesome!”
The trail around the lake is very mild at 2.6 miles (4.2 km) and less than 208 ft (63 m) of elevation gain. Just about anyone can traverse this trail, however if you are not accustomed to high elevations, then this one may get you a tad winded, but If you take your time and enjoy the views, then it most likely won’t phase you. I started on the trailhead next to the marina which will had me on a counter clockwise loop around the lake. No matter which way you go, the views are all gorgeous.
“The other side of the bridge is where all the outflow of water goes via Convict Creek.”
“A brief video of my trek along the Convict Lake Loop.”
Convict LakeGPS Coordinates: 37.5907212° N, 118.8619977° W
Convict Lake is a lake in the Sherwin Range of the Sierra Nevada in California, United States. It is known for its fishing and the dramatic mountains including Mount Morrison that surround the lake. Its surface lies at an elevation of 7,850 ft (2,393 m). Convict Lake is known for its fishing, including Rainbow trout, German brown trout, and a species of sucker fish. Due to the high demand of fishing in the lake and stream, the lake is stocked once a week during the summer with rainbow trout, supplied by nearby hatcheries. There is a three-mile trail for hiking around the lake and a trail that connects the lake to the Sierra Crest.
“Origins of the Namesake”
Convict lake was named after an incident on September 23, 1871, where a group of convicts escaped from prison in Carson City. A posse, from Benton, led by Deputy Sheriff George Hightower, encountered the convicts near the head of what is now Convict Creek. Posse member Robert Morrison, a Benton merchant and Wells Fargo Agent, was killed in the encounter, and Mount Morrison was named after him. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names.(Source: Wikipedia)
“And away we go…to the Lake Loop Trail!”
“The color of the lake and the grand surroundings are so surreal, it feels like you are walking through a dream.”
“There were a lot of blooming flowers including these red Castilleja more commonly known as Indian Paintbrush flowers.”
“You just can’t beat this kind of hiking scenery, wish there was something like this back home.”
“A group of granite beauties, Mt. Morrison’s peak on the left stands at 12,241 ft (3,731 m).”
“I was nearing the other end of the lake as the foliage became dense.”
“Gateway to the John Muir Wilderness”
As I arrived at the other end of the lake, I saw a trail that broke off the main loop and naturally I was curious. I hiked up a short distance to a posted sign and discovered that it was a John Muir Wilderness trail marker. I had not seen one of these since I hiked to Rainbow Falls back in July 2014. A short moment later, I met a woman who was actually going that direction and she informed me that she was going up to check out an old bridge that had collapsed. She said it was a pretty cool site and I thought “Damn, I want to go, but my time is limited.” I will certainly be coming back to take on that trail again at a later date, but for now it was time to get back to the main loop trail.
“This John Muir Wilderness sign marks the start of the Convict Canyon Trail.”
The west end of the lake has one of the longest boardwalks I have ever seen on a hiking trail. This boarded path went on for quite some time through the woods and just when I started wondering why they built this here, I realized why. The west end of the lake is fed a fresh water supply every year from melting snow, but during significant winter snowfalls like 2017, the melting snow and ice from the higher elevations can be powerful enough to wash out the trail, so a boardwalk like this preserves the trail. This year I was fortunate enough to catch some of that powerful water action. I also learned later that the snow melt had become so immense that water was actually rushing over the boardwalk, making it impossible to cross.
“A wonderful boardwalk through the woods was a most unexpected surprise.”
“Entire areas of the forest floor were literally underwater with the rush of melted snow water.”
“The water was rushing at a very swift pace and icy to the touch.”
“As began hiking back to the Marina, I crossed a slippery section of snow pack which I did slowly and carefully.”
“The hike along the south side of the lake was stunning with intense aqua blue/green waters below.”
“I can see the therapeutic attributes of fishing on a beautiful lake like this.”
“There were other areas along the southern trail of the lake that had lots of snow melt flowing down.”
“Finally made it back to where I started and what a view to take in.”
Convict Lake is definitely one of the more popular lakes in the Eastern Sierra Nevada and with good reason. The fishing, the serenity, the beauty, hell, the list just goes on and on. I will definitely be returning here again to take on the Convict Canyon Trail. I have seen this lake in the Autumn, Winter, and Spring, it wears a different robe of beauty with every season and is now one of my favorite lakes to visit.
Until the next travel blog, remember to get out there and “Shoot the Planet!”
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