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Hiking with Sally from Convict Lake to Mildred Lake (Almost)

My dog Sally and I hiked up Convict Canyon on a crisp morning after a dusting of snow, along side colorful mountains that steeply rose up from the trail, and through fall color toward Mildred Lake. The snow wasn’t an issue but the ice ended up being one, but those views along the way were well worth it!

Where: Inyo National Forest, John Muir Wilderness
Distance: 9.38 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 7,544’ – 9,027’
Date: October 4, 2017
Map: Bloody Mountain
Dog Hike? Yes

Sally and I headed east over Tioga Rd., then south on Hwy 395 about 35 miles to Convict Lake Rd. We headed for the Convict Lake Campground where we spent a few days. We stayed in the USFS Campground at the lake and it is a nice one. It sits at the 7,500′ elevation, has 48 sites spread up and down about a mile of paved road, both reservable and first-come, first-served campsites. I did not make a reservation this time and lucked out to get one of the remaining spaces right down on the creek. If you aren’t camping, there is well marked trailhead parking just before you reach the Convict Lake Resort.

I stayed here in June and had a hike that I would have liked to do in mind but there was too much snow. I figured that this fall, that snow would have melted and the creeks wouldn’t be running so fast and with less water. My plan was to hike from Convict Lake to Mildred Lake and depending on the time, maybe head up to Dorothy Lake. Rather than keep you in suspense, I didn’t reach those destinations but I had a wonderful hike up the trail, making it about a mile from Mildred Lake.

It had snowed the night before but the snow didn’t stick around the lake. Sally and headed out from the campground a little before 8 in the morning and the temperature was about 27. That wasn’t bad to me as I was dressed appropriately. I knew that it would warm up and I would be shedding layers as I started climbing. Sally and I headed out along the north side of Convict Lake and we were treated to those glassy reflections that Convict Lake is known for.

As I made my way around the lake, the morning light changed the color of the lake, and reflected yellow aspens.

When we reached the northwest side of the lake, the trail forked and we headed up toward Mildred Lake and into the John Muir Wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t long before we reached a wash and it was a big one. I couldn’t help imagine how much water must have roared down here this winter, tumbling good sized rocks down like they were nothing and wiping out the previous year’s trail.

 

 

The trail took me by mountains that looked ancient. They had bends and slashes of red, white and black.

Looking back at my last view of Convict Lake for a while, last night’s snow on the White Mountains to the east sure made them stand out.

The trail led through trees, paralleling Convict Creek. That trail was dry but crunchy under my feet from ice.

Back in the open, we walked along the west side of Mount Morrison, full of those bendy and colorful patterns.

What views we had as we now could see the chute that we were climbing up with Convict Creek roaring below us.

I knew that I would need to cross Convict Creek at or slightly above this old washed out bridge and my eye could spot a few easier spots where crossing would be do-able. I was making good time and it was only 1030. Note that in the spring or early summer or if the water is running heavy, this may not be passable and very dangerous.

But I had to cross a small creek that come out of Lake Genevieve before doing that and I sure didn’t count on the conditions that morning. I could see where people had crossed before, using rocks and a log and under normal conditions this would have been a piece of cake. Not today because those rocks and log were covered in ice. Since I was by myself, I figured I had better play it safe and not risk slipping.

So I turned around and headed back the way I had come up.

As I walked along the trail and back along the south side of Convict Lake, I took some time to admire Mother Nature’s leaf art.

Not every adventure goes as planned and that is part of the excitement of trying something new and different. Sometimes, the right thing is to turn back and give it another try another day. If the ice wouldn’t have been there, I would have gone for it. I met a person on my way down that was hiking up and shared the conditions. I don’t know if they were able to get across. The ice could have melted by then and not be a problem. Anyway, I am looking forward to tackling this one again. Even if I didn’t make it, the scenery was incredible and it was a good workout. Sally sure enjoyed it.

If you check out the Doarama link under Maps and Profiles at the end, it sure gives you a great feel for how big that country is. You can zoom out and even tilt and spin your view.

Dog Hike?

The trail is pretty rocky in stretches and I packed Sally’s boots just in case her paw pads got a little too tender or she got a cut on those rocks. She didn’t need them on this trip and that could be because she had been doing a bit of hiking this summer in the rocks and her paw pads had toughened up. I feel better having them, along with her small first aid kit, with me when hiking though. There was plenty of water down in Convict Creek and along the lake for her to get a drink when she needed.

Inyo National Forest shares the following rules for dogs within the forest: Traditionally, National Forests have welcomed dogs. However there are a few rules that apply to assure that you and other National Forest visitors have an enjoyable outdoor recreation experience. There is a great link from the Inyo National Forest regarding their dog rules: Inyo National Forest Hiking and Camping with Dogs

 

Sources:

Convict Lake Campground Reserve America

Convict Lake Resort

Inyo National Forest Dog Rules

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Leaf Peeping with Sally at Convict Lake October 3, 2017

Escape with Sally to Convict Lake June 2, 2017

Leaf Peeping on the East Side: Convict Lake, June Lake Loop, Lundy Canyon October 13, 2015

Adventure to Convict Lake with Mom and a Horseback Ride up McGee Canyon July 16, 2015

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