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Adventure to the East Side of the Sierras with Mom Day 3: Mosquito Flat Trailhead to Gem and Chickenfoot Lakes

My mom and I were on the third of a 4-day adventure at Rock Creek Lake, just south of Mammoth Lakes on the eastern side of the Sierra. Today was the last day where we headed separate directions for the day. I took off for a hike to Gem and Chickenfoot Lakes and Mom took a hike up along the north side of Rock Creek. (Read Part One and Part Two)

Where: Inyo National Forest
Distance: 7.34 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Range: 10,242′ – 10,939
Date: September 17, 2014
Maps: Florence Lake and Mount Morgan Topographic Quads

Mom headed out for her adventure, walking along the trail on the north side of Rock Creek, heading upstream. The creek starts to widen as she moved upstream and she sure captured some beautiful pictures. (Next eight pictures by Rosemary Gregory – click photos to enlarge and for more detail on maps)

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Fall was in the air with some of the vegetation starting to show some red color.

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The trail started heading uphill and mom found herself doing a bit of rock climbing. She referred to this portion of her hike as the “Rocky Mountains” and it was very tough going so she turned around at this point where the creek was flowing over the rocks like a waterfall. On the way back she captured some nice color in the Aspens along the bridge.

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For my adventure, I parked my car at the Mosquito Flats Trailhead that is located at the upper end of Rock Creek Road. This trailhead is at 10,200′ elevation and they say to get here early, especially in the busy times of the year. This lot can fill up early and if that is the case, you need to park in an overflow area, adding 3/10ths of a mile to the hike.

Sally and I headed up the trail and I tried my best to not make too many stops along the way because I wanted to get up to Gem Lake with plenty of time to explore. I couldn’t resist stopping at Heart Lake to take some pictures of this irresistibly beautiful lake. I also spotted some beautiful fall colors in this area.

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I love the colors in these mountains and this unnamed mountain along Box Lake had a striped pattern was very eye catching.

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As I got closer to Gem Lake, just shy of 11,000′ elevation, there were remains of an old wagon or trailer along the trail. After I got home, I did a little research and discovered that this trail utilizes what was an old road that led up to a mine. The Pine Creek (11,480′ elevation) and Adamson Mines (11,760′ elevation), tungston mines, are not too far from this area so I think that was the probably the destination of this road. Wow, that is way up there!

The Adamson Mine was discovered in 1939. First production was in 1942. It is owned by Paniminas Inc. (100%), California (1981). It is operated by Union Carbide Mining and Metals Division – Pine Creek (100%), California (1981).

The Pine Creek Mine was discovered in 1916, first operated in 1918. It is owned by Avocet Ventures Inc. (50%), Canada (1995), and by the U.S. Tungsten Corp. (50%), California (1995). It is operated by the Pine Creek Tungsten Mining LLC (100%), Australia (1995). Owned & operated by Union Carbide Nuclear Corp. (1981-1995).

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A spur splits off of the main trail above Gem Lakes below Morgan Pass. The trail used to approach the lakes from below but they are doing some restoration work in this area and are rerouting you from the top. It was a very nice view as I headed down to the first of several Gem Lakes. Sally and I walked along this lake’s edge until we found a nice grassy spot for a snack.

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Sometimes Sally is a nut. I don’t know why she walked up in front of the picture that I was trying to take of the lake, opened her mouth up and started yipping. I can only guess that she is saying “best day ever!!” She then started rolling around in the short grass along the lake.

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We kept walking around the lake til we reached another lower one. These lakes are surrounded on one side by some high mountains that look very old and puffy white clouds moved by, casting shadows and light on these mountains.

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Sally and I headed cross country to Chickenfoot Lake, basically following the stream that feeds into this lake.

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And I fished. I caught a few small ones that I released back into the lake.

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The clouds were amazing! They moved overhead, creating an ever changing mirror reflection on the lake. Here is a short video of them and if you listen carefully, you can hear Sally whimpering a couple of times. She isn’t a big fan of this sitting quietly stuff.

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It was time to head back down the trail and as Sally and I reached the lower end of Box Lake, we were surprised to see these waterfowl working hard on their dinner. Of course, I had to leash Sally for this part while I took some pictures.

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I had caught some glimpses of color on side of the Mount Starr on my way up but I now had time to check it out closer. I climbed up the hill toward the most intense color and took a few pictures.

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The color show did not stop once I got in my car. Even along the road down, there were some nice reds and oranges.

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Both mom and I enjoyed our hikes on this day. We both got to experience some new country and see some beautiful sights. The Topog and Profile are from my hike.

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Sources: http://www.saddlebaglakeresort.com/
http://rockcreeklodge.com/
http://www.us-mining.com/california/inyo-county/tungsten-mines
http://www.mindat.org/loc-78422.html
http://www.mindat.org/loc-3475.html

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