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Hiking with Sally and Raven to Conness Lakes

We headed up to the Tioga Pass area to check out some high lakes that were still lined with snow and a smidge of ice. The wind was up, but we still snuck in some dandy reflections in lakes that changed colors before our eyes. Sally and Raven got a good workout!

Where: Hoover Wilderness
Distance: 5.6 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Range: 10,066′ – 10,774′
Date: June 25, 2014
Maps: Falls Ridge and Buckeye Topogs

We headed east on Tioga Road, east of the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite to Saddlebag Road and drove up it, parking at the backpacker parking lot near the Saddlebag Lake Resort. They had some brand new bear boxes that we stored our goodies in and walked to the store to buy our tickets for the boat taxi to take us across the lake. Of course, we could have walked, but it pretty fun to take the boat across. Plus it cuts off almost 2 miles one way of the hike and those rocks on that part of the trail are especially rough on a dog’s feet.

We saw that the boat was just about to take off and Deb and I hustled down to the boat dock with the dogs while Gail got our tickets. It is $12 for adults and $5 for dogs for the round trip. They have other rates that you can find on their website at the end of this blog. Both Sally and Raven have taken the boat a few times so this was old news to them and they were very relaxed on the trip over. There were a total of 5 dogs on the trip over in the morning!

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As soon as we got off the boat, we had to squirt down with mosquito repellant. The skeeters were swarming around us, coating our clothes. We were anxious to get out of there and get moving. The wind was predicted to come up in the afternoon, 25-30 mph with 50 mpg gusts, so I was hoping to see some lake reflections before that happened.

Rather than follow the trail, I cut right over to the first lake on our path, Greenstone Lake. A small tarn had some snow-streaked mountain reflections before we reached the lake. The bad news is that the wind was starting the pick up. The good news is that those pesky mosquitoes were getting fewer with the wind.

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After we walked up along Greenstone Lake, we followed Lee Vining Creek for a while, then the trail headed up for a steeper, rocky portion. (Photo by Debra Sutherland)

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And here is the view from the top of it.

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We headed toward the lower of the Conness Lakes, walking through reddish slabs of rock. What beautiful colors! (Photo by Debra Sutherland) C
The wind was definitely up when we reach the first of the Conness Lakes. Even though we didn’t have reflections, the snow streaked mountains were breathtaking. We walked along the lake, then followed a rock “bridge” through the middle of the lake. Once we were toward the back of the lake, we headed up through snow to the next lake, which I call Middle Conness Lake.

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The rock was becoming quite different up here. There were a lot more reds in the slabby rock.

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We walked around the lake to see what we might find. (2 Photos by Debra Sutherland)

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Conness Lakes 16We headed on up to the next higher of the Conness Lakes (photo by Debra Sutherland).

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As we dropped into the highest of the lakes that we visited, we were wowed by the color of the ice and lake. (Photo by Debra Sutherland)

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Raven explored on the melting snow on the lake until she made me too nervous watching her and I called her back.

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We had talked about making it to a big rock slab by the inlet and possibly up to the even higher lake above the waterfall but when we tried to get across the outlet, we just didn’t feel comfortable. There was a little wobbly log that we could cross but if we slipped, we would fall into the creek which headed for quite a distance under a large, thick snow bank.

We could try and walk across that snow bank a little downstream and although it was pretty thick, it was melting before our eyes and sloughing off. It was possible that with our weight, we could fall through that snow back and fall into the stream running underneath it. We decided to not take the chance.

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We found a wonderful lunch spot on a flat rock, sheltered form the 25 mph gusts of wind, where we could watch this view of the waterfall feeding the lake. Mount Conness, 12,649′ elevation, and its knife edge ridge border the lake on the west and southwest sides. North Peak, 12,231′ elevation, borders the lake on the north side. We could also spot where the Conness Glacier lies.

Mount Conness is named for John Conness (1821–1909), a native of Galway, Ireland who immigrated to the United States in 1833. He arrived in California via Panama on the ship Sylph in 1849, engaging in mining and mercantile pursuits in El Dorado County, but by 1853, he was a member of the California Legislature. He served from 1853 to 1854 and from 1860 to1861, and then was the United States Senator from California from 1863 to 1869. He was married twice and had at least 12 children by my count. On the 1860 census, he is living in Georgetown, El Dorado County and lists his occupation as a Miner.

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Here is a picture of John Conness.

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The color of the water on the lake was constantly changing from an emerald to aqua to a grey and there weren’t any clouds to make the light change. It was magic!

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Dog portrait by Debra Sutherland.

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What an amazing color of ice at the edge of the lake.

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The suncups on the snow were up to a foot deep in places, a bit difficult to walk in but beautifully captured in this photo by Gail Gilbert. So, how do these suncups get created? They are formed when the snow begins to melt, creating ridges and cups.


Here come Sally and Raven through the snow. They seemed to have no problem negotiating their way across those suncups.


We headed back down, passing by the same lakes we had come up but we traveled along the opposite side of the middle lake, getting a closer look at the small amount of ice still on the lake at the back end.

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It looked like someone had put in a nice ledgestone wall in this area, its multi-colored rocks bordered by blooming heather in places.

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You don’t realize how big this country really is until you see it with a person in the picture. The person looks very tiny.

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We walked about the lake, listening to the soft lapping sounds of the water against the rocks. Take a listen.

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A snow bank cast its reflections in the lake. (Photo by Debra Sutherland)

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Raven was “King of the Mountain” on an unusually striped giant rock.

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Down we headed to the lower of the Conness Lakes. (Photo of Sally on the rock by Gail Gilbert) The water was lightly lapping against the shore of the lake as we circled it.

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As we headed back down to Greenstone Lake, we spotted the first clouds from an incoming disturbance with would bring about a half inch of rain to Tuolumne Meadows that night.

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I made it down to the boat dock just as the taxi pulled in, grabbed the dogs so they wouldn’t decide to take a dip in Saddlebag Lake.

Wet dogs are not allowed on the boat and if that would have happened, it would have meant waiting a half hour for the next taxi or walking the 2 miles along the shale covered trail along the lake. I think it is funny that the dogs are watching where they had been instead of where they were going. It was almost like they were mentally revisiting the wonderful day that they had. (Photos by Debra Sutherland)

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Once back in the car, we were stashing our gear when a hat got flung over Raven’s head, giving us a brilliant idea. I don’t know if Sally thought it was a brilliant as we did though. It almost looks like she is saying, “you aren’t going to make me do that, are you?” (Photo by Debra Sutherland)

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This can be a good dog hike, but the rocks in this area can be brutal on their feet. I packed Sally’s shoes, just in case she got a worn spot or cut on her feet, checking those feet periodically, but she was no worse for the wear.

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Day Hikes in the Tioga Pass Region, John Carroll O’Neill & Elizabeth Stone O’Neill, 2002
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-2005
1860 United States Census; Census Place: Georgetown, El Dorado, California; Roll: M653_58; Page: 683; Image: 65; Family History Library Film: 803058.

One comment

  1. Great pictures as always Candace. Can’t wait to go with you on a hike..maybe late summer.

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