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Hiking with Sally to Gardisky Lake

Sally and I took a short but steep hike up to Gardisky Lake and were rewarded with amazing views of the surrounding high country, white puffy clouds reflecting in the lake and a surprise.

Where: Inyo National Forest
Distance: 5.09 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Elevational Range: 9,732′ to 10,524′
Date: September 14, 2017
Topographic Quad Maps: Falls Ridge, June Lake
Dog Hike? Maybe

Sally and I drove to Saddlebag Lake Road, just east of the Yosemite National Park Tioga Pass entrance. Heading up the mostly dirt road to Saddlebag Lake, we stayed at the Saddlebag Lake Campground in the Inyo National Forest above the Saddlebag Lake Resort and that is where we started this hike. The hike up to Gardisky Lake from the Gardisky Trailhead, about 1.25 miles north of Saddlebag Lake Road and Tioga Road, is a short one, but a bit of an uphill climb. It is about 1.2 miles one way (2.4 miles round trip), but you gain 746′ in that short distance. Since we started our hike from the Saddlebag Lake Campground, that added another 2 miles.

The trail started across the road from the Gardisky Lake Trailhead parking. It was easy to spot even though the sign marking the trail had fallen off.

Once we climbed above the tree line, I had quite the view. I could look northwest toward Mount Conness (12,590′ elevation) and the surrounding country that included the Conness Lakes and Green Treble Lake.

Then I looked southwest toward Bennettville and the Great Sierra Mine.

The trail pretty much leveled out and followed the creek up the remaining portion and with one last look behind.

Not every surprise on a hike is a really big one. My surprise on this trail was when the trail led through a meadowy stretch. It was a wild iris still in bloom this late in the year, even though most of it’s relatives had given up their bloom. I showed the picture of Sally with the other iris in the area to help show how ready the other ones were for winter.

We reached Gardisky Lake and it was mighty pretty with those clouds reflecting in those still waters.

It is said that in 1932, Mrs. Everett Spuller named Gardisky Lake after Albert J. Gardisky, a miner who had come to the area around 1914. He had built a cabin at what later became the Tioga Pass Resort that year, later adding a store, lodge and cabins for rent. He lived at the resort called Camp Tioga until 1935, then Lee Vining.

He was born November 1, 1880 in Rochester, New York and his parents were born in Germany. I believe I located his family on records that show that his parents, Charles and Mary immigrated to the United States in 1869. By 1917, Albert was living in Mono County and was a Prospector. On the 1930 census, Albert J. Gardisky is shown living in Homer, Mono County, California and has no occupation. The California Death Index says that he died in April 3, 1941 in Alameda, California. It is said that after Albert J. Gardisky’s death, his relatives believed that he had hid his treasure in one of the buildings, so they tore the place apart looking for it. After failing to find anything, they sold Camp Tioga.

My plan was to wander around the lake but when I spied the snowfield at the base of Tioga Peak, I wasn’t really that wild about bushwhacking through the willows at the outlet to be turned around at that snow. I had experienced those willows on a previous hike.

Sally and I wandered over to check out the small lakes near the inlet of the larger lake. It appears that at one time, this basin was one big lake but has since become a big lake with a few smaller ones. Even though it isn’t one well defined lake anymore, it is swampy in this area in early spring as the snow melts.

Sally and I headed down the same way that we had come up.

I know these small clouds don’t look very scary but you never know when they can sneak up on you. We made it back to our campsite just fine and settled in to some reading. Later that evening, we did have some weather but we were warm and cozy.

Sally and I had a very nice hike and a good workout. I hadn’t hiked to Gardisky for a couple of years and was reminded how wonderful the views are from up there. Sometimes after I have finished this hike, I have stopped by Tioga Pass Resort for a piece of pie or lunch, which I very much missed doing this year. The heavy snow damage that they experienced caused them to not open this year. Sure hope they can next year!


Dog Hike?

This hike can be a good dog hike if your dog is up to it. The rocky terrain is very rough on a dog’s feet and I packed Sally’s boots just in case she got a sore spot on her paw or sliced her foot on one of those sharp rocks. Even if you think your dog’s feet are toughened up enough for this hike, you can have surprises so please be prepared.

This is a good hike for Sally. There aren’t any rattlesnakes or poison oak and there is plenty of good, fresh drinking water for her all along the way. That means I don’t have to pack her water and that is a good thing! Sally has never had any problems drinking the water out of these higher elevations but some dogs may not be as easy as Sally on this issue. I think you need to know your dog and you may need to carry some water for them. There are wildlife up in this country and your dog can get in trouble with them. A few years ago, a small pack of coyotes harassed Sally and I on this hike. They were very active in trying to get her to come “play” with them but I kept Sally on leash. Those coyotes were so bold to come within 20-30 feet of me while I was fishing and at that point we called it quits and left. There were no signs of coyotes on our hike on this day though which was a good thing. This area also has bubonic plague and if you dog gets a hold of a critter such as a squirrel or mouse, this could be something to watch for after a trip in this area.

There is a great link from the Inyo National Forest regarding their dog rules: Inyo National Forest Hiking and Camping with Dogs

Map and Profile:

Gardisky Lake Doarama

Saddlebag Lake to Gardisky Lake Topographic Map

Saddlebag Lake to Gardisky Lake Profile


Saddlebag Lake Campground

Inyo National Forest Policies and Rules

Inyo National Forest Hiking and Camping with Dogs

Tioga Pass Resort History

Ted’s Outdoor World

Prior Blogs in this Area:

Hiking up to Gardisky Lake and Tioga Peak October 20, 2015


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