Pika, those furry little critters that are too cute for words, greeted my dog Sally and me on our first day camping at Saddlebag Lake as we took a short walk along the east side of the lake to check out the beautiful wildflowers.
Where: Hoover Wilderness, Inyo National Forest
Distance: About 1.5 miles (but you can go farther)
Elevation Range: 10,000′
Date: August 4 through 9, 2019
Maps: Falls Ridge and June Lake Topogs
Dog Hike? Yes
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, I stayed at the Saddlebag Lake Campground in the Inyo National Forest above the Saddlebag Lake Resort. If you are daytripping it, there is parking at the resort or at the adjacent Group Campground parking lot.
You can’t beat those morning reflections on Saddlebag Lake.
Sally and I took a walk along the east side of the lake. I was curious about how the wildflowers were looking and what colors would be showing off.
One of my favorites is pennyroyal, a member of the mint family, with light purple flowers and I moved my hiking pole through it to smell it’s wonderful fragrance.
Yellows included mule’s ear and wallflower.
This orange Paintbrush had tinges of yellow.
Purple were represented with the wild onions and penstemon.
White Mariposa Lilies or a close cousin of theirs are such a happy flower with their yellow and purple centers. No wonder the bugs love them!
As I was walking back, I heard the calls of an American Pika and stopped, trying to figure out where this cute little guy was. It took a bit because they blend in so well.
The pika is a talkative little critter. The call is used to warn other pikas of a predator or intruder (Sally and me) and to me it sounds a little like a chirpy sound but some people describe it similar to the bleak of a goat. Their call is very unique and you can listen to a clip here. And here is a video.
The American pika (Ochontona princeps) is considered an indicator species for detecting the ecological effects of a changing climate in mountainous regions. Results from recent studies suggest that in some areas, pikas are being lost from lower elevations in response to increased warming and less suitable habitat.
They are distantly related to rabbits and prefer rocky slopes. They graze on a range of plants, mostly grasses, flowers and young stems. In the autumn, they pull hay, soft twigs and other stores of food into their burrows to eat during the long cold winter but they do not hibernate.
American Pikas are small mammals, with short limbs and rounded ears. They are about 6 to 8 inches long and weigh about 6 ounces. They have small litters of 2 to 5 with the young born after a gestation period of about 30 days. Sometimes the females will have a second litter.
We headed back to camp, got in my hammock, pondered how cute that pika was, and did some serious cloud watching.
Mosquitoes can be pretty bad this time of the year up in this area but they weren’t horrible on my visit but they were about. Wind is your friend at Saddlebag Lake when it comes to skeeters but not so much when it comes to fishing. Be prepared and bring repellent with you while hiking because you may need it. I saw some folks wearing bug nets on their heads. Everyone has their level of tolerance and comfort when it comes to bugs.
I also wanted to share a bit more information on the Saddlebag Lake Campground, which has 20 campsites and 1 group campsite. If you aren’t tenting it, only small RV’s or short trailers will fit and there are no RV hook ups. They do have potable water and 4 vault toilets. Reservations are only available for the large group site. For more information, there is a link to the campground under sources below.
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. Sally hiked for 3 1/2 days on this trip. 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. 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.
Here is some information from Inyo National Forest regarding their dog rules:
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. If you are camping with your pet, please practice the following:
- Leave vicious or unusually noisy dogs at home.
- During the day keep your dog on a leash no more than 6 feet long, or otherwise restrict its freedom to roam at will.
- At night keep your dogs and other pets inside an enclosed vehicle or in a tent.
- Developed campgrounds are for people, not animals. Please do not bring more than two dogs or other pet to any one campsite.
General rules for dogs within the Inyo National Forest:
- Dogs are allowed for trips staying in the National Forest. Pet food must be stored the same as required for your food.
- Dogs are prohibited, as are any other pets, on trips visiting the wilderness of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
- Pets need to be on leash or under verbal command. Do not allow pets to chase or harass wildlife.
Browning, Peter, Yosemite Place Names, Great West Books, Lafayette, CA, 1988
Prior Blogs in the Area: