May 16, 2018
Place: Convict Lake, Bishop, California
Coordinates: 37.590081, -118.854942
Length: 2.5 miles
In recent years I've joined a number of online groups with interests in different aspects of California. One of these groups focuses on the Eastern Sierra region and there I have learned about many places that I probably would have taken much more time to learn about, if at all. One of the places that keeps popping up in this group at a fairly regular basis is Convict Lake, and the posted pictures of it show a lovely alpine lake nestled in a cradle of rugged peaks. As I planned last May's road trip with my friend I added Convict lake to the itinerary.
When we arrived at the picnic area of Convict Lake after our visit of Mono Lake it was already high time for lunch so we carried our food and dishes down a little path to a secluded picnic table hidden in a grove of cottonwood.
We might have been hidden from other people but it was clear that the local squirrels were accustomed to people's food there. Not a minute passed since we settled at the table and a squirrel climbed boldly on the table and tried to snatch away morsels. We didn't let her, of course. Getting habituated on human food is bad for any wildlife. (A lot of it is bad for people too, if I may add). We did get some really nice close up photos of that squirrel though.
|Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel|
As soon as we cleared the picnic area we were out of the cottonwoods and into a tall shrub area. On one of the first shrubs we came across was a large nest of caterpillars.
|View to the west|
|Serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia|
|Desert Peach: Prunus andersonii|
As I write this post Convict Lake is frozen over and covered with snow and all its surrounding is covered in snow as well. The difference is amazing.
|Antelope Bush, Purshia tridentata|
The trees got our attention as well - we stopped to admire a grove of firs growing down a small tributary running to the lake.
|White Silver Fir, Abies magnifica|
The deciduous trees though, had already grown their new foliage coat. And none was more beautiful than that o the quaking aspen. Our path took us right between two rows of small, bush-height aspens that shook and quivered in the strong wind. I had to turn around and photograph them looking east to avoid the sun blazing directly into the camera.
I don't know how, but I managed to capture a focused frame of an aspen branch blowing in the wind.
|Quaking Aspen, Populus tremuloides|
An osprey was gliding over the lake. Suddenly it dropped to the water and came back up holding a fish in its talons.
An osprey successfully catching a fish is always a wonderful sight. But we weren't the only one witnessing the successful catch: almost immediately a gull swooped over and started harassing the osprey.
|Osprey (below) harassed by a gull|
As the osprey gained more altitude a more serious claimer of the catch came by: a bald eagle. The gull vanished from sight - even if it had managed to harass the osprey into giving up the fish it would have no chance against the eagle. Too often the osprey itself doesn't stand that chance - about 40% of the fish eaten by bald eagles are robbed from osprey.
The eagle chased the osprey all the way up and over the ridge so we didn't see who ended up with the fish in the end.
|Osprey (below, on the right) chased by Bald Eagle|
After that the trail descended again close to the water level. Once again we were walking between aspen tree, now much larger. Some of the trees had markings carved in their delicate bark. This kind of irreverence for nature always sadden me.
We arrived at the place where Convict Creek spills into the lake and found the trail flooded. We crossed it carefully hopping on strategically placed stones and laid down logs and still got our shoes wet.
Then there was a boardwalk but it too was partially flooded. It made a nice visual though.
After passing the flooded area we kept for some distance on the boardwalk under a canopy of aspens and alders. Inside the tree tunnel we had some protection from the wind.
There were a few other people on the trail with us. After stepping off the boardwalk back onto the regular dirt path we strayed a little to a lovely cove to look at the water.
A boat was moored at the cave and a man was fishing from the deck. A bit further down the trail we found a structure built from driftwood. Apparently this place is a favorite recreational spot.
They too, were blooming. Not colorful or scented, yet very delicate and appealing.
We were going around the curve again, turning back eastward. Finally I had a good view of Mount Baldwin unblinded by sun.
We were walking slow, not in much hurry. There wasn't much else we had planned for that day, except maybe to check out the Wild Willy Hot Springs. The north trail was also somewhat more protected from the wind so we enjoyed the lazy walk in the sunshine, and the great view all around.
|West end of Convict Lake|
|Return of the Osprey|
The shadows were getting longer and the wind picked up again. My friend was getting weary so I suggested I'd hurry around the lake and get the car to the eastern trailhead which was closer to us. She agreed and I quickened my pace.
|Closing the Circle|