Lucky this is my backyard

The breathtaking sights in and around the Sierra Nevada deserve a spotlight. I’ve been exploring the landscape with my housemates–interns with the National Park Service and Forest Service–on my days off. Here are some snapshots of the beauty we’ve encountered so far:

Wild Willy’s Hot Spring off of HWY 395: Great for unwinding after a long day
A brilliant sunset at Wild Willy’s
On our way to Mono Lake
Salty Mono Lake has no outlet. As water evaporates, salts remain and accumulate over time.
Tufa Towers that formed from underwater springs are now visible after Mono Lake’s level fell.
This Jeffrey pine on the Parker Lake Trail deserves a big hug. It also smells like butterscotch!

Even while recreating, I can’t help noticing the effects of climate change around me. One effect of climate change is more extremes–dry periods become drier and wet periods become wetter. As you can see from the photos below, winter hit hard this year in the Sierras. Trails greater than 9,500 feet above sea level are still covered in snow!

20 Lakes Basin – We couldn’t believe our eyes!
Snow melting over Saddlebag Lake
We got our feet wet while crossing this (unusually) raging cascade on the Yost Lake Trail. The extreme snow pack from last winter is finally melting!

The face of these landscapes is shifting under climate change. The Mammoth Lakes area received 2 times the precipitation this winter than the historic average after experiencing a severe drought from 2012-2015, the driest period in California in at least 1200 years. Many trails and roads are still closed due to snow or flooding.

Spectacular Minaret Vista (elevation: 9,265 ft)
June Lake: A perfect swimming spot
Convict Lake: Scene of a shootout between 4 convicts who escaped from prison and a posse of 10 men in the 1870s.
My view of the Sherwin Mountains while running on Lakes Basin Path. Located at high altitude with scenic trails, Mammoth Lakes serves as the training grounds for Olympic long distance runners.
View of the Lakes Basin from the gusty peak of Mammoth Mountain (elevation: 11,059 ft). Moving glaciers carved out these lakes millions of years ago.
Blooming wildflowers along the McGee Creek Trail
A breathtaking view of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome from Clouds Rest

Due to the severe winter, Devils Postpile’s opening this year has been delayed. The snowy road from town to the monument was finally plowed a couple weeks ago, but the trails, signage, and facilities still need to be repaired before we open to the public.

What shifts are you noticing in your backyard or hometown that may be attributed to climate change?

Check back next week for the story of Devils Postpile and how it came to be.




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