On my third day in the JMW, I hiked up to the Cottonwood Lakes, a popular destination for day hikers and backpackers. There are a total of six Cottonwood Lakes in the Cottonwood Creek drainage are but I only visited four of the six in a 4 mile day hike, which was quite enough for these old bones. There were a lot of lakes to visit, trees, creatures, and cool streams.
I was briefly visited by a Northern House Wren at one of the lakes above 11,000′ in elevation. The House Wren has an extensive geographic, habitat and elevational range, and is a year round resident in the Sierra. Troglodytes Aedon was one of the two pets(made of wood) of King Friday the XIII in Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
A great many Bristlecone Pines have scars caused by falling trees, boulders, and lightning strikes. This one takes the rough form of a rather busty heart, don’t you think? Or do you fancy some other form in this scar?
Cottonwood Lake #2 is the smallest of the six Cottonwood Lakes, and nestled at the foot of a precipitous slope with no apparent name, so I’m calling it Mount Ed. I observed two people hiking out of this area with backpacks, the first humans I saw so far on that day. Social distancing is easily facilitated in the High Sierra.
My visit to the area came in late August, the driest month of the year. So the outflow from all of the lakes was minimal: all of the lakes had a charming, lazy brook flowing downhill to the next lake.
All of the lakes seemed to have their own resident Yellow-bellied Marmot, or family of Marmots. This one graced my image with a sparkling eye highlight, a reflection of the sun, always a welcome feature of wildlife images. The common groundhog is a species of Marmot adapted to life in urban areas, and associated folklore. They occupy subalpine and alpine habitats up to 14,000′ in elevation.
Spectacular row of stunted Bristlecone Pine old growth specimens: their crowns are rather cabbage like in form. A glance in any direction reveals a glorious new discovery in form, texture, physical or life science.
The northwest end of Cottonwood Lake #4. Two more of the Cottonwood Lakes can be accessed above and to the left of the frame. I didn’t visit those lakes because it was getting late in the day, and I wanted to finish my day hike before the smoke from Californias 150+ fires set in to the high Sierra. Also detouring to those lakes would have added .8 of a mile and about about 200′ of added elevation gain(and loss).
Inconspicuous low growing daisy-like blossom growing in the subalpine meadows at 11,000′ above sea level. Only about two centimeters across, this species inhabits elevations up to 11,200′, which is approximately where I found this specimen. As it was still early(9:30am) the bracts(petals) had not yet fully deployed.
Bristlecone Pine pine roots are as gnarly bellow ground as the above ground branches. They are a shallow rooted species that, as they grow older and die(after about 1,000 years), topple over leaving a starburst pattern for many years.
This individual was spotted at the on the return loop trail near Cottonwood Lake #1. Marmots are North Americas largest ground squirrel, and make a whistling sound when warning neighbors about intruders.
The last of the Cottonwood Lakes that I visited. The No-Name, 12,369′ peak in the background graces several of the Cottonwood Lake landscapes. I could Photoshop some other background, but this peak so dominates the area, it would be a slight to its honor to substitute some other land form.