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Snow in the Summer?
July, 2012 - Issue #93
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
"Dad, I see snow!" 3-year-old Amber shouted from the back seat. We were winding our way up the Tioga Road just outside the east entrance to Yosemite National Park.

As the road climbed higher, the excitement level in the car grew too. Each bend in the road revealed a tumbling waterfall or stunning vista, and the kids provided a running commentary of the sights.

We were in the midst of a multi-day exploration of the Eastern Sierra. We made our basecamp at the Mono Vista RV Park in Lee Vining along Highway 395, then set out on day-trips. Wherever we went, it was one eureka moment after another. Our destination that day was Saddlebag Lake, and Amber's glimpse of snow was just a hint of what awaited us on our afternoon hike.

Sitting at 10,087 feet, Saddlebag Lake offers a unique opportunity to reach the Sierra's postcard-worthy altitude scenery without engaging in a multi-day backpacking trip.

You can drive to the lake, park at the rustic Saddlebag Lake Resort, and choose an itinerary as ambitious or as relaxed as you please. Take the 10-minute water taxi ride from the resort to the far shore and spend the day hiking and fishing in the stunning 20 Lakes Basin. An 8-mile loop connects pristine alpine lakes populated with Golden Trout.
"As we WALKED
along the trail,
Laurel said to me,
'Come here,
I want to
hold your hand
.'"

Or, rent a boat from the resort and explore the lake yourself. For those who just want to enjoy the scenery, you can order breakfast, lunch or dinner from the cafe, and dine outside.

We opted for the hike. It was late-morning when we stepped off the water taxi. We could have walked the lakeshore, but we knew Laurel, 9, Drew, 7, Brooke, 5, and Amber could only hike for so long. We wanted to maximize their range exploring the basin and the water taxi saved us 1.5 miles each way.

We followed the trail north away from the dock. Our pace was easy as the lack of oxygen at that elevation was noticeable. The kids kept an eye out for animals; they had been keeping a running critter count throughout the whole vacation. They stopped to examine wildflowers, stacked rocks and explored the small snowmelt streams that crossed the trail.

After 40 minutes or so our hike ended. The kids were hungry, and we came to a patch of snow about the size of a basketball court. Lunch was gobbled up quickly so they could set about enjoying the novelty of snow in the summer.

They scrambled up the surrounding rocks in search of sticks to use for ski poles, and then slid down the bank of crusty snow. A game of snowball baseball started. That quickly devolved into a snowball fight.

I had been enjoying the sunshine and drinking in the scenery. Imposing North Peak and its black, snow-streaked face was framed by a perfect blue sky. My reverie was interrupted by flying projectiles.

The snowball fight quickly turned into three on one. Mom and Amber made like Switzerland and stayed out of the conflict. The battle ebbed and flowed until numb fingers and wet sweatshirts finally took the fight out of them.

It was soon time for us to head back to the dock and catch the water taxi for our return trip. We didn't get far with our exploration, so we'll definitely be coming back to see more of the 20 Lakes Basin.

The biggest discovery of the day? It wasn't an elusive animal, rare wildflower, or scenic wonder.

It was one of those moments you live for as a dad, the realization that your kids care more about who they're with than where they are - at least for now.

As we walked along the trail, Laurel said to me, "Come here, I want to hold your hand."
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic and already has plans to return to the Sierras this summer.

DISCOVER YOSEMITE
Saddlebag Lake Resort
State Route 120 (Tioga Road),
turn north on Saddlebag Lake Road
and follow it to the end.

Water Taxi
$11 roundtrip for adults
www.saddlebaglakeresort.com
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