Tuesday, October 6, 2015

An Introduction To Alpine Basins Of The Central Sierra Nevada

An Introduction To Alpine Basins Of The Central Sierra Nevada
Dale Matson

Click On Photograph To Enlarge

I now realize that so many of the places in the Sierra Nevada I have loved to visit are mountain alpine basins. Mountain passes and peaks are singular and impressive but they are places we pass on our way to a campsite in a mountain basin. For example the climb to a pass may be difficult and arduous. We may like the view but we press on because we hope to end with a well-deserved longer rest at the pass followed by a descent to a basin campsite. We may have to put our windbreaker back on there. We may have to sit down every few switchbacks to rest ourselves by sitting on a boulder in the shade. I often think of the difficult climb up to Glen Pass on the northbound John Muir Trail. Once on top there is only time for a short celebration and rest because our campsite will be in the Rae Lakes Basin below.

A mountain basin reminds me of a great cathedral where we are surrounded by lofty steeples. Alpine basins are at 10,000’ plus feet yet you still look up and are walled in by massive granite walls. I was at guitar lake at 12,500’ and looked around at peaks 1,500’ higher yet.

These basins (also called watersheds) all have their own ecosystem but share common elements. Uplift or glacial scouring generally forms them. Basins are similar to valleys but valley tends to be “V” or “U” shaped while basins are round or oval shaped. There is generally a stream and a beautiful rather stark expansive view with scattered vegetation. These basins also contain several tarns or lakes, which may be fed by the same creek. Eventually these creeks flow into a river. For example Piute Creek flows into the San Joaquin River. The lakes can be deep blue or even green if fed by glaciers. Some basins are very popular like Rae Lakes and Kearsarge where there are length of stay limits.

I often imagine the deer, bears bighorn sheep and other animals living in but also wandering away from these basins or traveling over the passes. I once saw a deer tagged in the Owens Valley that was in Kings Canyon 30 miles away up by Reflection Lake. The bighorn sheep seem to make up their own rules about where they go.

I have written this book as an encouragement to the experienced physically fit but average person who is interested in going to these places. The person does not need great navigational skills but it is necessary to have map and compass skills at a minimum. I say experienced because some basins like Evolution Basin are literally days away from a trailhead. These trips require quality gear that has been tested by prior use. You need four things in the wilderness. You need to be able to stay dry, warm, hydrated and fed. A health emergency can arise like altitude sickness; do you have a way of contacting someone? I carry an Iridium Satellite Phone. When you pick up your wilderness permit you will have to show an itinerary. Stick to it for your own safety sake. If you have problems on the trails, there is always a chance someone will come along. If you are off the trail by yourself, you may never be found.

Available now in Paperback. http://www.amazon.com/dp/151768482X
and Kindle. https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/books/book-detail-page?ie=UTF8&bookASIN=B0168QB6E8&index=default

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