Hunting for fall in the Eastern Sierra is never a hard task. The higher in elevation you travel the cooler the air gets, and you start to feel a bite in the air. It takes a bit of effort but any fatigue will be quickly replaced with awe at the beauty of the mountains.
As far as sierra passes go Paiute has all the drama and gorgeous view but is relativity mellow compared to other passes on the east side. The 5 mile hike to the pass includes lush forest, bubbling brooks, and alpine lakes. Loch Leven, at about three miles in, is the perfect spot to take a break and eat lunch. As the trail winds higher more granite is exposed and you start to have that Sierra high country feel. After a few switchbacks the trail reaches a gentle saddle and opens up to views of Humphrey’s basin to the west. Humphrey’s basin is, as far as my experience goes, very unique. The views from the pass reminded me of the highlands of Scotland, only much dryer and with more boulders. One can turn around at the pass and head back to the trail-head for a good day hike, or continue into the basin.
We decided to camp at Lower Desolation lake. The wind was something to recon with, and a thick layer of clouds blocked out the sun. However the chilly weather was a welcomed respite to what we are used to down in the valley. Something about the wind howling through the boulder strewn landscape made it seem magical, as if touching the stones may transport us to another land. After a night of the tent whipping in the wind the sun finally started to peak over the mountains. Before the clouds were able to obscure it the sun put on its daily display of illumination. The ridge-lines surrounding us were edged with red light, knife edges tipped with blood.
We left our gear and did a quick cross country hike up to Desolation lakes. I’m not sure why they call it Desolation, it is paradise for the marmots. The wind continued with the same fury as the day prior, creating white caps on the lake and pushing the clouds around the sky. Bands of sunlight would break through and paint the landscape in light. Sitting behind a boulder we watched the play of light and shadow over the land, better than anything one could see on Netflix. Sky gaze and chill? Yes I think so.
After a full morning of boulder hopping and marmot viewing we headed back down the pass. Till next time East side.