Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sierra Water

With all of the talk about the Sierra Nevada snow levels and the ongoing snow melt in the news recently, a memory came to mind today. I remember standing in awe one morning on the PCT, in one of the upper valleys in the High Sierra.

Water was everywhere. It was trapped in the snow amongst the upper peaks. It was cascading down the granite walls wherever it could find a route. It was being stored in the ice cold ponds and lakes. It was literally oozing out of cracks in the rock (See video below).

Where we happened to be standing, it looked like one giant water factory. The sound of pouring water was everywhere.

It seemed as though the Sierra were created for that very purpose. To store and collect water. Everything else seemed secondary at that particular moment. It seemed as though all of the animals, plants, trees, and flowers where allowed a part in the performance only because water permitted it to be so.

Water was cascading down from above, from springs and snow melt, stored in the lakes, and in natures perfect timing, released down waterfalls and streams into larger rivers down below. The water seemed to be endless, and knowing how important water is to the body, it was exhilarating to know how this life force was being carried into distant areas of California and beyond.

It was a machine that my simple mind could not possibly begin to understand where it was all going and whom and what it would ultimately effect.

I was overwhelmed by the beauty and magnificence of nature and the planet upon which we live.


  1. Awesome, Mark. I've been thinking about you this spring here in Mammoth. Today the temps peaked at 80º and the water is rising fast. There is still SO much snow in the backcountry so I'm imagining the water crossings will be mighty big for many weeks to come.

  2. Hi Robin. We've had some extreme heat up here the last few days, upper 90's, triple digits, and some of the pictures I've seen of the Sierra still show a lot of snow. I heard several hikers have had to turn around and find alternate routes along the PCT near Tuolumne Meadows because of so much water up there right now.

  3. It got warm here for a few days-seasonal temps-and now it's cooled off again. Not cold, but below seasonal. It seems the snow level in Mammoth is right about 8600', which is a lot for almost July. The Lakes Basin is still covered, with all the campgrounds buried. Usually the snow melts fast once the thaw happens, but with these cool temps it will take a lot longer. I too heard PCT hikers were having to find alternate routes past Tuolumne. I'm imagining the same will be true for the backcountry at higher elevations once it starts to melt more up there. Nature is amazing, really, and our weather guy seems to think we are entering a pattern that could last about 10 years, so maybe there will be much more of this for the next decade??

  4. 10 more years?! Wow, that's good news for water, bad news for hikers.