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First Light, North Peak, Twenty Lakes Basin

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 16 January 2010 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

My introduction to the Sierra backcountry came the summer before my senior year of high school. I'd been raised in a family where vacation meant sleeping bags and tents in nearby Yosemite, Sequoia, or Kings Canyon, but the hardships of those adventures were limited to whatever might be encountered at numbered campsites and scenic turnouts. While these trips engendered a healthy appreciation for nature, I was not prepared for the epiphany delivered by the full emersion experience of backpacking. Suddenly I felt like I was more than merely viewing nature, I was experiencing it.

For many years thereafter I was an avid backpacker, looking for any excuse to retreat into the grand solitude of the High Sierra. As the contingencies of adulthood (career, marriage, family, mortgage) shifted my priorities homeward, the trips became shorter, but also started to include a camera to help me capture and convey my feelings.

A few years ago my daughter expressed an unexpected desire to try backpacking (the same daughter who was reduced to convulsive tears whenever she couldn't wear a dress to kindergarten). I quickly recruited a friend and the three of us spent an extended, late summer weekend exploring the Twenty Lakes Basin just east of Yosemite. The years must have mellowed me because backpacking has become less about covering terrain and more about savoring the scenery. Rather than logging ten or twelve daily miles at 11,000 feet, we hiked few miles, then set out cross-country for a short distance until we found a nice camping spot. There we set up camp for the duration of our trip, taking day hikes throughout the spectacular terrain. My delight with the surroundings was magnified by the vicarious joy I felt watching Ashley's first backcountry exposure.

The mountain in this image is North Peak; its crest is on the boundary separating Yosemite National Park and the Hoover Wilderness. The lake is one of many unnamed gems decorating the aptly named Twenty Lakes Basin. To capture this image I woke before sunrise and wandered downstream on the creek adjacent to our campsite until I encountered this lake. Blocked by a granite ridge, I waded about fifty feet through (frigid) shin-deep water to reach this patch of wildflowers, then watched the sunlight descend the peak to meet me.

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

Self-Indulgence from Chicagoland, United States

Love the flowers in the foreground. They give that little bit of color and warmth to what would be a very cool scene.. which means you got the best of both worlds here.

16 Jan 2010 5:45am

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

Marvelous reflections ! Very peaceful shot. Have a nice weekend :)

16 Jan 2010 9:58am

sawsengee from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

stunningly beautiful landscape composition.....fine light, colours & water reflection

16 Jan 2010 11:30am

Elora from Genoa, Italy

amazing! You are always super brave when taking pictures - I got cold just reading about the water!

16 Jan 2010 12:28pm

@Elora: Thanks, Elora. You know it's a funny thing about photography to me at least--when I'm taking pictures, cold just doesn't bother me. I can be aware that it's extremely cold, but for some reason it doesn't affect me. On the other hand, at home when the temperatures drop into the 40s and I have to take the garbage out or walk the dog, I'm the biggest wimp in the world. Go figure.

Lambspun from Madison, Maine, United States sure found this shot and went for it! Awesome capture.....stunning color .....what a gem!

16 Jan 2010 11:15pm

@Lambspun: Thanks. One of the best things about backpacking is that everything is new. There are surprises everywhere you look.

Scott F. Schilling from San Martin, United States

Awesome image Gary - what makes this for me is the foreground flowers - and of course you found a yellow one in the midst of the red! Great work!!

17 Jan 2010 4:05am

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

What perfect timing! The shaft of light that illuminates the yellow flower is something very special! ( I love spending time with my kids in the back country...I feel like I really get to know them without all the daily distractions!)

17 Jan 2010 4:11am

Babzy from Besançon, France

lovely reflection :)

17 Jan 2010 11:50am

Julie from Easton, United States

Wonderful shot, the flowers really bring your eyes in and then expand to the water and mountains!

17 Jan 2010 3:55pm

Stefan from Thiersee, Austria

Beautiful landcape!

17 Jan 2010 6:16pm

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

superb light and composition! excellent perspective looking up over the flowers towards the mountain - what a beautiful place!

18 Jan 2010 3:05am

✿ Anina ✿ from Auckland, New Zealand

Very beautiful! I like the reflections in the water and the flowers in the foreground are beautiful.

18 Jan 2010 9:16am

Vitor Martins from Lisboa, Portugal

Very beautiful image with a fantastic foreground.

18 Jan 2010 5:06pm

Joanne from United States

So majestic and stately, like the softening touch of the flowers.

29 Jan 2010 12:16pm

Ashley from San Mateo, United States

I have amazing memories of that trip - I'm so glad your photos captured the scenery so well.
And for the record, it's been at *least* 15 years since those fashion-related meltdowns. At least.

11 Feb 2010 4:55am