Cottonwood Lakes Loop — Page 8

Cottonwood Lakes, California

Finishing The Loop

Today's loop circles the west edge of the Cottonwood Lakes. I'll traverse around the lakes to their southern edge, then cut east and rejoin the trail home.

First, though, I stop to take off my shoes, dump out the gravel, and pump some water. Though this is prime camping territory, I'm still alone here. The four-mile walk from the parking lot to the lakes evidently keeps the human population to a minimum. Tired and aching, I'm content to sit in the sun, eat a few handfuls of sunflower seeds, and drink cold water.

Pumping Water Cottonwood Lakes Cirque Peak & Trail

Thoughts of cheeseburgers begin to dance in my head, motivating me to hit the trail. Thankfully, I find a footpath that skirts the lakes, making travel much, much easier.

Circumnavigating the lakes takes an hour or so, made easier by the green scenery and warm air. I pick up the pace, wanting to cover the remaining flat ground quickly.

Eventually I pass pair of fishermen, then a lone hiker who's basking himself, shirtless, on a flat rock. Civilization can't be far.

The path continues to wind around the lakes, which I pass, one by one, as the afternoon draws onward.

I'm not sure how many miles I've covered so far, but my tired bones call attention to the fact that this is a big hike despite its relatively-lofty 10,000 foot trailhead elevation. At last the trail angles eastward, and I rejoin my earlier path in the broad, green meadow beneath Langley's rousing south face.

From here, I can follow the broad loop I've made up Langley's eastern ridge, passing peak 12891, climbing up the eastern buttress to the summit, then descending the upper south wall, traversing around an unknown sub-peak to Army Pass, and finally connecting back to the Cottonwood Lakes.

It's been a fine day's hike, though I've still several miles to go to get back to my car. There's still a bit of marshy travel to be had as I work eastward through the lakes back to the main trail. Once again, I find myself wishing the trail builders had put the parking lot a little closer to the lakes. The long, flat travel ahead tests the spirit.

Eventually, after much grumbling and flat pacing, I reach the parking lot, rinse myself off, and get into my car. The hike is over, nearly twelve hours after it began. As the sun throws lengthening shadows, I drive the winding horseshoe meadows road back to the heat and dust of the Owens Valley, leaving Langley's cool pines and austere talus fields gone but not forgotten...

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When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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