My second day hiking the Yosemite area with guide and photography expert Lloyd Chambers was actually spent just outside the park, near Saddlebag Lake. Despite its name, Saddlebag Lake is really a reservoir, and it's not particularly memorable when compared to the spectacular scenery we saw the day before. However, Lloyd assured me that the area beyond Saddlebag Lake was worth the short slog through the snow-covered rocky trail around the lake.
Lloyd was right. The area beyond Saddlebag Lake, known as the "20 Lakes Basin", was breathtakingly beautiful, yet very different from the Yosemite canyon we'd explored the day before. 20 Lakes Basin is a high-elevation area that seems to have been carved out by an ancient glacier, leaving hundreds of low spots and thousands of rocks and boulders strewn about. Many of the low spots are filled with crystal clear water (many brimming with trout!), creating a gorgeous and varied landscape unlike anything I've seen before.
20 Lakes Basin sits at an elevation just over 10,000 feet, and the plants found there are different than the ones we saw the day before. During autumn, this brightly colored ground-hugging foliage glows hues of red and yellow, at times creating a dazzling display against the rocky terrain.
I don't know if it was the thin air at the high elevation, or the lack of adequate sleep during the previous two nights, but I felt very groggy and had a mild headache the entire day. At one point, I even laid down on a rock and took a brief nap in the sun! Lloyd was very patient and gave me plenty of opportunities to stop and take pictures (or to rest, or both). I was grateful, though, since the frequent stops gave me time to focus on the details of the unique landscape.
Despite the fact that I wasn't feeling my best, the day spent exploring the 20 Lakes Basin was fascinating and I enjoyed it a lot. However, it was days 3 and 4 of my Yosemite trip that really blew me away. That's when we found some of the most amazing fall colors I've ever seen. Stay tuned for another update soon, and I'll show you what I'm talking about.