mystery of Burro Lake

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Stardew_Valley_88
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Re: mystery of Burro Lake

Post by Stardew_Valley_88 » Sun Aug 09, 2020 9:23 am

Burro Lake is a true hidden gem. I’ve made the tough hike three times. Obviously Burro doesn’t get many visitors. It’s well off the beaten path, and a hard place to get to. That makes it all the more special once you reach it though. Having just returned from a day hike there, I thought it might be time for a recent update on this older thread.

My first two treks to Burro Lake were both from the Lundy side. I did in it the early ‘80’s (I was 20 at the time), and then did it again in the ‘90’s (I was 37). Both followed the same route... jump off the trail at the beaver ponds / Lundy falls... scramble up through the quaking aspens, to the bowl at the base of the waterfall... and then the steep rocky scramble up the left side of the falls. It’s a very tough hike. I recall it took about 4.5 hours from where you leave the trail. I carried a fishing pole both times. Burro Lake had abundant small brookies. I had a strike on nearly every cast. They loved bright little spinners (panther martin, roostertail, etc.). The fish were small, but the action was awesome.

Hitting the fast forward button to July 13, 2020... my current hiking group decided to give it a try, this time from the Virginia Lake side. We parked at the Virginia Lakes trailhead, not long after first light. The hike up through the scattered woods and pretty lakes (Mary, Cooney, Frog, etc.) of the Virginia basin was pleasant. Reaching the end of the canyon, we worked up a small set of switchbacks, reaching trail crest. The trail continues on from here, to Summit Lake. It was from here that we broke away from the trail. We followed the contours, staying east of the two tiny ‘Little Tween’ lakes, and then headed towards Excelsior Mountain. Reaching the southern rim of the Burro Lake mini-basin, it suddenly appeared before us... Burro Lake... looking very much like a beautiful, azure-blue jewel... set in a crown of jagged gray rock. I had never seen it from above before. It is truly a sight to behold.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1aWh_vX ... sp=sharing
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hr7g6a ... sp=sharing
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Ttokxj ... sp=sharing

Now came the hard part. We had previously scouted possible routes using aerial satellite imagery. There are about six steep, rocky avalanche chutes, that one could potentially scramble down (-1,000” vertically), to get down into the Burro basin. We did reconnaissance on them all, now that we were there. They all looked “impossible”. It was just a matter of selecting the one that looked a little less “impossible” than the rest (lat/long: N 38.03630 W 119.29464). We began to slowly creep our way down. The rock was loose. Most cautious steps led to mini avalanches. We had to space out quite a distance from each other, just so we wouldn’t sweep each other away should a larger rock fall occur.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kFt0do ... sp=sharing
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-iBy4m ... sp=sharing

We crept our way down the chute, and after about an hour and a half, we reached the less hostile footing below, within the Burro basin. A short walk through some glacial kames led us to an outwash fan, and then the grassy meadow that adjoins the lake. We had reached our elusive goal!

The five of us that made this journey each explored the locale in their own personal ways. ‘Pescadores’ Russ and John, pumped up previously by my stories of a “fish on the line with every cast”, methodically fished their way around the lake. Brenner and Bryce were both born of the waters, and need to return to them from time to time. They both waded into to frigid waters of the lake, and plunged themselves... rinsing the well earned sweat from themselves. Yours truly just plopped down in the comfy grass, and simply soaked it all in... the natural beauty.... the deep azure blue of the lake... the peaceful stillness... the golden sunshine... the sweet smell of sage... and the joy shared by me and my trail mates, that only comes from reaching a special goal after a period of great effort and exertion. For about three hours, I was truly at peace... with myself... and the world around me. I hope everyone can spend a few afternoons like that in their lifetime. Shangri-La found!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1X3zYBd ... sp=sharing
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1r_jCXw ... sp=sharing
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eqZHH4 ... sp=sharing
https://drive.google.com/file/d/15pn73P ... sp=sharing

There was one thing about the journey that was weird. I’ve fished little high sierra lakes like this one my entire life. On my two previous trips, I’d seen tons of smaller fish in Burro Lake. This trip... absolutely nothing! Russ and John fished their way around the entire perimeter of the lake. They didn’t see a single fish in the lake. There were a few small fingerlings in the two lower tarns, but that was it. I guess they could have been hiding in some deep pocket out in the center. But I swear to you, that Burro appears to me to have had a total kill off of the once abundant small fish population. It’s not a very deep lake. Could a severe winter have frozen them all out? If you have any knowledge or theories about what could have caused that, I’d like to know. I just know I’m not lugging a pole and tackle up that hill next time.

Reluctantly, there is only so much light in a summer day. No one wanted to leave. But at about 3 PM, we knew we still had a tough climb back out this isolated glacial basin, and head back to our trailhead. We tracked our way back to the dreaded chute we previously slithered down. It was a tough climb back up the very loose rock. The only good news is that it is slightly less exhausting to climb up a chute like that, than to scuttle down. We made pretty quick work of it. A few more pictures, and a few high fives and slaps on the back... and we were headed back to the trail that initially led us up. In a few short hours, our trail led to our vehicles at the Virginia trailhead. A celebratory feast was in order, so we headed to familiar stomping grounds... the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining, CA. Steaks, fish tacos, pizza and several pitchers of ice cold fluids were quickly devoured. A great punctuation for the end of a great day!

Here is a topo map showing our general route... http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=38.04137,-11 ... %2Cunnamed

My awesome hiking crew included... Brian Holcombe (myself) of Bakersfield, CA... John (my son) Holcombe of Sacramento, CA... Russ Holcombe (my nephew) of Temecula, CA... and two of my former Eagle Scouts; Bryce Rankins and Brenner Rankins of Bakersfield, CA. Well done guys!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1G8v_FQ ... sp=sharing








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HighPlainDrifter
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Re: mystery of Burro Lake

Post by HighPlainDrifter » Sun Aug 09, 2020 11:56 am

Thanks for sharing, very much enjoy stories of the obscure corners of the range...the shot scrambling down the scree chute with the lake perched in the basin really stood out to me.
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Re: mystery of Burro Lake (fishing notes)

Post by giantbrookie » Sun Aug 09, 2020 12:20 pm

Interesting to see this subject come back. I had posted earlier in this thread about my experience there in 1992.

Regarding the "new" mystery of Burro Lakes regarding seeing no fish I don't think that the Burro Lakes winterkilled but I could be wrong. Whereas they are not deep, there should be sufficient oxygenation and there is also stream habitat in connecting streams. My guess is that this is another example of peek-a-boo fish populations in the middle of summer, which can happen even with overpopulated brookie lakes, the category I'd place the Burro Lakes in (small brookie on more or less every cast as per my visit, too). An example that comes to mind is First Dinkey Lake. The only time I fished it (July 2001), I caught 10 brookies in something like 20 casts. Yet I heard two reports not long after that of folks visiting the lake and not seeing any sign of fish. In 1987 I visited the Davis Lakes (Rush Creek) and saw no sign of life there (had really negative impact on the dinner food situation for that trip), yet these are historically lakes teeming with small brookies. High lake trout populations can seemingly go into hiding at times, it seems, but especially brookies and goldens in the middle of summer.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: mystery of Burro Lake (fishing notes)

Post by Stardew_Valley_88 » Sun Aug 09, 2020 5:34 pm

'giantbrookie', thanks for your insights regarding fish sometimes going missing, especially mid-summer. My son was back in the area today (climbing nearby Excelsior Mtn), and talked to someone that worked at the Virginia Lakes Resort. He said that his friend had caught fish at Burro earlier this summer, using lures. So I'm going to accept your theory... and bring my pole back sometime. We were camped at Lake Oneida the 3 days prior, and fished all four lakes in Lake Canyon. Fishing is normally really good, especially at Oneida. We caught a few, but a lot less than normal. So maybe something atmospheric or the 'phase of the moon' had them spooked and hunkered down. Pleasant trails and tight lines! Brian

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