in search of solitude
Although we had to backtrack a bit from June Lake to reach Lundy Canyon, the drive was well worth it. D had stumbled on a few pictures while researching our trip, and though we knew we would not get the canyon’s famous fall colors, it still promised plenty of majestic scenery. Various hiking sites described it as one of the best of many magnificent canyons along the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada, combining spectacular mountain views with a rich mining history.
We took the turnoff from US-395 towards Lundy Lake, and after a few miles the road petered out in a tiny ghost town. There was a general store that had been boarded up, and a truck sat in front of someone’s porch with one of its doors open, as if its owner had forgotten something and ran back inside his small, ramshackle house never to come out again. There was not a soul to be seen, and no one answered D’s call at the house with the open truck.
We were unsure whether we had arrived at the right place and there were no trailhead signs anywhere. Fortunately, a middle-aged man suddenly came out of one of the other houses and indicated the rough road that led to the trailhead. The camping and fishing season at Lundy Lake officially kicks off after Memorial Day and we were a couple of weeks early.
Being early had its benefits. In late summer and early fall, this little corner of the Hoover Wilderness is crawling with tourists, who come to see the wildflower displays in the canyon’s many lush meadows. We may have missed the wildflowers, but we had the canyon all to ourselves, and the deeper we hiked into it the more convinced we became that we were the only ones to visit it this early in the year.
After climbing a winding rocky path, we entered a forested area, hiking alongside a fast stream – the bottom part of Mill Creek, which forms impressive waterfalls higher up the canyon. We soon left the forest, and after navigating our way around some dry brambles found ourselves on a path inside the main body of the canyon. It was warm and sunny, but we were also at altitude, and the temperature would drop suddenly every time a cloud passed overhead and temporarily blocked the sun.
There was still a lot of snow on the upper parts of the canyon, but the sun was making a dent in these last vestiges of winter, sending a myriad of waterfalls cascading down the canyon walls. We had read about Lundy’s mining history and tried to find some of the relics from the Gold Rush era that remain half-buried in the scree inside the canyon. Alas, there was still too much snow on the ground for our search to bear fruit.
We crossed one section of snow that was completely untrammeled, taking our time to make a path across it and using our hiking poles to test its depth so as to not end up waist-deep in it. Although the trail emerged on the other side of the snowbank, we did not get much farther. After ascending another couple hundred feet, we found ourselves hemmed in by a big waterfall on one side and a small mountain of snow on the other. We gave up on further trail-blazing and sat down to eat our lunch by the waterfall, scooting out on the smooth rock to sit right by the water’s edge.