Cottonwood Lakes, 14 miles RT, Max elevation 11,384', 1,660 +/-, Inyo National Forest, Eastern Sierra Trip, July 10, 2018

I woke up at 4:30 am excited to get started on our new adventure.  We had a hearty breakfast and soon were on our way up Horseshoe Meadow Road to the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead at 10,000’.  I took my compass bearings, geared up and we were on our way by about 7 am.  The trail enters the Golden Trout Wilderness and starts off on a leisurely stroll through the big pine trees.  As we went along we started to gently descend.  We followed along side a beautiful creek and made a few water crossings.  The mosquitos were out in full force, so I was sure to break out the bug spray before becoming their early morning breakfast.  We passed by lush green meadows dotted with wildflowers, corn lily and incredible views of large granite cliffs.  Soon we entered the John Muir Wilderness.  There was another creek crossing and more lovely meadows to enjoy before we came to the switchbacks.  As we began to ascend our pace was slower than usual due to the high altitude.  I did not mind stopping to take a few breaks so I could enjoy the views from above and take my photos.  As we approached the top of the switchbacks, we could see some peaks coming into view.  We passed a junction for Muir Lake and started to see the playful marmots poking their heads out waiting to see if we were going to give them hand out.  The trail gently meandered through the meadow with a flowing stream and had incredible views of Cirque Peak and Mount Langley.  It wasn’t long before the Cottonwood Lakes came into view.  They were stunningly beautiful.  We took a moment and sat in the shade to take a break, have a snack and enjoy the scenery, peace and quiet.  We made our way to lake #3 and followed along its shore to a short climb up some switchbacks.  On the other side we reached lakes 4 and 5.  We felt a light breeze and could see the summer storm clouds rolling in closer, but I didn’t hear any thunder.  We thought it was a good time to start heading back.  We had quite a ways to go before reaching the end of our journey.  As we made our way down the switchbacks we enjoyed another marvelous view of lake #3 from above.  We passed a man with his two sons who were fishing, but he said they hadn’t had any luck.  As we made our way back to the trailhead, I could feel some light precipitation.  The cool raindrops on my skin felt refreshing after a long day and the smell of summer rain mixed with the pine was intoxicating.  We got back to the trailhead around 3:30 pm and clocked about 14 miles.  It was my first time hiking for that long at such a high altitude and I was both tired and exhilarated at the same time.  It was an incredible experience.  The Eastern Sierra has so much to offer.  I have fallen in love.
 

 Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead, 7 am.

Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead, 7 am.

 Starting our journey.  The subalpine surroundings are beautiful.

Starting our journey.  The subalpine surroundings are beautiful.

 Heading into the Golden Trout Wilderness.

Heading into the Golden Trout Wilderness.

 A close up of this gorgeous sign.

A close up of this gorgeous sign.

 Hiking along the side of the stream.

Hiking along the side of the stream.

 Water crossing.  Bring your bug spray.

Water crossing.  Bring your bug spray.

 The route is speckled with beautiful meadows.

The route is speckled with beautiful meadows.

 Views of the large granite cliffs.

Views of the large granite cliffs.

 Mountains, meadows and streams.  

Mountains, meadows and streams.  

 The beginning of the route meanders along on some ups and downs.

The beginning of the route meanders along on some ups and downs.

 Everything was so green.  Something I'm not used to anymore since living in Southern California.

Everything was so green.  Something I'm not used to anymore since living in Southern California.

 Corn Lily.

Corn Lily.

 A very relaxing walk through the forest.

A very relaxing walk through the forest.

 Now entering the John Muir Wilderness.

Now entering the John Muir Wilderness.

 Another water crossing.

Another water crossing.

 Taking a moment to enjoy the view.

Taking a moment to enjoy the view.

 The meadows were dotted with wildflowers.

The meadows were dotted with wildflowers.

 I think these flowers might be Mule Ears.  

I think these flowers might be Mule Ears.  

 Shooting Star.

Shooting Star.

 Here we start heading up some switchbacks.  It would seem like an easy grade, but above 10,000', things are a bit slower going.

Here we start heading up some switchbacks.  It would seem like an easy grade, but above 10,000', things are a bit slower going.

 The trail is very well engineered and easy to follow.

The trail is very well engineered and easy to follow.

 Look at these views!

Look at these views!

 So may photo ops.

So may photo ops.

 After reaching the top of the switchbacks, some peaks start coming into view.

After reaching the top of the switchbacks, some peaks start coming into view.

 The trail splits off to Muir Lake.  

The trail splits off to Muir Lake.  

 Mount Langley to the right.

Mount Langley to the right.

 Cottonwood Creek meanders though the meadow.

Cottonwood Creek meanders though the meadow.

 The marmots were everywhere on this section.  

The marmots were everywhere on this section.  

 Views along the trail as we continue to head towards the lakes.

Views along the trail as we continue to head towards the lakes.

 A beautiful view of Mount Langley.

A beautiful view of Mount Langley.

 Now we begin to see some water.  

Now we begin to see some water.  

 Another photo of Mount Langley in the background.

Another photo of Mount Langley in the background.

 Here is my husband admiring lake #3

Here is my husband admiring lake #3

 Simply gorgeous.

Simply gorgeous.

 You can see the afternoon clouds rolling in.

You can see the afternoon clouds rolling in.

 A waterfall just before we make the short climb up to reach lakes #4 and 5.

A waterfall just before we make the short climb up to reach lakes #4 and 5.

 Soaking it all in.

Soaking it all in.

 Heading up a few short switchbacks.

Heading up a few short switchbacks.

 The sky didn't look too promising.  We knew we should start heading back soon.

The sky didn't look too promising.  We knew we should start heading back soon.

 What a landscape!

What a landscape!

 The lake is just a little further.

The lake is just a little further.

 Reaching Lake #5.

Reaching Lake #5.

 The sign for Lake #5.

The sign for Lake #5.

 This is Lake #4.

This is Lake #4.

 We began to head back just in case the weather turned.

We began to head back just in case the weather turned.

 I felt a few drops of precipitation, but the clouds rolled over us.

I felt a few drops of precipitation, but the clouds rolled over us.

 Taking this all in and getting lots of photos.

Taking this all in and getting lots of photos.

 A wonderful view of Lake #3

A wonderful view of Lake #3

 The water looked very inviting.

The water looked very inviting.

 Heading down to the shore.

Heading down to the shore.

 We passed a father and his two sons at this spot.  They said they were fishing, but they hadn't had any luck.

We passed a father and his two sons at this spot.  They said they were fishing, but they hadn't had any luck.

 Now heading back the way we came.

Now heading back the way we came.

 Twisted fallen tree.

Twisted fallen tree.

 Turning back to take another look.

Turning back to take another look.

 The sky is full of clouds.

The sky is full of clouds.

 The sun was in and out so we had a break of shade at times.

The sun was in and out so we had a break of shade at times.

 Another view.

Another view.

 There's a small building here that you can see in the middle of this photo.  This is the site of Stevens sawmill that operated in 1873 to 1878

There's a small building here that you can see in the middle of this photo.  This is the site of Stevens sawmill that operated in 1873 to 1878

 Enjoying the easy trek through the meadow,

Enjoying the easy trek through the meadow,

 Heading back to marmot country.  :)

Heading back to marmot country.  :)

 Going down the switchbacks.  

Going down the switchbacks.  

 Great scenery.

Great scenery.

 The meadow as seen in the afternoon light.

The meadow as seen in the afternoon light.

 Enjoying the hike back.

Enjoying the hike back.

 More wildflowers.

More wildflowers.

 Back at the junction for Cottonwood Lakes and New Army Pass.

Back at the junction for Cottonwood Lakes and New Army Pass.

 My husband taking a break as he waits for me to take a zillion photos!

My husband taking a break as he waits for me to take a zillion photos!

 This chipmunk had a fiery read head.  

This chipmunk had a fiery read head.  

 We were starting to feel some rain drops.

We were starting to feel some rain drops.

 You can see the afternoon clouds that were following us.

You can see the afternoon clouds that were following us.

 A few more climbs upward.

A few more climbs upward.

 And finally back at the trailhead.  What an amazing day!

And finally back at the trailhead.  What an amazing day!