Sometimes when the stars align just right you are liable to experience something “out-of-this world.” Did you see the Lunar Eclipse on Saturday morning? Yeah, me neither. For those that rallied and stayed up ‘til 4am (or rustled themselves out of bed pre-pre-crack-of-dawn) I have no doubt you were rewarded with a very unique astronomical event. Yet, planetary alignments are not the only things to yield “once in a blue-moon” experiences these days, least not for several dozen East Sierra residents in the know.
Due to the current “spell” of weather that we are experiencing, conditions for high alpine pond/lake skating and hockey are perfect. For the Inyo/Mono County region the present meteorological conditions have been dry and cold. While this combination may not make for the best skiing and snowboarding, it has resulted in optimal lake skating. The rare combination of late-November sub-freezing temps (consistent for 2+ weeks) and no substantial/Mammoth snowfall has produced the glass-like ice that we are seeing now on the high alpine lakes. Yes, typically every winter these lakes freeze over, yet typically in the window that this occurs heavy snowfall will make said lakes both un-skateable and inaccessible.
This Friday evening I joined a couple dozen friends and neighbors for an ice-skating experience at Rock Creek Lake that blew my mind. With utmost certainty I’d say that I was not the only one to be completely awe-struck by what we found at 10,000’ (completely accessible by car). Growing up in New England I am no stranger to skating on ponds and lakes; not to mention I’ve played hockey on manicured surfaces at dozens of ice rinks. That said, I’ve never put a skate to a surface near as perfect as the one at Rock Creek Lake. For myself, a long time enthusiast of ice-skating and pond hockey, the pristine ice alone was enough to make this a truly unforgettable outing. The amphitheatre of cathedral peaks, camp-fire, good food, great company, fireworks (totally legal ones, of course) and full moon were all just icing on the cake (is that a pun?).
Now, for the time being, the fact that we’ve yet to see abundant snowfall has been pushed out of mind. These special conditions have presented the High Sierra with a very special opportunity. Truth be told, the lift-served skiing/boarding is a lot of fun right now, but if anything, I highly recommend making time for some high-alpine skating because opportunities like this are rare. I’d imagine that any lake/pond at 9,500’+ throughout the region is pretty much good to go.
Yeah, I, as much as the next ski-bum, am ready to see Mother Nature bring us some of the white stuff… But, she has aptly reminded us not to fret about what we don’t have: there’s always time to stop, open our eyes, and discover the magnificence that already surrounds us. This is magical… I don’t use that word lightly, in fact, I just don’t use it, period. Yet for this rare, special occasion it seems entirely appropriate.
NOTE: Ice thickness on these lakes can be inconsistent and unpredictable. Many will recommend bringing along ice claws as a precautionary measure (in the event one breaks thru the ice). I leave you on your own to learn more on that one.