Convict Lake

Wednesday, June 15

Last Friday when I was driving out to my latest camp near June Lake, CA, I passed the sign for Convict Lake and belatedly remembered that several blog readers had recommended the place. “Oh!” I exclaim as Bertha and Cas wiz on past. I’ll have to go back and check it out.

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Well, today’s the day. Rayn and JJ meet me out there at 8 am. Okay, more like 8:10 am, as there’s a little confusion over where to park. While we’re chatting and preparing for the 3 mile hike around the perimeter of the lake, a flash of movement catches my eye. There’s a deer on the trail, disguised by shadows. The large ears flick back and forth, alert to danger. As soon as we start to move, it melts away into the trees.

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I’d swear that Convict Lake changes colors. In truth, it looks different depending on your relation to it and the angle of the sun. At the start of the walk with the sun behind us and lower in the sky, the color is a fathomless gray, subtly reflecting the brown and white of the mountains behind.

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Wild rose bushes bloom along the more open sections of the trail. The three of us take turns leaning in to smell them, mindful of the breeze that could bring the hazards of thorny stems to bear.

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Looking back toward the parking lot, the lake turns a deep blue, reflecting the open sky away from the hills. Fisherman paddle out on the lake; there is dock here, as well as boat rentals. We never see anyone catch anything, I wonder if the wind isn’t good for fishing.

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The woods at the back end of the lake have turned into a peculiar delta, water from melting snow in the mountains flattens the grass and spreads into channels of varying widths between the trees. Clearly most of the year it isn’t this wet.

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Where the rivulets meet the lake, the water is almost tropical in appearance. Clear near shore and aqua farther out. My guess is the lake is more shallow here.

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Rayn and JJ clue me to to a secret regarding the Jefferson pine, its sap smells like butterscotch! Stick your nose in a deep crack in the rough bark and take a deep whiff. Or maybe don’t, because then you’ll be hungry for sweets.

There’s a canyon behind Convict Lake that leads up into the mountains and at least two more lakes that can be hiked out to. We think about going up to Dorothy Lake, but it’s a lot farther off than the map makes it look, and I didn’t come prepared to hike all day. That doesn’t mean we can’t hike part-way though.

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To the left is the stream that feeds Convict Lake (Convict Creek), flowing swift and strong. Most of the time it’s hidden among trees and its presence is verified only by the sound of rushing water. Sage and other scrub dominate the landscape, with patches of juniper interspersed.

Higher up, the rose bushes and small purple flowers disappear, and small yellow flowers and the bright red of paintbrush take their place. There’s also cactus up here, which surprises me. It looks to be some variation on the Prickly Pear.

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The trail disappears. A vast expanse of tumbled rock that looks like it should be a stream bed but is completely dry stands in our way. The trail was washed out here, but two hikers coming the other direction show us where we can traverse the obstacle.

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Convict Lake looks nothing more than a blue jelly bean below, the hazy specter of the snow-capped White Mountains looming behind.

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A couple more twists and turns and the lake disappears altogether. The cliff faces press closer to the trail here, allowing one to see a surprising variation in color. They’re gray, white, brown, tan… in places almost purple. The wind has really picked up, there’s a wind advisory due to start this afternoon and our stomachs are telling us noon can’t be far off. We stop in a rock field and have our snack before turning around.

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The wind blows us back towards the lake.

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The water has turned teal, small whitecaps break the surface. A confrontation on September 17, 1871 between three escaped convicts from Carson City Penitentiary, and Robert Morrison, member of a citizen posse are how the creek and lake got their names. Morrison was killed and the convicts escaped, but were later captured by the posse in Round Valley. Two of the fugitives were hanged in Bishop, the youngest (19) was returned to prison.

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Hiking is hungry work! Mammoths Lakes is the closest place for food, but Rayn and JJ are fond of a food truck in June Lake called Ohanas, off the main drag and a favorite with the locals. I get the Kahuna Chips, that’s kettle chips topped with pork or chicken, melted jack cheese, local BBQ sauce, sweet sesame slaw, and peppercinis. It’s delicious.

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Not quite ready to be done with the day, we continue on to Lee Vining for ice-cream at Mono Cone. It’s soft-serve, and very tasty. I get a photo of Mono Lake in the distance. If all goes well, I’ll be getting more pictures of it in the near future. Also coming in the near future: my second e-guide, which is not about RVing particularly but more along the lines of my ‘Deliberate Living’ category of blog posts. More about that later this week!

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* * *

And a picture of June Lake when it's sunny out, as the last ones were all gray

And a picture of June Lake when it’s sunny out, as the last ones were all gray

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Øystein Thorsen on August 3, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Bueatiful pics and your writing was always good, but now you have more rhythm and beauty. Keep up what your doing. I envy you and your amazing lifestyle.

    • Becky on August 4, 2016 at 8:47 pm

      I hope you get the chance to go full-timing someday, if that’s what you want to do. Thanks for reading and I’m glad you’re enjoying IO.

  2. Johanna on June 23, 2016 at 9:06 pm


    • Becky on June 23, 2016 at 11:03 pm


  3. Bill M on June 23, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Vey cool place. I really like the guide that you wrote! Great work!

    • Becky on June 23, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Bill, Convict Lake is really neat. And thanks. 🙂

  4. Sarah Shillinger on June 22, 2016 at 12:41 am

    I’ve just finished your book. It is wonderful. I bought it from Amazon and it doesn’t have the worksheets. Is there a link I’ve missed.
    Also in your interview with Bob Wells the comments mention a second book. Is it out. How do I buy it.

    • Becky on June 23, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      Hello Sarah, thank you for purchasing and I hope you get a lot of use out of my guide! The link to download the worksheets for Kindle readers is actually in the guide, in the Introduction, section 1C. I’ll also e-mail them to you though to make sure you get them. 🙂

      • sarah shillinger on June 23, 2016 at 6:16 pm

        Thank you

        • Becky on June 23, 2016 at 8:28 pm

          You’re welcome! Oh, and today’s blog post should clear up the confusion about my second e-guide. 😉

  5. Judy on June 22, 2016 at 12:22 am

    Saw you today, 21st, going up 395! Can’t miss that little Casita of yours. The blue canvas on our boat was billowing up like a balloon!! We ended up in Hawthorne, NV. It was so hot, 98-100. We are boon docking near a casino in Tonopah, NV. Enjoy lovely California! We are headed to Las Vegas early in the morning!! It’s going to be hot!

    • Becky on June 23, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      You got lucky Judy, I was only on the road about 20 minutes before reaching my next destination, haha! Hope you made it the rest of the way safely and yes, temperature is creeping up again, bah.

  6. Willy on June 21, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Not sure of your schedule but Virginia Lakes is a buetiful place to visit. The turn off is past Lee Vining at the summit of Conway summit. The road is steep and is only 6mi to the lakes.Can hike to other lakes on trail at Big Virginia lake. There is NF camp grounds on the creek in the area. Have a great time and safe travels.

    • Becky on June 21, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      Drove past the turnoff for Virginia Lakes today as I was scouting Willy. Not sure if I’ll have time or not, we’ll see! Thanks for the recommendation.

  7. Kent on June 21, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Great report! Beautiful spot..!

    • Becky on June 21, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      Thanks Kent!

  8. Theresa on June 21, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Love to see the places that you go to, I want to travel there too one day soon.
    Can only small rigs go?
    I have a 27ft travel trailer.

  9. marijka on June 21, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Beautiful! …but is it weird that I wished for a pic of the food? haha

    • Becky on June 21, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      I thought I had one Marijka but when I looked back I didn’t! I know Rayn and JJ got a photo of it, maybe I can steal it…

  10. MIke_P on June 21, 2016 at 10:42 am

    It’s a pleasure to follow your blog. I just discovered it last week and look forward to your future posts. You do a great job making us feel we’re right there with you or certainly wish we were.

    • Becky on June 21, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Welcome to IO Mike and I’m glad you’re enjoying it! I do sort of feel like I take all of you readers with me wherever I go. I see something and I think “Oh! My readers would love to see that…” and I take a picture for your sake. Hopefully you can get on the road yourself some day, seeing it in person is better than seeing it online. Take care.

  11. Judith on June 21, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Hi Becky, We met briefly at Amazon in Fernly a couple years back. You may not remember because I left early. You were with Julie then. Anyway, I spent a few days in this area a couple of weeks ago, I visited Bodie, Mono Lake and the Ancient Bristlecone Pines. Any plans to visit the Bristlecones? Or have you already been there?
    I imagine it’s going to be quite warm in that area soon, as its triple digits in the Central Valley now.

    • Becky on June 21, 2016 at 9:13 pm

      Hello Judith! I think I remember you, although it’s easier for me to place faces than names I’ll admit.

      I’m camping at Mono Lake now and will be visiting Yosemite and Bodie while I’m in the area. It was already too hot to go to the Bristlecone Forest, I’ll have to see that next time I come through. 🙂

  12. Dawn in MI on June 21, 2016 at 5:59 am

    Wow! Stunning images. Such a beautiful part of the country.

    • Becky on June 21, 2016 at 9:10 pm

      395 is a gorgeous drive, it’s as simple as that. Every RVer needs to do this drive at least once in their life. 🙂

  13. Judy Blinkenberg on June 21, 2016 at 1:14 am

    We leave tomorrow morning and head our Tahoe with the boat over 88 and to 395 and down. We hope to find a spot to camp and sleep in the car. Just want to be safe. We are trying to figure out where to stop. I sure love these pictures you take. You are my favorite blog. I just want to thank you so very much for your great posts. We will be sure to use any purchases from Amazon through you.

    • Becky on June 21, 2016 at 9:08 pm

      Thank you so much for using my Amazon affiliate link Judy, it really does make a difference. 🙂 Glad you’re enjoying IO.

      If all you need is an overnight spot and phone signal isn’t a big issue, there are plenty of options – I find most of my camps on and

  14. Jeff on June 20, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Many of the Eastern Sierra lakes a post card quality, you really do justice to Convict Lake! Have Ryan and Jj done Lundy Canyon? Wish we’d had time, one of the best … just north of Lee Viining.

    • Becky on June 20, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      We’ll see if they comment about Lundy Canyon Jeff, I’m not sure.

      Yeah, definitely good post card material out here. 🙂

  15. Jodee Gravel on June 20, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    You got some really great pics of that beautiful lake. It’s wonderful to see it in it’s summer colors as we were there when the trees were all orange and yellow. Love your June lake beach!!
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..They’re Here!!My Profile

    • Becky on June 20, 2016 at 9:32 pm

      Oh, but I bet it’s beautiful in the fall too Jodee. Rayn and JJ hiked it last when the trees were turning colors and said it was pretty great. Glad you enjoyed this!

  16. Ron on June 20, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    What a beautiful part of the country you are in. Thanks for sharing. Oh, and your writing is becoming poetic.

    • Becky on June 20, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      It sure is Ron, you’re welcome. I think my writing is more poetic this year because I have more time, not working a seasonal job or volunteering. That makes a big difference.

  17. Rick on June 20, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    beautiful pictures – thanks

    • Becky on June 20, 2016 at 9:29 pm

      You’re welcome Rick.

  18. Kevin on June 20, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Ya just gotta love the Eastern Sierras this time of year but how cold is the lake?

    • Becky on June 20, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      Didn’t check the temperature Kevin. Rock Creek Lake was mid-40’s when I took my dip last week, that is at a higher elevation that this lake though. Still not warm I imagine. 😉

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