Glass Mountain - Sawmill Meadow

August 6 – 9, 2013


This trip was an exploration of Glass Mountain to prepare to lead a trip to this area. Glass Mountain is in Mono County, in Inyo National Forest, southeast of Mono Lake, northeast of Mammoth Lakes, and ten miles west of Benton Hot Springs. It is the highest peak in the Glass Mountain Range with scenic views in all directions. These mountains are part of the Long Valley Caldera and are composed of volcanic rock including lava domes and obsidian flows that occurred 1 to 2 million years ago. There are mountain slopes of obsidian stones of many sizes as well as layered obsidian hoodoos. There are many flowing springs.

On the way to Sonora Pass there was dense smoke from a forest fire far below in the canyon to the north. This smoke thinned out but was present in the distance for the rest of the trip. I stopped the Whoa Nellie Deli where Tioga Road joins US 395 to get a fish taco to go.

There are many roads in this National Forest area. These roads were likely to have been logging roads. Many are well maintained and recently graded gravel roads. These roads provide easy access to Sawmill Meadow Campsite that is a good place to start hikes to Glass Mountain and other mountains on the rim of the caldera.

The campsite is on the edge on boggy Sawmill Meadow with multiple small springs feeding small steams that run to a creek in the middle of the meadow. At the campsite there is a derelict flume-like structure that most likely was part of a sawmill.

On the way to Glass Mountain there were slopes of mixed obsidian and rhyolite. In the pine forests there was evidence of recent logging of downed trees. On the sides of the mountains there were many fields of obsidian of various size stone from small boulders to sand.

From Glass Mountain the Long Valley Caldera extends to the west 15 miles to the snow spotted Sierras. Crowley Lake is to the southwest. Between Crowley Lake and Glass Mountain there are two parallel fields of lines that appear to be made of multiple huge grooves. The fields are 4 miles in length and each is about a mile wide. They might be agricultural but that poses many questions. The thought that they could be prehistoric geoglyphs poses many more. Yet, more than two hundred images have been discovered along the Colorado River from Nevada to the Gulf of California and more than six hundred have been recorded in the Southwest and nearby areas of Mexico.

On returning to camp there was time to explore the granite like rhyolite knob across Sawmill Meadow. Some trial and error was needed to find a way through the thick brush and small trees that surround the base. On the broad south side of the knoll there is deep groove that provided an easy scramble to the top where there were good views of Sawmill Meadow the surrounding forests and the mountain ridge.

On the second day on the way to the next big mountain to the east, after crossing a forested ridge, there were several springs that came form the ground and made vigorous flowing streams. There were Mountain Mahogany trees with dramatic bouquets of yellow and green leaves wrapped in curly and fuzzy seed pods as well as bright red Indian paintbrush blooms and other more unusual flowers. A juvenile redtail hawk flew close overhead as it found an updraft while dramatically displaying its white wing panels. Later a prairie falcon that flew over had pale under wings, dark axillaries, and dark wing tips.

On the way home some smoke still lingered over Sonora Pass. Between the pass and Kennedy Meadow I found an unmarked, unofficial, and maybe even unapproved campground on a bench between the road and a roaring mountain stream, which made for a comfortable night. The next day I arrived in Jamestown in time for a good old home cooked style breakfast at the Woods Creek Café, a grand improvement over my efficient camp breakfasts.