Glass Creek Meadow
by Ben Wickham, Membership and Communications Manager
“Glass Creek Meadow hints at what the future holds.”
Glass Creek Meadow has become one of my favorite places in the Eastern Sierra. I love the two-mile hike along a cascading creek, and then the opening up of a view as I arrive at the meadow. It’s got big blue sky, wide expanses of green grass and a backdrop of pointed peaks. It’s rare that you see another person in there. What is common is the yip-yap of coyotes, the buzz of the breeze through tree branches, the sweet smell of wildflowers, and the cool water in the creek to dip your feet.
Glass Creek Meadow is the largest subalpine meadow in the Eastern Sierra. The highest diversity of butterflies in the area call Glass Creek Meadow home, as do endangered species. The meadow serves the ecosystem function that all meadows do of sponging and filtering snowmelt, preserving its quality, and slowing its rush down into the valley. It’s crucial to have such a vibrant meadow at the top of the Owens River watershed.
Glass Creek Meadow also sits on the backside of June Mountain. Mammoth Mountain had a long term vision of connecting the two ski areas along San Joaquin Ridge, and in their vision, Glass Creek Meadow served as the ultimate base area to build an alpine village.
I’m a skier too. I spent several winters skiing one of the biggest ski areas in the U.S. I can see the appeal of a massive resort like Mammoth. I also love small, local ski areas like June Mountain. There’s an authenticity and a communal feeling to them that I think we’ve lost in a lot of other places within the ski industry. I’ve grown tired of this arms race that’s been going on between ski resorts in the last 20 years.
I’m proud that others who were here before me had the vision to protect Glass Creek Meadow. Friends of the Inyo played a major role in the Owens River Headwaters Wilderness designation in 2009 that will preserve Glass Creek Meadow.
Glass Creek Meadow hints at what the future holds. Beyond the coyotes, the wildflowers, and everything else that preservation has ensured, climate change trends are evident too, especially the whitebark pine die-off and the encroachment of lodgepole pine into the meadow. Friends of the Inyo was actively engaged in the Inyo National Forest’s management plan revisions in 2016, and we asked them to be prepared for and responsive to climate change. We applauded their prioritization of partnerships to fill needs on the forest. I would love to see Friends of the Inyo’s stewardship crew rebuild the trail someday so that it does not erode into the creek. An effective partnership between Friends of the Inyo and the Inyo National Forest can create amazing recreational experiences while protecting the natural beauty of a place. We’re glad to see their acknowledgement of that in the Plan Revision.
Most of all, in the short term, I can’t wait to catch a ride up the chairlift at wonderful June Mountain, point my skis off the backside, and glide through whitebark pine down into Glass Creek Meadow. I’ll feel happy to be back there again, and see it in a new season. And I’ll be thankful that a wild open space like Glass Creek Meadow has been preserved.
*Photos courtesy: Jora Fogg, John Dittli, Drew Foster, Sam Roberts, and Matt Paruolo.