Friday, July 16, 2010

Starting Backpacking Season with a Bang

First Morning Dawn, originally uploaded by Jeff Sullivan.

I was determined this Summer to do a fair amount of backpacking to reach some of the most scenic portions of the High Sierra. Although trail accessibility was delayed somewhat by a healthy Winter, I was determined to get up to a few lakes before the snow on the surrounding peaks was entirely gone. For the first trip I decided to do a loop out of Devil's Postpile National Monument starting on July 10, from Agnew Meadows to Thousand Island Lake, Garnet Lake, Ediza Lake, and possibly cross-country over to Minaret Lake. Much of the trip would be in the vicinity of 10,000 feet in elevation, so I built an extra acclimation day into the schedule.

I could only get a wilderness permit to enter on the Pacific Crest Trail, so I'd start off with an eight mile day rising a couple of thousand feet. That portion of the trial was exposed, hot, my packing wasn't as Spartan as it should have been, and I was carrying five days of food, so it was a long haul. Obtaining the wilderness permit, taking the requirted bus shuttle into the park, and the hike itself led me to arrive jsut before the sun went down. There was wind on the lake, so I'd have to wait until morning for the best conditions and light. Fortunately the dawn conditions didn't disappoint, with the snow-clad Banner Peak reflecting in the still waters of the lake, an angular cloud providing additional light-catching capability and interest.

During the day I navigated cross-country up to a nearby ridge to catch a view over Sullivan Lake and down to the June Lakes Loop. I ruturned in time to catch alpenglow in the sky over a small iceberg.

Fortunately the skies that night were clear and no moon was visible, so the starts were incredible: bright and endless in number. The lake was calm, so the Milky Way reflected clearly in its waters. With a start like this, I couldn't wait to see what the next days would bring!