2016 Sabrina Basin

Description: 3-day early summer outing at Sabrina Basin

For the past many years, my backpacking photos and stories have received tepid enthusiasm from my 2 now college-aged daughters. Both have a great appreciation for the outdoors, nurtured through family camping trips and outdoor-focused vacations throughout their lives. But the transition to backpacking was a wide chasm that no one in my family had a desire to cross. Imagine my surprise when one of my daughters asked to come on a trip with me this year. This would ripple to my other daughter as well, but stopped there as my wife wished us a good journey.

With an opportunity to introduce my daughters to a new experience that would hopefully lead to more backpacking adventures together, I searched for the ideal location. My goal was high alpine drama: a backdrop of snow-capped mountains feeding clear emerald lakes, overflowing into crystal clear streams that cascade and weave through lush green meadows, mixed in with healthy doses of granite staircases and patches of both snow and wildflowers. It also had to have mileage and elevation gain manageable for 2 backpacking newbies. Throw in an iconic waterfall and the obvious conclusion was the Sabrina Basin.

But there was a wrinkle. The late June schedule for this trip is near peak mosquito swarming season and Sabrina Basin is one of the most heavily skeeter-infested basins in the Sierra. Our glimmers of hope were the area's high elevation and a few late season snow storms which may have delayed the mosquito hatch. I hoped for snow at the upper basin, but then worried about slippery travel over snowfields and sloppy boggy trails. For a few weeks leading up to the trip, I monitored daily snow and mosquito reports, forecast maps, and satellite photos, everywhere a concerned father would look for reassurance of a safe and enjoyable trip. But I knew there were no guarantees.

On our way to Mammoth Lakes to acclimate, we passed by a fire at Lee Vining. I was glad that we did not go with my Plan B option - a trip from the Virginia Lakes trailhead.


Along our hike up, the intel we received from various backpackers on their way out were: Mosquitoes were heavy at Dingleberry and Midnight Lakes, Sailor Lake had many nice campsites and no mosquitoes, and Hungry Packer Lake was meh. My daughters were duly impressed by the camaraderie amongst backpacking strangers.

Crossing the logjam at Blue Lake’s outlet

Settled in at Blue Lake

On the rocky trail towards Dingleberry Lake the next day

We walked through a few swarms of mosquitoes on the way up with the highest concentrations around Dingleberry Lake and the meadows past the junction to Midnight Lake. However, with head nets, long sleeve shirts and pants, the swarms did not take away any of our enjoyment of the area.

Submerged rock crossing at the Dingleberry inlet


Picture Peak in the background

Moonlight Falls



After a visit to Moonlight Falls, we set up camp at Sailor Lake and enjoyed the high alpine scenery I had sought out. We also had an added bonus of solitude. In fact, we hadn't seen anyone in the upper basin all day.  The breeze at Sailor Lake allowed us to sit outside without head nets and watch the stars come out at night.

Sailor Lake



Last view of Blue Lake