Ansel Adams Wilderness

2002 September

Ansel Adams Wilderness

Being late in the season, this was the last backpacking trip I would take this year. Participants were to be Henrik, Mike and myself but Mr. Diemler had to drop out at the last minute after turning his ankle while helping Roger campaign to become the Supervisor of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. So after work Henrik and I drove through the Central Valley, stopping at Nations in Tracy for burgers and pie and continuing to the summit of Sonora Pass where we pulled off of the road and camped.

Day 1

Early the next day we were up and at the Mono Lake ranger station, getting our wilderness permits and eating cold cereal overlooking Mono Lake. After a short drive down 395 we parked at the trailhead near Silver Lake and began the climb up to Agnew Lake. En route, we encountered tracks for a funicular, which must have been used to haul up labor and materials for construction of the two dams that formed the first lakes we would encounter.

Mr. Dahl crosses into the Inyo National Forest.

No, this is not the trail but we crossed these tracks en route to Agnew Lake, the first of many (lakes, not tracks).

Overcast skies made the climbing easy and soon we were in the aspen surrounding the north end of Gem Lake. At this point Henrik got that look in his eyes and went off to “be with the aspen”, in all of their glory with changing leaves while I sat by the lake and starting writing to you. We continued past Waugh Lake and set up camp just after crossing Rush Creek and joining the Pacific Crest Trail. After a dinner of Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese with tuna in a pouch we went to bed at about 9,000 feet elevation.

Henrik took this “aspen” shot way off of the trail; looks like a great view for a poo.

Normally I take my shoes off to cross rivers so this “bridge” was a real treat.

Day 2

Snow, a thin blanket of it, covered the ground when we woke up and continued to fall that morning. We were not cold, nor the trail hidden so the experience was enlightening. Had we been freezing and the trail obscured I’m sure I would have felt quite differently. From the campsite, we set off in the lightly falling snow and headed uphill to Island Pass, at an elevation of over 10,000 feet. Overlooking the many islands in the aptly named Thousand Island Lake we ate cold cereal for breakfast and then continued down to the northeast tip of the Lake. Here we dropped our packs and took a detour to Ruby Lake before going back to our loop.

Hey, this snow was not here when we went to sleep!

Hurry and take the picture, it is cold and we haven’t eaten breakfast yet!

Cold cereal to go on with a cold day on Island Pass overlooking Thousand Island Lake, at least it wasn’t snowing.

And the view in the other direction was equally stunning. It is not very often that you get to eat breakfast in a meadow at over 10,000 feet in elevation.

D'oh, the secret is out. My bladder doubles as a catheter! By the way, I really miss the glasses I have on here. They are sunglass frames with prescription transition lenses. So light and comfortable were they that, on another trip, I jumped in river with them on, a loss that I am still mourning.

Another picture overlooking Thousand Island Lake, however, this time it is snowing.

We passed Clark Lakes and then headed through Spooky Meadow before descending the many switchbacks on the southeast side of Agnew Lake where we rejoined the trail we were on yesterday for the short hike back down to Silver Lake. During this time the snow turned to rain and despite having a gore-tex jacket in my pack, I hiked only with my fleece jacket and shorts. My legs got soaked of course, but because I didn’t stop moving they were never cold. Surprisingly, my fleece kept me warm and dry as well, save some leakage around the zipper.

With snow and aspen Henrik was in heaven!

Back at the truck we changed into dry clothes and blasted the heat. Heading back we went over Tioga Pass, saw a bear and encountered sunny conditions, quite shocking after walking for 2 days under the overcast skies. Indeed, Henrik planned this loop as a 3-day trip but owing to the weather, we chose to keep walking rather than sitting around in the cold.