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TR:Agnew Meadows to Silver Lake, May 2014 Days 1-3

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TR:Agnew Meadows to Silver Lake, May 2014 Days 1-3

Postby oldranger » Thu Feb 19, 2015 9:59 am

Finally getting close to catching up on Trip Reports!

Another drought year and another early start. Headed south on May 18 and arrived at Markskor’s on the 19th after visiting my uncle in Reno and doing some exploring around the little Walker River after being blown out of my planned fishing at k lake.
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Exploring the Little Walker Area


The original plan was for markskor and I to hike from Dana Meadows to Agnew via Parker Pass, Alger Lakes, Lost Lakes, Thousand Island, Garnet and down to Agnew. This plan was busted in two ways. First Mark was having dental work done which eliminated him from a backcountry trip. Second HST posts indicated significant snow and Alger Lakes still quite frozen. Plan B became a solo trip starting from Agnew Meadow and ending at Silver Lake with Mark driving me down to Agnew meadows as soon as the Road opened and picking me up at the Silver Lake TH. Being old and lazy I opted to wait until Friday of Memorial day weekend when the road was opened rather than starting from the ski area and hiking up to Minaret Summit and down,

At 3 pm on friday the gate was opened at Minaret Summit, mark and I were about the 5th car in line. There was still debris in the road and as we drove thru the Agnew Meadow Campground it was still showing the effects of the windstorm of 18 months earlier. Finding my way to what I remembered as the optimal departure point I said my goodby to Mark and told him that I would call if I could and that the one morning I sent an OK message on my Spot Locator would be the day I would exit. (I try to send an OK message every night but I am somewhat unreliable so no one gets concerned if I miss a message).

My hike was quite short that day, just down to the river trail split then camped near the bridge that crosses the San Joaquin before the trail heads up to Shadow Lake and the PCT. I had camped at exactly the same site a couple of years earlier the same day I left Bend by catching the last shuttle down then hiking through the campground to about the same starting point as this year. Two significant things happened this first night. First I discovered that I had left my cellphone in the car which meant that I would be unable to update mark other than with my spot locator. Then, the next morning I discovered that a little critter had chewed on a few things, including a shoulder strap on my pack and my little camera bag attached to the shoulder strap. Nothing fatal and I guess it adds character to my gear!
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San Joaquin Campsite


Day 2 began cold but the steep climb up to Shadow Lake soon warmed me up.
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Shadow Creek Falls dropping down to San Joaquin River
Shadow was beautiful with a single camper camped next to the shoreline despite the 300 ft. restriction.
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Shadow Lake
The first snow was encountered a switchback or two up the PCT heading north.
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Minarets from John Muir Trail
A little later I did my thing and headed off trail to sample the fishing in a couple of lakes. The first lake had mostly 12” rainbows gathered in the outlet in a spawning mode. There were still fish cruising the main lake, including one that appeared to be at least 19” long that I eventually hooked and lost on a fly and bubble when the line broke at the bubble. As I was packed up to leave the fish cruised by, the bubble not even dragging to its tail. My leader had been short, about 18 inches, the fly was in the corner of the rainbows mouth so I had clear confirmation that, again, I had lost the big one! Moving on to the next lake involved a bit of up hill then a traverse of a steep, forested, snow covered, north east slope. Reaching the next lake I found a suitable site on the rocky ridge that separated the lake from the San Joaquin Canyon. My kitchen had outstanding views of San Joaquin Ridge. After dinner I managed to catch and release a few 9-10 rainbows.
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Sunset from Days 2 & 3 Campsite


Day 3 was a layover dedicated to fishing and exploring. Due to extensive soft snowbanks on the s and sw shorelines movement was slow. On the w. shoreline I managed a couple of 11 inch rainbows for dinner.
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Day 2 and 3 Lake. Campsite on ridge across Lake. San Joaquin Mountain, Two Teats on skyline
Returning to camp I cleaned the fish and stashed them in a snowbank and then went exploring to figure out how I was going to escape from this hole in the rock. Across the outlet to the n was about a 50 high large rock outcropping steeply sloping into the lake. I found that the water in the lake was only crotch deep at the base of the rock and with my crocs was able to wade around the rock to a chute that could be negotiated with one bouldering move at the top. It was a little nasty dropping down the other side but after that the way was clear to the n. end of the lake and a user trail.

Dinner that night was a bust the flesh of the fish was so mushy that I spit it out--completely uneatable. Never experienced that in the backcountry before.
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Small tent can fit into tight space!
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Kitchen with a view!


To be continued

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!



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Re: TR:Agnew Meadows to Silver Lake, May 2014 Days 4-7

Postby oldranger » Thu Feb 19, 2015 10:40 am

Breaking camp on day 4 I kept my Crocs on for an extended wade around a steep rock face after crossing the outlet stream.
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Looking back on my wade across the outlet
Putting my boots on I then confronted a short scramble that from my experience the previous day would require taking my pack off and pushing it up over my head to the top of a rock I would have to climb over. I surprised myself by making the climb with my pack on. Guess I’m not as old as I thought I was. The rest of the shoreline was an easy walk and then I found a user trail to access the trail that heads up from the River Trail to Garnet Lake the only problem was that the trail was covered with snow.
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Looking saw from N end of Lake
Following fresh tracks that led from the direction of Garnet the snow slope steepened but the soft snow made for good footing
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Steep snow up to Garnet Lake
and soon I topped out and could view the mostly frozen Garnet Lake.
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First view of Garnet Lake
This was Memorial Day and I soon met a large group heading south on the Muir Trail.
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Garnet Lake
I asked if any of them had a cell phone and the one man in the group said he did. I asked if he could make a call for me and he did but we couldn’t get out so I gave him Kathy’s number and wrote down a message for her to call Mark and let him know that I did not have my cell phone but would send an OK message on the morning (I usually send one just in the evening at my camp) I would be heading out to the Silver Lake TH. I worked my way sw up the lake on northside until I got to the tarnfilled peninsula about 1/2 way down the lake. As predicted it was getting a little breezy and I found a somewhat sheltered spot in the lee of a stunted pine. Camp set up I was ready to catch dinner and soon managed a couple of fat 12” brookies. There was plenty of snow to store the fish in until time for dinner. The wind continued to blow and gained strength and I built a windscreen for my Windpro stove. By dark the wind was howling and my “shelter tree was creaking and groaning and I decided that I would be more comfortable if I moved away. The only flat dry spot was about 100 yards away and I could barely get the semi freestanding Fly Creek UL 1 up the hill, luckily the fly wasn’t attached yet and I was able to get it secured despite the gale. Next morning the wind had blown much of the ice to the lower end of the lake so I headed the opposite direction but past the next peninsula the ice was still present, probably because it was a little more solid because for much of the day during the winter it is in the shadow of Ritter and Banner. I did find a spot where the lake dropped off fairly steeply from the shore and the ice was about 50 feet off shore. For the the next couple of hours the catching was just enough to keep things interesting. Brookies seemed to outnumber rainbow about 2 to1.
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Nice Rainbow!
On return to camp I checked out a side trail heading away from the shoreline trail that I had noticed the previous day. Stashing my rod and dinner fish in a snowbank I decided to explore the trail. Pretty soon it became clear that this was more than a user trail--there were signs of real trail building, rock bars and drains an a couple of logs that had been cut.
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Trail not on most maps
Soon the divide between Garnet and 1000 Island Lakes was topped though I could see neither lake. The trail led to and around a tiny lake. I broke off the trail here and climbed a rocky hill to the north, at the top I could view most of the mostly frozen 1000 Island Lake and planned my route for the next day which now would not involve retracing my steps back to the Muir Trail but retracing todays steps but continue on down to the se shore of 1000 Island lake.
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First View of 1000 Island Lake
An interesting note is that (before writting this) as I reviewed the HST Map and the Google Maps satellite view I realized that the view of 1000 Island and the sw tip of Garnet had to have been taken just a day or two before my arrival but the majority of Garnet was probably taken at least several days after my arrival (unless they were not taken in 2014). Another interesting feature of the satellite view at its highest resolution, just up the trail (from Garnet Lake) there is a person and frankly it looks like he is peeing on a rock!

Day 6 involved retracing the route scouted the day before then fishing my way to the outlet of 1000 Island Lake. I met up with 4 PCT thru hikers just before the PCT/Muir trail headed up to Island Pass. Continuing along the shoreline it was dismaying to see that the only open water was quite shallow. I followed what appeared to be the old Muir trail a couple of hundred yards away from the lake where a semi sheltered spot from the wind, a small creek, and a patch of snow for my virgin margaritas made for a perfect campsite with a great view of the lake and Banner Peak.
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Campsite Near 1000 Island Lake


The following day I headed for the sw corner of the lake but soon it was clear that the shade of Banner meant for slow melting of the ice at that end of the lake. However there were a bunch of prespawn rainbows feeding in the inlet stream that flows out of the little valley that leads from North Glacier Pass. One was enough for dinner, then I caught and released a couple more before heading back to camp.
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lenticular Cloud over 1000 Island Lake



To be continued

Mike
Mike

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Re: TR:Agnew Meadows to Silver Lake, May 2014 Days 8-10

Postby oldranger » Thu Feb 19, 2015 11:03 am

On day 8 I followed the old trail a ways then said the hell with it and just headed diagonally up to intersect the Muir Trail.
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Looking back toward 1000 Island Lake and Banner Peak from near Muir Trail s of Island Pass
Once over Island Pass the Trail was mostly snow covered and I was glad for my early start as it was clear from the holes in the snow that in the afternoon it was postholing hell.
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North from just East of Island Pass
My original plan for the day was to follow the trail to Silver Lake as far as the inlet stream to Waugh Lake that flows from Lost Lakes. But when I got to the trail it became evident that I would have to ford Rush Creek 2 times if I did that so I continued on a ways toward Donahue then crossed a smaller creek, then another and gradually worked my way up and to the east where I crossed the outlet stream from Lost Lakes.
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View up toward Lost Lakes
From there I just kept on the e. side of the creek following the path of least resistance, sometimes wandering a couple hundred yards away from the creek. There were quite a few ducks that simply weren’t needed as the creek would get me to where I wanted to go. It was cold and blustery at the eastern most lake and the lake was 2/3 ice covered.
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Looking sw across eastern most Lost Lake
I managed to catch a nice trout that looked more rainbow than the golden I expected. While I really wanted to fish the upper lake to the nw.
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View nw across e. Lost Lake toward route I was planning on taking to Upper Lost Lake
Given that it was 300 feet higher I had no reason to believe that there would be any fishable water. This eastern lake was not very hospitable given the conditions so I opted to move on, down about 600 feet and maybe a mile or mile and half to the se where I found a delightful bench with complex micro topography and many little ponds, not yet home to mosquitos.
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Sunset view during evening walk


Day 9 was pretty bizarre for me! I sauntered e. across the bench, over a low ridge, then down past a small lake that I hoped had fish.
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View toward June Mountain from ridge top
On arrival it was clear that it was too shallow for fish to survive most winters. Just below the lake was a tiny bench with just enough room for a tent. A tree to lean against and read and gurgling creek for water and just enough snow to cool off my virgin margaritas. So I said “what the hey! Why not just stop and relax?” And that is just what I did!

Day 10 I hit the “I’m ok” button on the Spot Locator while eating breakfast and hoped that Mark would be there to meet me at the trailhead in a few hours. I was certainly glad to be hiking down, mostly, there was some significant ups and downs going around Gem Lake.
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Gem Lake
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Rush Creek falling into Gem Lake
Just below Gem I spotted my first person since day 6, the first of many I was to meet. The old tram system below Gem and Agnew Lakes was quite Interesting to view.
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Old Tram
The trail got hotter and hotter as I descended and I continued to meet sweating and huffing and puffing people of all ages with incredibly late starts for such a hot hike. Mark of course was not there so that gave me the opportunity to walk into the nearby store and buy a beer. Mark drove up as I was contentedly sitting on the shaded porch drinking my beer. Life is good!

In retrospect I’m sure the fishing and fishable area would have been much improved had I waited until Memorial day instead of Friday of Memorial Day Weekend to start the trip. Three days later and there would have been much more open water at Garnet and Thousand Island lakes and I probably would have made it to the Upper Lost Lake. But all in all it was a great trip.

Mike
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Re: TR:Agnew Meadows to Silver Lake, May 2014 Days 1-3

Postby markskor » Thu Feb 19, 2015 1:46 pm

Nice trip Mike...
Sorry I missed this one...was packed and ready.
Truth be told though, given my choices then of getting a root canal or hiking with the OldRanger, this time the choice was easy - the root canal...less painful.
Interesting too about the mushy fish part...probably why he brings me along - just to cook. Maybe it's just me but every meal Mike had ever concocted backcountry has always tasted a bit mushy...almost impossible to mess up his oatmeal diet.
Hard to believe we have hiked together this long...sigh...where did I go wrong?

This year promises more of the same - can't wait.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: TR:Agnew Meadows to Silver Lake, May 2014 Days 1-3

Postby Jason » Mon Feb 23, 2015 1:55 pm

That was an enjoyable read! Thanks for posting the report. Looks like a good time.
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