TR: Island Pass dayhike (5/30/15)

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TR: Island Pass dayhike (5/30/15)

Post by rams » Wed Jun 03, 2015 12:05 am

I hadn't been to the Sierra in over a month and knew I wouldn't have a chance to go up for another few weeks, so I fought my laziness (difficult fight in my case) and got the resolve to plan for a couple of days up there. A couple of hours later, a call from the parents would make it so I could only spend one day up there, but I figured it's still worth the drive. After 1) looking at trip reports and live web cams, 2) considering places I'd wanted to visit for a long time, and 3) considering that it's less of a pain to hike the Ansel Adams Wilderness before the shuttles operate (mid June this year), I settled on going for Island Pass. Those views of Banner Peak above small ponds always looked awesome to me.

After pulling in to the Mammoth area around midnight, I caught a few hours of sleep in the car then finished the drive to Agnew Meadow. It's strange how getting no sleep is hell if I have to go to work but is no issue when I can hike (or ski). Anyway, I settled on the River trail since a call the day before confirmed that it was snow-free. I had done the Shadow Lake trail before, which shares the same path for a while. Like every other time I'd hiked here, Olaine Lake was a mirror. Gorgeous, but not surprising.

As I veered right for the first time ever to take the River trail instead of the Shadow Lake trail, I rounded a corner only to see a bear's backside that looked rather gargantuan. So, I did like any smart hiker and went to go pet it. Oh, the soft-yet-bristly fur against my hand and the cuddly bonding was unforgettable. So cute. In other words, I wet myself and turned back before it saw me. I went back quite a ways and returned while gradually making noise so as not to suddenly startle it. From a far distance, I could verify that it was leaving the trail area. If I wasn't awake before, I was now. No pictures...too scared.

The hike all the way to Thousand Island Lake was nice with the river never far away and the sound of rushing water always accompanying me...and no more bears. Cascades draining from the lakes above added to the awesomeness, as did the solitude. As Banner Peak crept into view, the anticipation grew and I was enjoying the solitude and awaiting that moment when everything opens up. This solitude, however, was obliterated into a "thousand" pieces at Thousand Island Lake. I had been this far once before from the Rush Creek trail, so I knew the beauty of the area and wasn't surprised that it would be very popular. It deserves its fame, annoying though the crowds may be. A 10-minute climb and solitude was mine again (couldn't even hear the crowds below) while overlooking the lake and discovering a small pond on the way up. I had 2 lakes sort of to myself...I guess.

After spending a good 1.5 hours there, I descended back towards the maddening crowds to reunite with the trail and proceed to where I hadn't been before. I kept turning my head towards Banner and the Minarets and was lucky I didn't trip 'cause I spent less time watching my step and more time gawking. After Thousand-Person Lake, the crowds thinned by a huge amount. When I arrived at Island Pass, I only saw two others there who were walking through in the opposite direction. So I basically had the pass to myself. Life was good. The views were everything I thought they'd be and I knew I made a good choice to drive up this weekend. Good job, me. I hung around as long as I could before having to start the trek back, knowing I'd have to drive all the way back to just north of L.A. Thousand-Person Lake had even more people on my return trip but again, I can understand its popularity.

The fact that I'd never hiked the High Trail combined with the knowledge that a bear was waiting for me somewhere down on the River trail made me settle on another new trail for me. The views of the Ritter Range and the Silver Divide were awesome. Really awesome. I passed a lot more people on this trail than the River trail. When I asked one of them where he was headed, he said "Canada". Fine, I walked into that one. I continued to the car exhausted but ready to drive. As a last bonus, I got to see a coyote in the meadow with the sunlight tracing its body's outline. Five hours later, I was back where I started Friday night.
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Re: TR: Island Pass dayhike (5/30/15)

Post by MountainMinstrel » Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:54 am

Thanks for the TR rams. Looks like wonderful hike. Loved you photos, the silver divide one is awesome!
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Re: TR: Island Pass dayhike (5/30/15)

Post by maverick » Wed Jun 03, 2015 12:18 pm

Thanks Ram for posting this TR, and pretty pictures. To bad you could not get the bear picture.
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Re: TR: Island Pass dayhike (5/30/15)

Post by seanr » Wed Jun 03, 2015 3:15 pm

I finally hiked Minarets area last September and agree the views are worth braving crowds. Plus, like you know, there are plenty of ways to find some solitude. Thanks for a nice peek at what it looks like early in the season.

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