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TR: Lake Italy, Bear Basin July 1-6 2015

Posted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 9:58 pm
by Thebrenner
Wednesday July 1, 2015
Sea level to 7,470 feet
Santa Barbara to Bear Creek Diversion Trailhead. 335 miles.

The familiar sweet fresh smell of pines and recent rain lets me know that I am home in my beloved Sierra! I am both soothed and excited. I arrived at Shaver Lake in time to eat my dinner while watching the sunset.

Kaiser Pass Road is damp from the recent rains and makes the drive in even more exciting. I love this two way, single lane twisting, turning, curving, bumpy, cliff edge drop off road. I have driven this road so many times both in daylight and night that I know each curve like the lines on the back of my hand. There is one stretch where you can see all the way to Mt Ritter and Banner and tonight the mountains were bathed in the last glowing light of the day.

I'm camped close to the trailhead at Potrero Forebay and I'm watching a lightening storm and swapping out cookies for homemade brownies in my bear canister! Thanks mom! It took me a few minutes to realize that the flashing light I was seeing was lightening and not my headlamp. After the lightening show was over I watched the almost full moon make its way through the clouds. Im now stretched out in my car bed, (I think I'm on version 3.1,) and it feels comfortable and is doing the exact job I designed it for.....sleeping in my car at the trailhead! A perfect night indeed.

Thursday July 2, 2015
Half way to bear creek diversion trailhead to lake Italy! 16 miles, 4,000 feet elevation gain.
I attempted to drive all the way to the best dam diversion trailhead on a 4 wheel drive only rd. I had talked with the ranger and he thought I could make it in my car saying there was just one rough spot but I could probably make it. Of course every treacherous spot made me think, " is this the rough spot he thought I could make?" And then i would get through that spot and come to another, " oh this must be the spot." I did that for about a mile mile and a half until I came to a gully that had been carved deeper but the recent rains and decided to park and walk the rest of the way. But I had to drive back 7/10 of a mile to find a safe place to park. All this to say, with the morning rain and road walk I got a much later start than I thought.

The first 8 miles of the trail went along bear creek. It was incredibly beautiful. The recent rains and humidity made the smells that much more intense. There were so many hues of green it was like a painters pallet.
I stopped for lunch at two cascading waterfalls. I didn't take too long of a break because the skies were threatening rain and I wanted to get further up the trail. After lunch the trail climber steadily up up up and then up some more and I slowed to a crawl. The after lunch slump and the altitude really got to me and I kept stopping every several feet. Soon I hit my stride and found myself at the trail junction of the PCT/JMT and headed south. I saw a lot of people...JMTers heading south and PCTers heading north.
When I got to the trail junction for Lake Italy I checked my watch and was surprised that is was only 3:15. I figured it would take me 3 hours to get to lake Italy....climbing over 2,000 feet. I thought if I felt too tired I could always stop and if I found a must camp at campsite I would stop. I saw one person coming down and he shared that the trail was hard to follow. Hmmm I started to second guess myself, and I kept finding the trail so I kept going. Hildagard Branch was beautiful dotted with granite rocks, Indian paintbrush, lupine and about a hundred thousand Mosquitos. Although that's just really a rough estimate! I'm fortunate in that Mosquitos land onme and annoy me but they don't always bite me. I didn't even want to stop to look for the bug juice!
I had one moment of panic when I wasn't sure where I was and in a split second I convinced myself. I was lost. Out came the map and the compass and I discovered I was on course. I tried to convince myself that I was reading the map wrong and the compass wasn't right....but I know the compass doesn't lie and I had identified surrounding landmarks....and I could always turn around and go back the way I came. I pushed on and after what seemed like an eternity I crested the last hill and found myself exactly where I had meant to be....Lake Italy. Not only that, it was exactly 6:15....the time I figured I would get here.
Having hiked 16 miles and climb 4,000 feet I'm ravenous and down the two homemade brownies while I set up camp. Beyond delicious! And had I packed three of them instead two I would've eat all three without a second thought!
Friday July 3, 2015 Lake Italy XC to Bear Basin. 7ish miles.

I had quite possibly the worst nights SIerra sleep in my history. Although I was physically exhausted I just could not fall asleep. I don't know if it was the altitude or the lightening storm and hail but I tossed and turned all night. It was a long night and not even my morning coffee seemed to help.
Today's goal was Bear Basin and I'm happy to say that I made it. I followed the very faint Italy Pass trail stopping numerous times to check and re-check my position. Again, I kept convincing myself I wasn't going the right way and then spent time assuring myself that yes I actually was going the right way. And then I would look up and see a cairn and realize I was either on course or following some other lost person.
Bear Lakes Basin is pristine and gorgeous beyond beauty. Truly! Lush green meadows, granite slabs, wildflowers, cascading waterfalls and lots of lakes with bear names.
To be continued.........

Re: TR: Lake Italy, Bear Basin July 1-6 2015 (continued)

Posted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 10:18 pm
by Thebrenner
Saturday July 4, 2015
Little Bear Lake to Medley Lake.
12 ish miles

I slept! Yeah! 6:00am cloudy skies and hot coffee. I can't tell if the clouds are going to blow over or if the sky is going to open up and pound me with rain. Just as I finished that last sentence and as I began to debate whether I should take my tent down and have a dry tent or leave it up in case it started pouring! Not one or two little drops trying to decide to rain but a full deluge!
I threw everything back into the tent, including myself and am now enjoying my coffee while the rain continues to pummel my tent.

My big Independence Day adventure began after the brief rain showers. Shorty after crossing a pristine meadow I made the first of six, yes six crossings of some part of Bear Creek; the highest being knee deep when I finally made it to the JMT/PCT. But that comes later first I have to get past the pristine meadow.....I was looking for a "use" took me along time to find it....but I found it faint as it was. And then it was a game of hide and seek for the rest of the journey back to the main trail. The scenery just got better and better and it's hard to adequately describe it.
At my second crossing of Bear Creek I stopped for a coffee milkshake! I can't take credit for the concoction of chocolate protein powder, instant coffee and fresh creek water...but I can tell you it was the best milkshake I've ever had on the trail! Mmm mmm!
At one point I connected to the decrypted seven gables trail and I could see the rocks that were used to build the switchbacks. It took a while to climb and clamor my way up over the rocky cliff.
Before long I was at the official Bear Creek crossing on the JMT. I ate a late lunch, forded the knee high creek and headed south on the JMT.
I followed an actual trail up to Medley Lake where I'm camped
Sunday July 5, 2015
Medley Lake to lower Bear Creek with a few side trips. 15 ish miles

A beautiful blue cloudless morning. Enjoying the views, listening to the birds and the water lapping against the granite shore while drinking my coffee.
I headed up over the ridge In search of Marie Lakes and the JMT. I stopped at the top of the ridge and picked out all the peaks I could name....amazing how far I can see!
Next I hiked down the JMT and then took a side trail to Rose Lake where I enjoyed lunch. Back down to the JMT where I recrossed bear creek, still knee high. I counted 30 people most doing the JMT.
I am camped along the lower part of Bear Creek probably 5 miles from the trailhead. I got to camp a little after 6 and immediately plunged into the water and sprawled on the warm granite rocks as the sun slipped behind the hill.
Monday July 6, 2015
Bear Creek to Trailhead plus road walk: about 6 miles.

My last morning in the Sierra....well at least for this trip...I'll be back in a few weeks for a longer trip! I slept with the rainfly off and enjoyed the brilliant stars. It's amazing how many stars you can see and how close they seem.
I drink my coffee while being mesmerized by the waterfall carving it's path down the granite rocks. This is the same water, well not exactly the same, because that water has gone by, as the water I was watching in Bear Basin. Bear Basin is the headwaters of Bear Creek and I'm both fascinated and in awe by the path the water takes. I have now hiked the entire length of Bear Creek.....that amazes me!
As I hike these last few miles I think about this Latin saying, "It is solved by walking." Although I didn't have anything in particular to solve I feel "solved." The trail changes you in ways that need to be experienced before explained.
For a more detailed report and more pictures consider visiting my blog at

Re: TR: Lake Italy, Bear Basin July 1-6 2015

Posted: Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:28 am
by cslaght
Your shot of Little Bear Lake looking at Seven Gables is magnificent! Great Job!

Re: TR: Lake Italy, Bear Basin July 1-6 2015

Posted: Mon Jul 20, 2015 2:40 pm
by maverick
Thank you for the enjoyable TR and fine pictures. Gotta love the sunset colors of that entire Feather Peak area, it just has a beautiful glow to it.

Re: TR: Lake Italy, Bear Basin July 1-6 2015

Posted: Sun Jul 26, 2015 12:44 pm
by lostcoyote
thank you for sharing.
brings back great memories.
love the sunset shot over little bear.

Re: TR: Lake Italy, Bear Basin July 1-6 2015

Posted: Sun Jul 26, 2015 8:12 pm
by Thebrenner
Yes I lucked out with that sunset shot of little bear lake and seven gables. Might need to hang that one up in the living room.
There were some awesome sunset colors with all the clouds and rain storms. YEAH!

Re: TR: Lake Italy, Bear Basin July 1-6 2015

Posted: Mon Jul 27, 2015 9:34 am
by lostcoyote
yes, those make the best times to shoot, even if you're all cold and wet!
high sierra thunder is one of my favorite sounds

Re: TR: Lake Italy, Bear Basin July 1-6 2015

Posted: Mon Jul 27, 2015 4:42 pm
by SSSdave
Bear Creek is an old favorite of mine so enjoyed memories your images brought back to life. You piled up enough mileage for 2 or 3 of my usual trips.

If you returned some future summer with a friend and had to choose one of the 3 headwaters basins to stay at 3 days, which one would it be?


Re: TR: Lake Italy, Bear Basin July 1-6 2015

Posted: Mon Aug 03, 2015 8:41 am
by Thebrenner
WHEN I return, Not IF ;-) I would go back to Bear Basin, it was amazingly beautiful and lots more to explore!
I'm headed out tomorrow for two back to back trips one into Miter Basin and Center Basin and the second into Humphreys Basin, Granite park and 2nd recess.
More stories to tell more trip reports to post!

Re: TR: Lake Italy, Bear Basin July 1-6 2015

Posted: Sat Aug 22, 2015 7:24 pm
by sekihiker
Great report and photos. Thanks.