A week with the Baxters. TR July 22-27 | High Sierra Topix  

A week with the Baxters. TR July 22-27

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

A week with the Baxters. TR July 22-27

Postby freestone » Tue Aug 11, 2015 9:04 am

Image

This year it had to be Baxter Pass. Not because it’s where I wanted to be, for jaw dropping beauty and big fish, but because… well, I’m not getting any younger and this was the last of the Four Beasts for me to do. Lets face it, for most Sierra trekkers this trail is an on-off ramp to the JMT and the scenic wonders of the Rae Lakes region not the destination. But I saw some lakes that I wanted to explore, so I go a last minute non reserved permit that was collecting dust on the shelf, at the Visitors Center in Lone Pine, and was on the trail be 11AM. I was getting a late morning start on the trail and felt some relief to hear about the chance for rain in the afternoon. As it turned out, almost too perfect, by the evening and two solid downpours later, I was soaked from the knees down but otherwise settled in with the tarp pitched and dry clothes on, ready for more rain which never happened for rest of the trip.

Trail conditions on the east side. The trail does not really start on the valley floor as the other Beasts do, but still, the climb is constant on a tread that is no longer maintained, all the way to the JMT. To complement the challenge, the lower half is through a recovering burn area that has become revegetated with chaparral instead of pine forest, and growing over the tread in many areas. Further up, there are 2 washouts, and multiple areas where timber has fallen across the trail so following ducks is what this trail is all about as the trail will suddenly disappear into the obscurity of green flora or collapsed talus. The trail crosses the creek early on, then becomes mostly out of reach except for the meadows area. As with many burn recovery areas, wild flowers are everywhere as are large stands of burnt trees.
Image
Image


At the 9000 foot level the trail takes a northerly turn leaving the burn area and enters a zone of lush green forest and a virgin meadow before finally entering another talus field and the final push to the top. A quick word about the upper meadow.... take the time to get off the trail and enjoy it. Not often will you find a Sierra plant community with so much variety, in such perfect harmony, more of a garden with the perfect gardener- nature doing all the work under the watchful eye of the massive Diamond Peak.
Image

Image

Image

Trail conditions on the west side. The path has light use and no maintenance by SEKI so be prepared to lose the trail and rely on ducks to find it again, especially in rocky areas, meadows and blow downs. After descending the pass, the trail skirts around Baxter lake then veers north and away from the other lakes contained in the basin. After descending a wall of talus and timber, the trail terminates at Dollar Lake on the JMT. Just before you enter the canyon down to Woods creek, there is a statement by previous hikers on ducks:
Image

Trip summary. My original plan was to explore two isolate groups of lakes, the first contained within the Baxter creek system west of Acrodectes Peak.
Image
The second, in a hanging valley lake system on the west side of Woods creek, 3 miles below Dollar Lake (WL-3144 on Topo maps). I abandoned any hope of getting to WL-3144 when I got to the take off point from the JMT too late in the day to negotiate the 1500 foot timbered ridge wall complete with blowdowns and ledges. This brief stint on the JMT was worth the trip just to experience the excellent tread and marvel at such a diversity of use, including groups of joggers, dayhikers, through hikers, and section hikers doing the Rae Lakes Loop. Quite the crowd, I must say
Image







Trip Highlights
. My backcountry interests are exploratory fishing, followed closely by lazy mornings around camp, and this area allowed me to do just that. After fishing most of the lakes, I discovered the lakes do have some diversity, the lower chain of lakes contained small Goldens, and the upper chain, Brookies to 12".

Plenty of room to pitch a tarp.
Image

Brookie from Baxter Lake
Image

A Golden from one of the lower lakes in the chain.
Image


Best of all was the dayhike up to a group of lakes west of Acrodectes Peak, seeing fish rise and splash the surface, then fishing these waters all day, surrounded by high mountain peaks and ridges in all directions. My original plan was to camp there, but glad that I did not. the entire landscape was talus, with nothing level to bed on.

Ready for a day hike to unnamed lakes.
Image

Looking up toward my destination, a steep talus wall.
Image

The lower pond.
Image

Vistas looking south and west. 12K peaks as far as the eye can see.
Image
Image

The upper lake.
Image

and the fishing at these isolated nameless lakes? I was hoping for Rainbows or at least Goldens since they were in the lower lakes ( and who doesn't?), but it was all healthy 8-12" Brookies.
What were the stocking gods thinking on this one!!
:-k
Image


Acrodectes Peak, or "the Beetle"
Image


Wish I would have.... Visited the upper lake just south of Baxter Lake in a small basin of high steep cliffs and a snow field. I doubt that it had fish, but who knows, maybe it contained those lunkers.
The whole time I was in the area, I could here rocks rolling down and echoing across the valley. To see the lake and hear the echos in such a canyon would revel any cathedral in Europe.
Image

Image

Final thoughts. Obviously this area is not on anyone's list to sample scenic beauty and lunkers, but sometimes the best view is from afar, and this area does not lack in classic eastern high sierra vistas, beautiful flora and a variety of fish that were always eager to check out my flies. The nights were chilly, down to 38 degrees and long pants are advisable because of all the overgrown trails and blowdowns but this trail is dung free and a worthy addition to anyone's list of challenging trails traversing classic High Sierra scenery. If you are into fishing, think Tenkara on this one.

Image
The Topix patch was on my pack, but got knocked off, then became stuck on the water bottle. The wonders of sticky backed velcro but I really need to learn how to sew.



User avatar
freestone
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 571
Joined: Fri Nov 11, 2005 9:42 pm
Location: Santa Barbara
Experience: Level 1 Hiker

User avatar

Re: A week with the Baxters. TR July 22-27

Postby maverick » Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:52 am

Thank you for the usual well written TR and pretty pictures. Nice patch location! :unibrow:
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8045
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: A week with the Baxters. TR July 22-27

Postby Cross Country » Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:37 pm

Mike and I went over Baxter in 1991. On the west side the trail was visible all the way up and no one had ducked any cairns. We had gone out of Onion Valley to Vidett Lake and Dragon and Rea Lakes and were exiting over Baxter. We met a solitary hiker coming up the trail to Baxter and he said that he thought the pass should be named Bastard pass. We were going down and therefore it didn't seem difficult to us.
Attachments
Baxter Pass Tom.jpg
Cross Country
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1119
Joined: Thu Dec 24, 2009 11:16 am
Experience: N/A

Re: A week with the Baxters. TR July 22-27

Postby Cross Country » Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:38 pm

Mike at Baxter
Attachments
Baxter Pass Mike.jpg
Cross Country
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1119
Joined: Thu Dec 24, 2009 11:16 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: A week with the Baxters. TR July 22-27

Postby freestone » Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:05 pm

Crosscountry, those old film print images are awesome, keep them coming. In the digital age, they and their subjects, have become their own art form to my eyes.

For me going down back into Owens was the bastard. Downhill is killer on the knees.
User avatar
freestone
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 571
Joined: Fri Nov 11, 2005 9:42 pm
Location: Santa Barbara
Experience: Level 1 Hiker

User avatar

Re: A week with the Baxters. TR July 22-27

Postby Hobbes » Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:04 pm

I've been toying with the idea of a Sawmill to Baxter loop. If I did decide to do it, which pass would you prefer to ascend and then descend?

That's a nice tarp you have - is it cuben? I've got one of similar size I made out of sil; it weighs around 10oz.

Was that your primary pack or did you bring a separate day pack? I'm going to make a new 35L 2-3 day pack out of dyneema 140, sans hip belt or sternum strap. Really just an oversized daypack that can hold my quilt/tarp/pad, some food, a little clothing, and that's it. It would be perfect for a quick 1-2 night loop up/down these passes.
User avatar
Hobbes
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 680
Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:09 am
Location: The OC
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: A week with the Baxters. TR July 22-27

Postby giantbrookie » Tue Aug 11, 2015 5:09 pm

Neat report about what seems to be the least visited of the monster (6k gain) east side passes. I did not realize that the trail was so overgrown an unmaintained. The makes for an even more interesting trip.

Regarding the question about a Sawmill-Baxter shuttle, I'd vote for starting Baxter and coming out Sawmill. The rationale is two fold: first, the Sawmill trailhead is the lowest of all the E side passes (~4600') and it is a very long way to the first water (my wife and I went through 6 L before we reached first water in a super hot ascent in 1997). It is also a very long way up Sawmill before you reach the first viable campsite (recall it's Mule Lake or something and I think this is already past 5k gain, but it is far better to make it further to superb Sawmill Lake). Accordingly I think ascending Baxter and going out Sawmill is better.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2439
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: A week with the Baxters. TR July 22-27

Postby freestone » Tue Aug 11, 2015 5:53 pm

Hobbes, If it's between Sawmill and Baxter, flip a coin in terms of difficulty. The tread is more faint on Baxter, so if you are in a rush at the end of the trip, take Sawmill down. If enjoyment is a factor to end a trip with, take Baxter. The burn area down low is overpowered by the view of the Owens Valley and the Whites, then the upper section above 10K is pristine with views of Diamond peak and the upper meadows area. Oak creek is fishless up high. As for camping on the east side, again, I would pick Baxter because it seems much less trampled than the other 3 Beasts.

Ha ha! that's my day-pack, Hobbes! a GG RikSak, I wish I were going that light though! The tarp is the GG Cuben QTwinn coming in at around 6 ounces. If I were to get another tarp, I would consider a simple rectangle because there are so many more pitching variations. Another tarp issue is the real estate it consumes to pitch and the need for good staking that can be difficult in Sierra soils.
This year bought a new external frame pack, wanting something with better than average weight transfer to the hips with the belt. After checking out all my options, even including the Kelty, I went with the Exped Lightning 45.With this pack I can go UL but still have the ability to haul 6 liters of water on a desert hike. Good luck on your pack project. Sewing machines are a complete mystery to me.


Image
User avatar
freestone
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 571
Joined: Fri Nov 11, 2005 9:42 pm
Location: Santa Barbara
Experience: Level 1 Hiker

User avatar

Re: A week with the Baxters. TR July 22-27

Postby Hobbes » Wed Aug 12, 2015 7:25 am

Thanx for the input you two. Baxter up, Sawmill down it is.

I've also been considering getting a framed pack for occasional heavier loads - including situations that require water carries. It seems like the Osprey Exos is pretty popular on both the AT & PCT. Thru-hikers are the ultimate test pilots - they tear through normal UL equipment, but still hike pretty light.
User avatar
Hobbes
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 680
Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:09 am
Location: The OC
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: A week with the Baxters. TR July 22-27

Postby windknot » Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:18 pm

Great report to a not very heavily visited area! There's nothing quite like arriving at a lake where you have no idea what to expect. Thanks for sharing.

Not to hijack this trip report, but do any of you ULers have any experience with the Gossamer Gear Mariposa? The weight/capacity ratio is pretty impressive for a lightweight load hauler (29 oz, 60l) and reviews seem to be pretty widely positive. Hobbes, I've started stalking the thru-hiker gear lists too. Although I'm not yet ready to go true UL, I am in the market for a pack that will allow me to still carry my creature comforts while not itself weighing as much as a newborn.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1348
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: imtomfritz and 3 guests