TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek

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

TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek

Postby lvray » Tue Aug 16, 2016 11:50 pm

July 14 to 18, we took a trip up the North fork of the San Joaquin to Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon and Long Creek. Living in Vegas, we don't start many trips in this area due to the much longer drive compared to the east side trailheads and those off 120 and 108. We had originally considered going over Blue Lake Pass into Yosemite, but decided the area looked interesting enough that we rather spend more time in it rather than have to pass through quickly trying to keep on a schedule. And we are very glad we did! The area is worth spending time in!

We started at Granite Creek and made the initial relatively bland (except for a few open vistas) hike to Hemlock Crossing. Starting at relatively low elevation, in the trees with little elevation gain to start, was a pleasant change form the east side trails! Saw very few other people on the way in - I think 4 or 5 total in 2 groups. The drop down to Hemlock Crossing was a bit annoying as the trail is poorly graded and has obviously seen little maintenance in recent years. After a several hour drive and the hike to Hemlock, we were very pleasantly surprised to find we had the whole area to ourselves.

The next day we headed up the North Fork to Twin Island Lakes. The trail above the crossing was in surprisingly good shape for several miles. It really didn't peter out until the last mile or 2 before Twin Island Lakes, somewhere in the upper part of the drainage. Once you make the sharp turn at the intersection with Bench Canyon, the scenery becomes quite impressive and the North Fork was still flowing hard. We camped above the upper lake. We were alone and had not seen anyone else all day.

The next day, we made the traverse over to Bench Canyon and Blue Lakes. We pretty much followed the HSR. The traverse is relatively easy and the route finding straight forward enough, though there are obviously different routes you could take. We may have gone a bit high and stayed in some talus longer than we needed to. But it was all good.

Having read Roper's description of Bench Canyon, we had lofty expectations. And we have to say they were met. The area is grand and hiking up Bench to Blue Lakes was pure joy. We camped at upper Blue Lake. Again, we had the place to ourselves and we had not seen anyone this day either.

The next day, we headed over into Long Canyon over an easy saddle. Our desire to see most of Long Creek Canyon was our main reason for not going over Blue Lake Pass. We dropped down to Rockbound lake and headed down Long Creek - another beautiful canyon with easy strolling. The upper section is open, but trees begin to reappear as you drop. We headed toward Sadler saddle and the old trail, but we really didn't see any signs of it until just before the ponds above 9400 feet. From there the trail is a bit hit or miss. Some sections are are as obvious as a 4 lane highway, but in some meadow areas, it vanishes. Finding it was never difficult, but I'm not sure trying to follow it is worth the effort in many paces. Not because the trail is hard to locate, but because extensive blow downs make staying anywhere near the trail annoying. In those areas, it may be easier to just take the path of least resistance and pick up the tail when it is clear of trees again. We did pass a group of 3 heading up the trail.

When we hit Chetwood Cabin, we stayed off the trail and just took a straight cross country route to Cora Lakes. We passed a pleasant meadow with a snow survey marker along the way (an old one I think). We weren't even in view of Cora when we started to hear groups of people playing noisily at the middle lake. Fully expected, but still disappointing after 3 days of peaceful, quiet, solitude. We made our way to slabs above the western lake to camp and were pleased to find everyone else had camped at the main lake.

The next day we were up early and made the short hike out followed by the long drive back to Vegas.

All in all, it was a great trip at a relaxed pace. I am glad we decided to not cross over into Yosemite and spent the extra time strolling and lounging about in these wonderful canyons. In a way, it is probably good reaching the trailhead requires a long drive from anywhere. If it was easier to reach, the beauty of the area would surely attract many more visitors. As is, it is as Roper describes, untrammeled - and hopefully remains that way.


IMG_2782.JPG
Above Hemlock Crossing

IMG_2796.JPG
Climbing up the North Fork

IMG_2798.JPG
The North Fork of the San Joaquin

IMG_2820.JPG
The North Fork of the San Joaquin

IMG_2833.JPG
Upper North Fork drainage approaching Twin Island Lakes looking across to outlet from Ritter-Catherine lakes

IMG_2848.JPG
Upper Twin Island Lake

IMG_2864.JPG
Upper Twin Island Lake

IMG_2865.JPG
Camp above Upper Twin Island Lake

IMG_2877.JPG
Both Twin Island Lakes

IMG_2890.JPG
Traverse over to Bench Canyon

IMG_2902.JPG
Traverse to Bench Canyon
Attachments
IMG_2904.JPG
Traverse to Bench



User avatar
lvray
Topix Novice
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:53 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek

Postby lvray » Tue Aug 16, 2016 11:59 pm

IMG_2915.JPG
First view of Bench Canyon

IMG_2922.JPG
Bench Canyon

IMG_2932.JPG
Bench Canyon

IMG_2945.JPG
Upper Bench Canyon

IMG_2960.JPG
Blue Lake (lower)

IMG_2982.JPG
Upper Blue Lake

IMG_2988.JPG
Blue Lakes

IMG_2990.JPG
Rockbound Lake

IMG_2994.JPG
Looking down Long Creek

IMG_3009.JPG
Heading down Long Creek

IMG_3017.JPG
Long Creek

IMG_3018.JPG
Long Creek
User avatar
lvray
Topix Novice
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:53 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek

Postby Hobbes » Wed Aug 17, 2016 8:15 am

This is a great shot of the SHR "tree grotto" traverse to get to Twin island lakes after coming over/down from N Glacier pass. You can see it forms an upside down V starting from the clump of trees above the waterfall. The green foliage line tracks right below the cliff face. Alternatively, you can simply descend to the canyon floor (a little above where your photo was taken), and then climb back up to the lakes:

Image

You can also see the traverse/descent from the "cliff meadow": follow the crevasse leading NW from the tree grotto to above the green shadow, then head due east above the cliff (highlighted by the snow pocket). The class III waterfall is just off camera to the right of your photo.
User avatar
Hobbes
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 680
Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:09 am
Location: The OC
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek

Postby Hobbes » Wed Aug 17, 2016 8:22 am

This is a great shot of the Bench canyon "oasis". I didn't get a good photo of the area, but I hung out on these ramps for awhile before pushing on to spend the night @ the upper Blue lake:

Image

Another great shot - you can see the ascent line to Blue lake pass from the upper lake. It's to the left of the the strong foliage/drainage dropping into lower Blue lake (foreground of your photo). I stayed to the right of the cliffs and headed almost straight for Foerster; once I was level with the pass (basically, just to the left & in line with the horizontal snow patch), I simply traversed straight across around 100-200 yards.

Image

You know, you have so many great shots of this section of the SHR, that I'll link this post to my report from a few weeks ago:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=14805
User avatar
Hobbes
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 680
Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:09 am
Location: The OC
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek

Postby maverick » Wed Aug 17, 2016 9:38 am

Thank you for the TR and pictures to a beautiful and still somewhat less visited part of the Sierra, though the popularity of the SHR has diminished the solitude it once had. If you ever plan to visit this area again head up into the basin above Twin Lakes it will blow you away. :)
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: 8039
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek

Postby lvray » Wed Aug 17, 2016 6:17 pm

Thank you. Depending on which Twin Lakes you are referring to, I have probably been there :-) I worked as a ranger in Yosemite back in the 80s, before going to Montana and then heading back east for several years where I worked as a bear biologist for the NYSDEC. When we moved to Vegas 10+ years ago, we started backpacking extensively in the Sierra again - my true love. We now split are time between backpacking and canyoneering, so we spend several weeks each you in the Sierra either backpacking or running the technical canyons. But I don't usually post trip reports. Unfortunately, I find myself stuck at home for 2 weeks, so I had the extra time.
User avatar
lvray
Topix Novice
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:53 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek

Postby maverick » Wed Aug 17, 2016 6:49 pm

Depending on which Twin Lakes you are referring to, I have probably been there :-)

Sorry, Twin Island Lake to be precise, areas between Davis and Electra Peak. Would love to see a few canyoneering TR's with pictures. :nod:
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: 8039
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek

Postby mcgenes » Thu Aug 18, 2016 7:46 am

Thanks for the TR and great pics. Heading there myself in a couple of weeks. Same trip, but with Harriet Lake.
Marnie


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
User avatar
mcgenes
Topix Novice
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Aug 23, 2014 6:32 am
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek

Postby maverick » Thu Aug 18, 2016 12:52 pm

Same trip, but with Harriet Lake.


Marnie,

If you are comfy with class 2 crosscountry use the short cut over the ridge north of Isberg Peak, it will cut down considerably on your mileage, allows you to avoid the boring trail and to see the beautiful lakes south of Harriet Lake. The meadow located in the upper part of Foerster Creek is worth seeing too, though I doubt the wildflower extravaganza from 2-3 weeks ago still exist, if there are no gardens of wildflowers around Harriet and the lower lakes then they will gone from the meadow.
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: 8039
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek

Postby oldhikerQ » Tue Aug 30, 2016 12:45 pm

Ivray,
Many thanks for the Twin Island Lakes trip report. I've only been there once (in the early 90's) but am hoping to get back there in the next year or two.
Thanks for the memories and motivation.
Cheers
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost
User avatar
oldhikerQ
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 70
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2013 9:50 am
Location: South OC, CA
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: TR: Twin Island Lakes, Bench Canyon & Long Creek

Postby mcgenes » Wed Aug 31, 2016 6:03 pm

maverick wrote:
Same trip, but with Harriet Lake.


Marnie,

If you are comfy with class 2 crosscountry use the short cut over the ridge north of Isberg Peak, it will cut down considerably on your mileage, allows you to avoid the boring trail and to see the beautiful lakes south of Harriet Lake. The meadow located in the upper part of Foerster Creek is worth seeing too, though I doubt the wildflower extravaganza from 2-3 weeks ago still exist, if there are no gardens of wildflowers around Harriet and the lower lakes then they will gone from the meadow.


Thanks Maverick. Headed out tomorrow and just saw your note.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
User avatar
mcgenes
Topix Novice
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Aug 23, 2014 6:32 am
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], Google Adsense [Bot] and 11 guests