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TR: Lake Basin

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TR: Lake Basin

Postby steiny98 » Tue Sep 13, 2016 3:08 pm

My friend Ron and I, after our experience on the JMT last year, decided to strike out on some less traveled terrain. Having limited off trail experience we decided we would experiment with Lake Basin.

Day 1: Taboose Pass Trailhead to Bench Lake 11.1 Miles approx. 9.5 hours

We left LA around 5 AM and arrived at the Lone Pine Ranger Station for permit pickup around 8:30 AM. It took us about 30-45 minutes to make our way up Taboose Creek Road. This is not a fun road to drive.
At about 10 AM we began the long slog up Taboose Canyon. The trail is a varying mix of sand, dirt and scree. We were lucky that the temperatures were in the mid-70s.
1 Climbing Taboose Pass-min.JPG
Climbing up the Taboose Trail

The first good opportunity to fill up water is about 3 miles up the trail at the first creek crossing. We stopped here for lunch and rested in the shade. We crossed the creek and began the ascent up the south side of the canyon. There is a very pretty section of trail which took us up switchbacks in a shaded and wooded area. On the hike out we ran into a trail maintenance crew which did a phenomenal job clearing this stretch. Once out of this wooded section, there was more exposed steep uphill climbs, which is a very common theme for this trail. I honestly don’t even remember much of this stretch of trail, it was hot, and it just seemed like an endless amount of steep climbing. Just kept putting one foot in front of the next. We finally reach the second creek crossing at the 4.5 mile mark.
2 Taboose Canyon Panorama-min.JPG
View of Taboose Canyon

There are a couple established sites here and would be a good place to camp if someone wanted to break up the pass into two days. Fast forward past more of the same steep exposed climb we finally made it to Taboose Pass. In September there were still snowfields and it looked like someone had some fun glissading down one of them. There is a series of small tarns spread out across the level pass, and we picked our way to the Taboose Pass sign where we were spoiled with phenomenal views of the Muro Blanco canyon with Bench Lake perched above it. The climb was worth the view.
3 Taboose Pass Panorama-min.JPG
Taboose Pass Pano

17 Muro Blanco-min.JPG
View of Bench Lake from Taboose Pass

It was a quick walk 4ish miles down to Bench Lake. The meadow below the pass is quite beautiful, I imagine during the Spring it is spectacular. We made our way to Bench Lake, and made the final stroll into the area by headlamp.


Day 2: 6.46 Miles approx. 7 hours
I woke up around 6 AM and quickly set up my fly rod and was soon standing at the lake’s edge looking for a place to fish. I began on the Northeast side of the lake across from an island and saw plenty of fish rising closer to the island which I couldn’t reach. I went to a smaller lake from the outlet of Bench directly to the Northeast and had great luck with smaller fish. As the sun rose I returned to the previously fished area and was able to see a ton of fish cruising the shoreline at the area choked between the island and main lake. As I just learned to fly fish this summer, and have only been fishing streams on the east coast, I have never fished a lake like this teeming with fish. It was fun experimenting with different patterns and just casting out and seeing all the fish approach and bite on the flies. I found the best flies here the Grey Elk Hair Caddis size 16, Black Ant size 16, and Hopper pattern size 16. After fishing for a few hours we packed up camp and set off to Cartridge Pass.
5 Arrow Peak on Bench Lake-min.JPG

We went Southwest from our site to the end of the lake and turned North toward the South Fork of the Kings River. The descent was very steep in sections, but we were able to find a few different game trails which eased the descent.
6 Muro Blanco view-min.JPG
View into Muro Blanco during descent from Bench Lake

7 Descent from Bench-min.JPG
Descending from Bench Lake

Slow and steady, and a couple of slips on pine needles later, we made our way down to the Kings River and hugged its south shore until we spotted signs of a use trail on the north side. We sat for lunch, filled up water, and began the hunt for the Cartridge Pass use trail. We began the ascent of Cartridge Pass, seemingly losing the use trail every five minutes. Once we climbed up about 300 feet it was easy to follow.
8 Ascending Cartridge-min.JPG
Ascending switchbacks from Kings River

The first section is in a nicely wooded section providing plenty of shade. We found the 1,000 foot climb from the river to the lake at 10,860 feet to be steep but not as bad as Taboose Pass the previous day. We slowly made our way to the lake and enjoyed the views in this area. There were fish in the lake, and this would be an ideal place to camp.
9 Unnamed 10600 Lake below Cartridge-min.JPG
Lake at 10,860 below Cartridge Pass

10 Unnamed 10600 Lake Panorama-min.JPG
Lake at 10,860

We continued around the north side of the lake, lost the trail, and spotted what we thought was a gully that would lead us to the next lake before the final ascent of the pass. We found the trail at the bottom of the gully and climbed to the final lake before the pass. We spotted the long and steep switchback to the pass, and quickly made our way to the top excited for the views of Lake Basin at the top.
11 Ascent of Cartridge-min.JPG
You can see the switchback across the middle

The view into Lake Basin was magnificent. It was windy at the top of the pass so we quickly descended into the basin. The first section down was very easy, but the bottom half was quite steep and slippery in sections, so we took our time making our way down. I’m sure for many of you on HST this is a cakewalk, but we are not used to this kind of terrain. It was very fun to go down, and I’d definitely like to explore more cross country passes.
12 View into Lake Basin-min.JPG
View into Lake Basin

We followed the use trail past the top two lakes and then picked our way down to the lake at 10,632 feet. We met a very friendly guy named Mike who was section hiking the HSR. There was another group of three individuals at the lake as well but we did not see them. We set up camp and made dinner. I was fast asleep soon thereafter.
Last edited by steiny98 on Wed Sep 14, 2016 5:31 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: TR: Lake Basin

Postby steiny98 » Tue Sep 13, 2016 3:23 pm

14 Campsite Lake BAsin-min.JPG
Campsite Lake Basin Lake 10,632


Day 3: 3.69 Miles
This was one of the best days I’ve had in the backcountry. It was the Sierras at its finest. I woke up early again and set out to fish the lake. I fished the inlet section of the lake. It was again a surreal experience seeing the lake so alive with fish jumping and rising as the sun was slowly coming up. I wished Mike good trails and a safe ascent, and more importantly descent, of Frozen Lake Pass as he set out for the day. I was having great luck with ant patterns here.
13 Fish from Lake 10660 Lake Basin-min.JPG
Fish I caught at Lake 10,632 in Lake Basin

After a couple hours of fishing I met Ron who was sleeping in and we had breakfast. Today would be his first day fly fishing so we went to the narrow section of the lake which had a ton of fish cruising the shore and we began casting. They didn’t seem very interested in what we were offering so we packed a day bag and made our way to Marion Lake for the day. In my opinion, this is the crown jewel of Lake Basin.
14 Marion Lake Pano-min.JPG
Marion Lake

The water was some of the bluest I’d seen, and yet crystal clear. We set up on the east side of the outlet of Marion Lake and wet our lines. Ron quickly caught his first trout on a foam ant pattern. It was such easy fishing! There were rises happening all over the place, and there were tons of fish cruising this section of the lake. We hung out here for the day and I had better luck on the west side of the lake. I unfortunately did not have my phone on me to take a picture of the largest fish I caught of the trip, something in the 12”-13” range.
14 MArion Lake Fish-min.JPG
Me with a fish I caught at Marion Lake

This was a fun place to spend the day being lazy and enjoying the scenery. At around 4 PM we headed back to the site, broke it down, and headed up the basin. We thought about doing Frozen Lake Pass to head into Upper Basin, so we climbed up a hill to catch a good view. Neither one of us were 100% confident in our skills on the descent of Cartridge Pass, so we decided that the safer thing to do would be to head back the way we came. We’d have to build up our cross country skills a bit more before tackling a 2/3 class pass like that. We set up camp at the second lake from Cartridge Pass and cooked dinner. The moon was so bright we didn’t even need headlamps.
15 Lake Basin Pano-min.JPG
Lake Basin Night 2


Day 4: 15.58 miles approx. 10 hours
At 8 AM we hit the trail with the goal of making it to the lakes below Striped Mountain. We were at the top of the pass in a half hour, and were at the Kings River an hour later.
19 looking up cartridge-min.JPG
Looking up Cartridge Pass from Lake Basin

We were making our way down the trail much faster than we anticipated. We followed the North side of the Kings River to the first of three avalanche slide areas and hopped our way across the boulders. This was a lot of fun. The size of the boulders was staggering.
16 Boulder Field-min.JPG
Boulder Hopping


We found the use trail along the north side of the river and quickly made our way to the JMT. As soon as we hit the JMT we counted 14 hikers in the 20 minutes we spent eating lunch and refilling water at a creek crossing. We continued up the JMT and hit the Taboose Pass spur trail at 12:45. At this point we decided to make a push for the car to give me an extra day with my family before I headed back to the east coast. At 2 PM we made it to Taboose Pass and down we went. As we made our way down to the car we were surprised at how steep the trail up is. I guess you can’t really tell how steep something is until you make your way down it. At 6 PM we made it to the car. A phenomenal trip.

A big thanks to the HST community, you guys are awesome, and made it very easy to help plan this trip. I had a great time in my first foray into partial off trail travel and can’t wait to get some more experience off trail to eventually reach some of the more remote locations you all post about.
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Re: TR: Lake Basin

Postby maverick » Tue Sep 13, 2016 3:40 pm

Thanks for the TR and pictures, the reflection of Arrow in Bench is a classic, and you are correct about that meadow beneath Taboose Pass in July, the wildflowers are gorgeous, as are the wildflower gardens on the northern side of the trail while going in to Bench Lake from the JMT. :nod:
Wise decision on not doing Frozen Lake Pass.

PS Here is one from July below Taboose.
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Re: TR: Lake Basin

Postby sekihiker » Tue Sep 13, 2016 7:05 pm

Thanks for the nice report of a trip through beautiful country.
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Re: TR: Lake Basin

Postby Bluewater » Tue Sep 13, 2016 8:21 pm

Thanks for your TR and photos. You guys made some tough miles the first two days! I took a similar route in August, but in the other direction, from Lakes Basin down to Muro Blanco and back up toward Bench Lake. The trail on the lower section of Cartridge Pass was hard to follow, and the x/c up the other side was more pleasant than I expected. Lakes Basin is really special, a real nice combination of lakes, creeks, streams and big scenery. I could spend a week there just exploring and fishing. Thanks for the reminder :)
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Postby balzaccom » Tue Sep 13, 2016 10:03 pm

Great report! Thanks for posting this.

looks like you're hooked for good on fly fishing, huh?
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check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: TR: Lake Basin

Postby steiny98 » Wed Sep 14, 2016 5:40 am

Thanks everyone.

Balzaccom- Absolutely. I had too much fun with the fishing out there. I was surprised how the time flew on our off day at Marion... I was planning on reading and relaxing but just ended up fishing the entire time.
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Re: TR: Lake Basin

Postby cefire » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:23 am

Awesome TR, thanks for sharing!
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Re: TR: Lake Basin

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Sep 14, 2016 1:16 pm

You had a good introduction to Lakes Basin. Next time, do not skip the lakes below Striped Mountain.

Some of the smaller ponds in Lakes Basin also have good fishing. Like others said, one could easily spend a week in Lakes Basin.
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