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TR: X-Country Loop from Twin Lakes to Benson Lake

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TR: X-Country Loop from Twin Lakes to Benson Lake

Postby Asolthane » Thu Oct 13, 2016 8:08 pm

This was a route suggestion from Maverick. I went over July 4th weekend this year.

Here is a link to the map http://caltopo.com/m/UEPS

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I drove to Bridgeport from San Francisco Thursday leaving the city about 4:30. I slept in my car and was in line at the Ranger station at 7am. It was lucky I got there early, as there was quite a line and that trailhead is popular with climbers as well as backpackers.

Day 1: Twin Lakes to Maltby Lake.
I had a great day, met some really nice climbers from LA who where headed to climb "The Incredible Hulk." It turned out that they had been at the Ranger Station and that the person behind me in line was some world famous soloist who had been planning on climbing where they were headed. I didn't feel bad. It was fun having company on the hike in since I knew I would be alone for some time on this solo trip. Its an easy and very beautiful first day. I made a route finding error, which you can see here. I ran into an impassible wall of snow so I couldn't follow the red route, but blue was me being stubborn and ending up doing a sketchy move up on a ledge. Early in the season there could be some route finding challenges on this hike:
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Fishing at Maltby was ok, lots of 6" brookies.

Day 2: Maltby Lake, off trail through Slide Canyon to Dee Lake
I had a nice day, Slide canyon was absolutely beautiful, and there was no use trail to speak of but it was soft, open travel except for "the slide" where you have to navigate a boulder field (fun!). I did fall partway in while crossing a creek and get my boots and pants soaked. It was a bit lesson for me..while everything was fine and I just spend a couple hours in the sun drying out, I can see how easily that could have gone very wrong if I had gone all the way into the water with my pack on, or even if it had been late in the day. The mosquitos got worse the farther I got from the desert on the Eastern Slope. They were tolerable on this day, until the short slog off trail through the trees to Dee Lake, when they were insane.
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Fishing was ok in Slide Canyon, 6" brookies. I didn't have tremendous luck at Dee Lake, but who knows.

Day 3: Dee Lake - Tallulah Lake - Sister Lake - Shelf above Smedberg Lake
This day was all about mosquitos. I had a great time on the lawn in the wind (no mosquitos) at Tallulah. That was a pretty spot. There is this cool little slot canyon between the upper and lower lakes.
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The rest of the hikd to Sister Lake was a mosquito nightmare. Sister lake was pretty Image
but I wanted to find a place to camp with less mosquito pressure. I ended up camping on a bench above Smedberg Lake, which had enough wind to keep the mosquitos down.
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Fishing: I didn't see any fish or get any activity at Tallulah. Upper Tallulah was full of frogs, which made me wonder if the was a lake they had gillnetted.

Day 4: Smedberg Lake to Benson Lake
Smedberg lake was incredibly beautiful. I was sad to be back on trail (JMT) and start seeing people, but I can see why this lake would be in the JMT.
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Since I wanted to keep going x-country, I thought I would just follow the creek from Smedberg down to where it hit the trail rather than jumping on the JMT and going over the ridge. This was not worth the trouble, I spent the next hour route finding down slabs and shelves and needing to cross the creek multiple times. It's doable, but difficult and sketchy. Red is what I did, blue what you should do. Image
I continued on to Benson Lake. The creek that flows into Benson had some of the most amazing fishing I have ever experienced. The creek was teeming with 11-13" brook and rainbow trout.
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Benson lake blew my mind. in the book Sierra North they call it the Rivera of the Sierra. I found it breathtaking - the ampitheater like cliffs that frame it, the beautiful sandy beach, the fishing. I would like to spend more time there. I found an amazing campsite and enjoyed some 4:20 time getting all creative with my camera. Some of them came out ok:
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Fishing: Smedberg outlet was full of fish, but they were only taking dry flies and I lost my flybox! I only had one Tenkara style wetfly left at this point. I caught so many fish on that fly at the creek flowing into Benson that there was no hackle left, just a hook with some thread on it. At that point I begged a couple flies off another fisherman and went back to work :)

Day 5: Benson to offtrail Drainage over Seavey Pass
I spent the morning fishing at Benson again, and then headed over Seavey Pass. It was slow going, and my IT bad started to act up so I had to frequently stretch and go slow. I also detoured a bit up Rancheria Creek to check out the fishing, and because it was so pretty. Image
You can see in this photo where I camped, and also where I made made a navigational error on day 6 (red is error, blue is correct route) Image
It was nice being back off trail and having complete solitude again. The off trail slog from the trail to this drainage was :retard: because it was up a super steep drainage with lots of mosquitos. Campsite: Image
Fishing: No fish in the creek by where I camped.

Day 6: Nav. Error, Rock Island Lake, Tired of mosquitos go home early
I had brought enough food for 9 days, but the mosquito pressure had been so bad that I hadn't wanted to take a zero day and had kept it moving. I knew I could get to the car if I pushed it, but figured I would stop if I saw something that grabbed me. I booked it bast Rock Island lake Image and back on the trail to Rock Island Pass Image and past Snow Lake and just kept moving. I jumped in here, it was beautiful but freezing. Image. By the time I got past Crown Lake my IT band was really barking, and I was reduced to a pretty comical limp for the last 1.5 miles of the hike. I have since invested in hiking poles...I used to make fun of them but I guess I am old now and I need them. :crybaby: :eek:

This was an amazing itenerary. Thanks to @maverick for the suggestion. I would highly recommend it and I would return.



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Re: TR: X-Country Loop from Twin Lakes to Benson Lake

Postby windknot » Fri Oct 14, 2016 10:52 am

Awesome report and photos, thanks for sharing! I like how you use snapshots of the topo along the way -- it really helps to tell a compelling story. I also appreciate your honesty in outlining your true route. I shudder to think what my track would look like if I wore a GPS and/or tracked my actual footsteps contrasted with where I should have gone sometimes!
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: TR: X-Country Loop from Twin Lakes to Benson Lake

Postby maverick » Fri Oct 14, 2016 11:17 am

Very cool TR, and nice pictures, too bad about the mosquitoes. Check your PM. :)
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Re: TR: X-Country Loop from Twin Lakes to Benson Lake

Postby Asolthane » Fri Oct 14, 2016 5:58 pm

windknot wrote:Awesome report and photos, thanks for sharing! I like how you use snapshots of the topo along the way -- it really helps to tell a compelling story. I also appreciate your honesty in outlining your true route. I shudder to think what my track would look like if I wore a GPS and/or tracked my actual footsteps contrasted with where I should have gone sometimes!


Thanks! Yeah I will try and do that from now on with the topo.
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Re: TR: X-Country Loop from Twin Lakes to Benson Lake

Postby Asolthane » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:00 pm

maverick wrote:Very cool TR, and nice pictures, too bad about the mosquitoes. Check your PM. :)


You know, I had never been up there at the worst time of year...It wasn't so bad. Or maybe I just don't remember that part. A headnet is pretty key, that's for sure. Its pretty amazing that Sawyer Picardin works better than DEET (according to Consumer Reports) because I found it very effective and I feel better about using it plus it won't ruin my gear.

If I go back to Benson I am bringing an inflatable donught so I can ride the current down the inlet and fish from it out at the sandbar.
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Re: TR: X-Country Loop from Twin Lakes to Benson Lake

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Oct 16, 2016 5:01 pm

I have been driven out of Slide Canyon by mosquitoes! It was early season and I headed uphill to get out of that swamp! I suspect you have to do this area really early (while still freezing at night) or late in the season. Nice photos. Thanks for the trip report.
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Re: TR: X-Country Loop from Twin Lakes to Benson Lake

Postby sparky » Mon Oct 17, 2016 9:54 pm

The mosquitos up there are something else man. Just brutal. Looks like you had a good time and got some good photos though so well worth it.
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Re: TR: X-Country Loop from Twin Lakes to Benson Lake

Postby mediauras » Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:49 am

Awesome, thanks for the TR. I got a taste of this area a few years ago (hiked up past the Incredible Hulk as well) and am dying to go back. This is a good loop, I'm putting it onto my list of potential trips for next year. ... Maybe I should take up fishing for it. ;)
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Re: TR: X-Country Loop from Twin Lakes to Benson Lake

Postby Asolthane » Wed Oct 26, 2016 11:56 am

mediauras wrote:Awesome, thanks for the TR. I got a taste of this area a few years ago (hiked up past the Incredible Hulk as well) and am dying to go back. This is a good loop, I'm putting it onto my list of potential trips for next year. ... Maybe I should take up fishing for it. ;)


Well, you can get an entire tenkara setup for less than $100 and about a 5oz weight penalty. I think you would enjoy fishing the creek that flows into Benson, and Smedberg Lake for sure. Let me know if you do want to get into it I can suggest gear.
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Re: TR: X-Country Loop from Twin Lakes to Benson Lake

Postby Cross Country » Wed Oct 26, 2016 3:36 pm

Mike at Benson
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