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Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

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Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Postby Hobbes » Wed Nov 08, 2017 7:04 am

The reason these types of low points make such an impression on me is because they are usually located in areas that I normally reach in the afternoon. So, they are naturally warmer/hotter, they're in the trees, they can be dusty, a lot of times they are horse-packer zones, and I'm dying (I'm a morning person).

If you've read/have Roper's Sierra High Route book, you can really begin to understand his impression of looking up at the high ridges and wondering what the heck he was doing sweating down below.

Having hiked with my son and talking to various group leaders, there's a line between "this is the most bitchin' thing I've done" to "I hate this friggin' forced march; I'm never doing this again". LOL

It may just me projecting, but I've yet to experience anyone looking out from either a 12k pass or 14k peak and feeling anything other than elation, (Well, maybe a little AMS.) But a hot, dusty trail down in the trees during mid-day, with the prospect of having to climb back up into the refreshing heights?

Break down city, baby.



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Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Postby Gazelle » Wed Nov 08, 2017 12:39 pm

Have not done either trailhead but have been up Baxter lakes trail from dollar lake it can be hard to follow but you wont get lost if you lose it, and in my opinion Baxter lakes compared to woods lakes area....Woods lake area wins BY far!!!
The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before. Albert Einstein
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Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Postby Hobbes » Wed Nov 08, 2017 1:05 pm

Kristine, that's good to know you concur. In case the OP didn't see my report, here are my impressions of Sawmill/Woods lake:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=16435

With respect to the OP's planned group trip, perhaps Homer Simpson can be paraphrased. I've always enjoyed his moan "why do actions have consequences?" as some disaster befalls him. In this case, it would be "why do good places require so much work to reach?"

I think having a plan of hiking from Kearsarge to Sawmill would be a good goal, but stashing a car @ Baxter would provide a nice back-up exit for any hiccups that invariably occur.
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Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Postby oleander » Wed Nov 08, 2017 6:36 pm

I'm going to go against the grain, and recommend exiting Baxter.

I've been over both Baxter & Sawmill passes. Both lovely and interesting.

The reason I recommend Baxter is that you have limited time. Woods Lake, Sawmill Lake, etc. are indeed magnificent but you won't have time enough to do them justice if you only have 5 days total for your whole trip. (And I agree with the one person here who said that descending from Dollar Lake to Woods Creek and then back up the steep hill on the JMT to the Sawmill trail junction - is not very interesting or satisfying hiking.)

Instead, spend your last night at Baxter Lake as planned - with a Baxter Pass exit on your last day - and spend your middle two nights at some combination of: Rae Lakes, Dragon Lake, and Sixty Lakes Basin. Then make a point of really totally experiencing Sixty Lakes Basin and Dragon Lake. Lots and lots to see without rushing through there too fast.

I did that exact loop (in Keasarge, out Baxter) over a 7-day period, and felt it was just barely enough time.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Postby EpicSteve » Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:38 am

The approach to Baxter Pass from Dollar Lake is shorter and easier than the extra mileage and elevation gain to Sawmill. However, my partner and I found the trip from Baxter Lakes to the Baxter Pass TH to be a MUCH more taxing and time consuming grind than hiking from Woods Lake to the Sawmill Pass TH. Both trails are scenic, but the Woods Lake area is absolutely gorgeous. I regretted not having more time to spend there.

Incidentally, if you take the Sawmill Pass trail, be forewarned that Mule Lake may not have any water in it. You're going a bit earlier in the season (we were there at the beginning of September) but it was bone dry on our trip.
“I don’t deny that there can be an element of escapism in mountaineering, but this should never overshadow its real essence, which is not escape but victory over your own human frailty.”

- Walter Bonatti
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Re: Baxter or Sawmill pass for an exit?

Postby bobby49 » Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:33 pm

I had been in the Sixty Lake Basin, then came out to the JMT. I got onto the (unmaintained) Baxter Pass Trail headed toward Baxter Lakes. The trail became impossible to find, but as long as I just headed east it was no problem. Once through the pass, I descended and camped one night. Then I descended more and reached the stream crossing around 8400'. There was one huge log across the rushing water, and I had it sized up by the time I reached it. There was one Army-clothed stranger on the opposite side, and he seemed totally blocked by the stream crossing. Once I got across the log, that gave him more courage. I continued my descent and discovered two of his Army buddies still struggling uphill. Eventually I made it down to the trailhead, but there was nobody around. I had hoped to hitch a ride to Independence. I walked down to the fish hatchery, and that kicked my butt. It was hot and dusty, and I was starting to run low on water. Around the hatchery, I was able to hitch a ride to Independence. From there, I was able to hitch a ride up to Onion Valley where my car was parked. The Baxter Pass Trail isn't simple, yet it isn't terrible either.
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