Best Campsites in Ionian Basin

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Bishop_Bob
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Best Campsites in Ionian Basin

Post by Bishop_Bob » Wed Dec 09, 2020 7:01 pm

I'm eyeing a route through the IB next summer. I haven't traveled this region before, but I know from HST that it features a paucity of campsites because of its rocky character and want of foliage. For those of you that have been to this area, can you recommend any particular sites for camping? Likewise, are there sections you would say have no adequate sites for camping such that I should expect to pass through them without stopping for the night?

Ideally, I'm looking for spots that are bigger than an adequate space to throw a bivy, but if the weather is fair, I can manage such sparse accommodations.

My plan is to enter via Ionian Pass, heading west, with the expectation of exiting via Wanda Pass or the summit of Mt Goddard en route to Davis Lake and McGee Lakes. If you have comments about camping in the latter 2 regions, I welcome those, too. Given the descriptions of the terrain in all of these areas, my daily mileage expectation is conservative.








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Re: Best Campsites in Ionian Basin

Post by LMBSGV » Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:28 pm

My one trip wandering Ionian Basin was in 2004 so things my have changed a little since then. There was a great campsite below Black Giant Pass on the west end of Lake 11,828. Also a good one at Chasm Lake, the reverse "L" shaped lake below the cliffs west and below lake 11,828, and the smaller lake north of the L shaped lake. I ran into a couple of men who camped at one of the lakes east and below Charybdis who said that was good.

At Davis Lake, there was a great location at the west end of the small peninsula opposite the large peninsula that separates the two larger Davis Lakes (Lake 11,058 and Lake 11,052). There was also a good campsite near the north bay of Lake 11,052 near the creek that flows out the tiny lake north of Davis Lake and another site above where Goddard Creek flows out of Lake 11,052.

At McGee Lakes, I’ve only camped at an excellent site the west end of Lake 10,816 and didn’t get a chance to explore further. Have a great trip, if you go.
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Re: Best Campsites in Ionian Basin

Post by CAMERONM » Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:34 pm

The term "campsites" seems a misnomer for Ionian, at least for where I traveled. The pock-marked lunar appearance on topos is accurate, with loose rocks everywhere. You will certainly find a place to settle down, but more bivy-like. However, while the topos may suggest slow-going, I moved through much faster than anticipated. Strange and wonderful.

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Re: Best Campsites in Ionian Basin

Post by Bishop_Bob » Thu Dec 10, 2020 5:52 am

Correction: I'm entering via Black Giant Pass, not Ionian Pass. Thanks for the replies thus far.

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Re: Best Campsites in Ionian Basin

Post by sekihiker » Thu Dec 10, 2020 8:36 am

I've camped in the Ionian Basin a couple of times, once with a friend. My memory of those experiences did not center on finding a place to sleep but more on just finding a way to get across it. I do not remember any areas to set up a large camp, just bed-sized places. There is no doubt that the area feels very remote. Here is a link to a report for one of the trips that took me through the basin: http://www.sierrahiker.com/EnchantedGorge/index.html

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Re: Best Campsites in Ionian Basin

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Dec 10, 2020 10:16 am

You will likely have to camp closer to water sources than "legal" but this can be mitigated by one-night stays only, tooth brushing etc up farther from the shore, and minimizing tromping around the campsite a lot. Since most sites are quite lumpy, a thick sleeping pad is desirable. If going with others, sharing a tent is better than trying to find two sites. Leave sufficient time at the end of the day to hunt for sites. You may have to move to the next lake. Do not expect perfect sites- take what you get and deal with lumpiness, slope and a pebbly ground. You may have to set up on wet ground so be sure your tent can keep the water out. Drainage is not good so other than on grassy hummocks, you may get a bit flooded in a rainstorm, so set up some drainage. I know this is not "environmentally OK" but a drainage channel can be then filled when you leave. Also, a self-standing tent is better since you may not be able to drive many stakes into the rock soil. Another strategy is to do an early season trip, be prepared to walk on snow (traction devices) and then camp on snow. This would require a proper sleeping pad. Slopes between lakes are quite steep, so I would not do this unless you are proficient at snow travel, and bring an ice axe.

There are sufficient campsites at McGee Lakes that I would not worry about that area. There are small grassy flat spots right on the shore of Davis Lake on the east/southeast end. I have never been along the north shore or outlet, but from Google Earth, there are likely good sites there.

As for Ionian Basin itself, I have also camped at the sites noted by LMBSGV. I have walked along the north and east shores of the large lake south of Wanda Pass and noted wind-protected sites, but cannot remember how big they were. There are also sites just down off the south shore near the outlet. I camped at one of these and found an arrowhead! The site was flat dirt. Problem with the outlet is the wind can get quite stiff. I have also camped on the bench below Mt Scyla. It will depend on time of year- a lot of the flat dirt sites are soggy or under water when the snow is melting. You may prefer a late season trip. There are also lots of places on the bench west of Goddard, north of Martha Lake. Martha Lake has lots of flat ground and suitable for large tents, but is quite windy.

These are the only photos I could find of my campsites.


Chasm_Lake_ALT.jpg
116_1618_IonianCamp.JPG
1143_LMcGee_camp.jpg
116_1602B.JPG
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Re: Best Campsites in Ionian Basin

Post by OutdoorRandy » Fri Dec 11, 2020 7:55 am

I did 3 trips through the Ionian Basin in the 1980's, the last with 7 people. We found places to camp. As I recall we camped on the southeastern shore of lake 1. On what I marked as lake 2 I first camped near the lake on the southern shore but that was cold and there was only 2 of us. The next 2 times we camped away from the lake a bit on flat rocks south of the lake. I saw another Ionian Basin post a while back and that's where they camped too.
Ionian Basin.jpg
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Re: Best Campsites in Ionian Basin

Post by stevet » Fri Dec 11, 2020 9:56 am

As you proceed from Black Giant to Wanda Pass most of the camping opportunity is on "bivy-sized" patches, tent size spots are few. Among them: just over Black Giant Pass at the NE end of Lake 11828. This is a pretty good option if you arrive late-ish in the day or mid-day and want a base from which to summit Black Giant. Once you drop to the floor of the basin itself the "boot shaped" lake to the immediate left has very limited camping, I camped legally this summer, but the rock free gravel patch was scarcely 2' wide and just under 6' long.

Toward the northern end of the basin are two relatively shallow ponds. Early in the season, or a wet year this area is quite boggy. Too late or in a dry year (like this one) they are basically cracked surface mud flats. I passed through in August 2012 and encountered 5 people on break from a trail crew camped there, it was temptingly beautiful but I let them have it and moved on.

Continuing west there is another rock bound pond and then the down climb to Chasm Lake. Maybe 50' above the NE shore, and south of the waterfall draining the Ionian Basin is room enough for a couple tents.

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Re: Best Campsites in Ionian Basin

Post by thegib » Fri Dec 11, 2020 5:48 pm

I second Chasm lake - no issues there.

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Re: Best Campsites in Ionian Basin

Post by Bishop_Bob » Wed Dec 30, 2020 5:14 am

Thanks to everyone for the info. I've plotted markers of your suggestions on the map I'm building on CalTopo.

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