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Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

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Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

Postby calipidder » Tue Feb 03, 2009 10:22 pm

Hello all - I'm spending my winter months with my nose buried in NG topo, pining away for summer in the high sierra. I think I've picked out most of my 5-7 day trips, and there are a few questions I have about one of the routes I've got planned.

I've wanted to get back into evolution basin since passing through on the JMT back in 2006. I've also heard that McGee Lakes are beautiful, so I'd like to do a trip that combines them.

The people that will accompany me on this trip will be sierra-experienced and strong backpackers - I'd like something that might have some challenges like off trail travel, but is more of a relax and enjoy the fishing/sites/photography/wandering type trip instead of knocking off the miles/peaks. This will be done late-season right after some other high-mileage sierra trips, so we'll be pretty acclimated and strong, too.

Here's my planned itinerary with questions.

Day 1: Start at North Lake. Over Lamarck Col, into Darwin Canyon. Camp Darwin Canyon somewhere
Questions: Is there any good fishing in Darwin? Where are the best campsites? I haven't been in here before. Is there a good map with the Lamarck col trail hanging out there somewhere on the interwebz? I've found a few, but I don't know how accurate they are.
Day 2: Darwin Canyon, join the JMT, follow it down into Evolution Valley, leave the JMT and head up into McGee Lakes.
Questions: Fishing in McGee Canyon? McGee Lakes? Optimal photography campsites? What is the trail like up McGee Canyon? Is there any trick to finding it from the JMT in Evolution Valley?
Day 3: Over McGee Pass and into Evolution Basin. Camp at Evolution Lake at my super-secret-super-awesome campsite.
Questions: how is mcgee pass? Pictures I've seen make me think there is a trail, but I'm not sure. Secor says it's class 2, which is fine, I'm just wondering if there is easy to follow trail. I'll tell you my super secret super awesome campsite in exchange. :)
Day 4: Dayhike in Evolution Basin. I'll be bringing my husband along who has never been in this particular stretch of the JMT, so I'd like to do a day trip up to Muir Pass to take him to the hut and show off this incredible area.
Day 5: Back out over Lamarck to North Lake.

Thanks!



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Re: Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

Postby LMBSGV » Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:51 am

I did a very similar trip last summer (see trip report):

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3692

The trail up McGee Canyon is relatively easy to follow (in the lower portion it tends to go diagonally north but if you listen to the creek you'll be okay) and a beautiful hike. To find it, at the north end of Colby Meadow, follow the side trail to the campsites by Evolution Creek and wade the creek. There's a large duck on the other side marking the trail up to McGee Lakes. I'm not sure what the optimal photography campsites are at McGee Lakes. I found McGee Lakes one of the best and most beautiful places I've ever camped in the Sierra and the campsite choices are many. I suspect almost anywhere offers spectacular photo opportunities. I camped at a spot overlooking the second lake by the outlet creek above the waterfall and can't complain. (See the photos on the trip report for examples.) Your husband should thank you after the day hike up to Muir Pass. Those few miles are one of the most sublime hikes anywhere in the world.
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Re: Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

Postby TehipiteTom » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:14 am

calipidder wrote:Day 3: Over McGee Pass and into Evolution Basin. Camp at Evolution Lake at my super-secret-super-awesome campsite.
Questions: how is mcgee pass? Pictures I've seen make me think there is a trail, but I'm not sure. Secor says it's class 2, which is fine, I'm just wondering if there is easy to follow trail. I'll tell you my super secret super awesome campsite in exchange. :)

My recollection is that there's an intermittent use trail, but in any case from the east side it'll be fairly obvious where the pass is and where you need to go.
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Re: Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

Postby oldranger » Wed Feb 04, 2009 11:22 am

No doubt McGee lakes are beautiful. Lots of small golden trout. The trail from Colby meadow to about 1/2 mile below the lakes is a nice cruise. Last 1/2 mile a little tougher.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

Postby maverick » Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:38 pm

I think the best campsites are on Darwin Bench.
The area around the lakes in Darwin Canyon is really rocky, but you can find campsites,
but DB is really pretty with a great view to boot.
Tom Harrison Mono Divide High Country Trail Map is all you need.
Get a very early start if you plan on getting to Darwin Bench the first day, also make
sure everyone in the group can handle the elevation otherwise you'll have to deal with
someone getting ams(spending a night at Lamarck Lake is what some people do), though
I have not had a problem so far with getting over in a day.
McGee Pass is an easy 2 don't sweat it.
I/2 way up McGee Creek in McGee Canyon is supposed to be a great fishing place with
some nice size trout.
If your into climbing there is a class 3 route up the north face of The Hermit
which has great views from the summit!
Phil Arnot's book "High Sierra" has a well written description of the Lamarck Col route and
Darwin Canyon plus many other trips in the Sierra which is worth reading.
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Re: Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:32 pm

calipidder wrote:Day 1: Start at North Lake. Over Lamarck Col, into Darwin Canyon. Camp Darwin Canyon somewhere
Questions: Is there any good fishing in Darwin? Where are the best campsites? I haven't been in here before. Is there a good map with the Lamarck col trail hanging out there somewhere on the interwebz? I've found a few, but I don't know how accurate they are.
Day 2: Darwin Canyon, join the JMT, follow it down into Evolution Valley, leave the JMT and head up into McGee Lakes.
Questions: Fishing in McGee Canyon? McGee Lakes? Optimal photography campsites? What is the trail like up McGee Canyon? Is there any trick to finding it from the JMT in Evolution Valley?
Day 3: Over McGee Pass and into Evolution Basin. Camp at Evolution Lake at my super-secret-super-awesome campsite.
Questions: how is mcgee pass? Pictures I've seen make me think there is a trail, but I'm not sure. Secor says it's class 2, which is fine, I'm just wondering if there is easy to follow trail. I'll tell you my super secret super awesome campsite in exchange. :)
Thanks!

A few answers. Day 1. There are some large goldens in the Darwin Canyon Lakes. Fishing can be off and on, but its been good to me in my two visits.
Day 2. McGee Lakes etc. The approach is no problem, pretty straightforward class 2. My experience in McGee Lakes mirrors oldranger's. Smallish goldens. I heard a report (after my visit) that there is one lake among the McGees that actually has large fish, but it wasn't one I visited while there.
Day 3. If you'd like something a bit different take a look at the big unnamed lake upstream of Sapphire. There are some choice hideaway spots there too (bigger fish than Evolution and Sapphire, too).
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

Postby calipidder » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:33 pm

Thanks so much everyone! I'm not settled on the exact itinerary yet, but I do know I want to make a loop out of that region, and your feedback is most definitely helping. Is it August yet?
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Re: Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

Postby SSSdave » Wed Feb 04, 2009 10:20 pm

With a heavier pack, going over the Col in a day is about 3800 feet or rather strenuous. And the downhill side is painful in places like around talus about DC lake #4. Upper Lamarck Lake is a very deep lake with some sizeable fish away from the easy boring east end. The 12k elevation on the way to the Col is a good place to camp for a photographer that always has water. Scenically Darwin Bench is better than Evolution Lake. McGee Lakes reminds me of Sixty Lakes Basin but without all the people. The crosscountry pass east of McGee Lakes down to Evolution Creek and JMT has a steep pitch below the top where class 3 sections need to be avoided.
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Re: Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

Postby markorr » Wed Feb 18, 2009 1:07 pm

I agree w SSSDave,
Getting over Lamarck col and back down to Darwin Bench in a day would be rough. We came out that way at the end of 5 days from South Lake and I remember thinking I was glad we didn't start at North Lake to Lamarck col. That said Darwin Bench is much prettier than Darwin Canyon. We didn't drop into McGee lakes, but we did go up to the pass and look down. No worries in finding it or getting up there. Sounds like a fun trip
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Re: Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

Postby Phil R » Sun Feb 22, 2009 1:26 am

We were catching 12+ inch goldens in the Darwin Lakes using Super Dupers. One of my best fishing days ever.

I would plan for two days to get over Lamarck Col into Darwin Canyon.

Celebrated my 55th Birthday on Lamarck Col!!! Awesome!!!

Image
People are friendly at 6000 ft...and the higher you go, the friendlier they get.
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Re: Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

Postby Sierra Maclure » Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:03 pm

I went to DB in 2007 and circumnavigated the Hermit thru Mc Gee Canyon last year. Here's pix:
http://sierramaclure.smugmug.com/ Click on 2007 Backpacking and 2008 Backpacking to find the trip and pix. Awesome place in the heart of the High Sierra. No navigation problems. Just enjoy it. :)
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Re: Questions about planned summer trip (darwin/evolution/mcgee)

Postby calipidder » Thu Feb 26, 2009 11:42 pm

You guys all rock. My itinerary has been altered a bit based on feedback and the amount of time I have to play with. I'm going to take 6 days to make the lollipop loop over lamarck, through darwin, into evolution basin, over to mcgee lakes, down into evolution valley, and then back out through darwin and over lamarck col. I'm really looking forward to this trip, just have to call for permits next week. Should be a great way to end a season that also includes some northern JMT stuff and the High Sierra Trail.

Thanks for all your feedback!
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