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Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

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Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

Postby Scouter9 » Fri May 17, 2013 11:25 am

I've been over Kearsarge Pass, many years ago, and we just walked right by Pothole, Flower and Gilbert lakes on our way out to the trailhead. I didn't scope out campsites and I don't remember very much at all. However, I'm going back in the Fall, for the purpose of a very short, overnighter trek with Scouts, using Onion Valley TH and going only 3-5 miles up. The purpose is to take a crew that don't have time for our larger (and more northerly) treks, and to "hook 'em" with eye candy and some decent fishing. The mileage is intentionally quite short.

With that context, I need some advice and insight:

--What are the campsite/great spots around Gilbert, Flower and maybe even up to Pothole lakes? If you were only going that far, which would you set camp at, and is there a great place to do so? I'm particularly interested to be away from, or at least above, the trail since I will have a pretty large group on the permit.

--How's the fishing in those lakes? If you're a lure fisher, which commercial lures and sizes would you suggest for this area?

--I'm getting mixed responses from the Ranger stations regarding the TH at Onion Valley. Some have suggested it would be totally cool for my group to arrive late Friday night, park at the TH, sleep there, cook in the morning and head out. Another suggested we must use the Onion Valley campground. (Either way, we're gonna be those guys, pulling into camp at 11:30pm). What's your take, and advice on this?

--Any chance of that chairlift being installed, so I can just ride up and toss water bottles at the trash cans? :whistle:



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Re: Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

Postby maverick » Fri May 17, 2013 12:12 pm

Gilbert Lake has poor and over used campsites dotting the shores but is a
great swimming lake, and fishing for rainbow & brook trout is good in
early season. Gilbert and Flower Lake absorb most of the day-hiking impact.
There are many numerous highly used campsites along the north and east sides
of this Flower Lake, and fishing for rainbow and some brook trout is fair.
Matlock (http://www.flickr.com/photos/agreco/4881408144/) and Bench Lakes
are much more scenic and offer a lot more solitude if you do not mind going a
little further.
Chairlift is slated for 2015. :D
Last edited by maverick on Fri May 17, 2013 12:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Added text
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Re: Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

Postby Ikan Mas » Fri May 17, 2013 12:24 pm

We inadvertently had a similar situation with our scouts in 2003. Here's some intel based on that experience.

Onion Valley fills up pretty quickly, especially on a weekend, so if you don't have reservations, the camp nazi may not be too accommodating of a group of scouts. Either make reservations in advance or consider going up the trail.

The group had decided to get a couple miles up the trail while cars were shuttled to Whitney Portal. We returned from shuttling after sunset. We could hear the bear coming down the mountain, terrorizing the camp dogs as he made his way through camp. :bear: We were concerned about meeting him on the trail, but we continued by flashlight. It was cool in the dark, but missed the scenery

We found the rest of the group by stumbling (literally) over them in the middle of the trail. They couldn't see far off the trail, and decided to sleep where they dropped their packs. Not having much choice, we did the same. Here is the scene in the morning:
Image
I think the adventure of hiking in the dark made up for the rock pillows.

Continuing on up toward Kersarge Pass, here is a photo of Pothole Lake:
Image
Pothole Lake is aptly named. If you were thinking you could camp near the water, think otherwise. I don't know what is at the lakes below, as it was dark when I went by.

Above Pothole, but below Kersarge Pass, there is at least one area that looks campable:
Image

Good luck with your hike.
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Re: Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

Postby richlong8 » Fri May 17, 2013 2:05 pm

Matlock Lake and the other lakes in that basin to the south of Flower Lake are very pretty, but they have been gillnetted. A group could camp in the Matlock area, and just walk over the short distance to Flower, Pothole, and Gilbert to fish. I found the fishing at Gilbert and Flower lakes mediocre, because so many people fish them, but there are spots to camp if you get there early enough. I have seen many people car camping at Onion Valley trailhead over the years, without it being a big deal, but there are camp bears around that parking lot. On busy weekends, you could get enforcement minded government personnel that take exception to a group sleeping in the parking lot. One suggestion: if you can possibly go out of the Bishop area instead of Onion Valley, I think you might have a trip that meets your criteria, 3-5 miles, memorable, and a better chance of good fishing.
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Re: Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

Postby Scouter9 » Fri May 17, 2013 2:58 pm

This is great info, and I really appreciate the bit about Matlock having been gill-netted --I'd be standing there, just sure there'd be a bite coming...any minute now...any minute... Ha ha!!

I think the photo of the boys sleeping, literally, in the trail is hilarious! Of course, I recognize part of the hilarity is how rare that is. Better than falling off a ledge, I reckon.

I just came across a photo of that TH parking lot, with a "no camping" sign clearly in the shot. Well, rats! I can't really do that. We're going up after Labor Day, mid September actually. What do you folks predict for space at Onion Valley campground on the walk-ins? I could have up to a full permit (15) if enough boys sign up. In a pinch, I guess I could set camp in the TH parking lot, then pack up & bug out in the morning before making breakfast a mile up the hill, but it'd have to be a pinch. (After 6 hours in rush hour 15 and 395 traffic, one's perspective might change.)
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Re: Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

Postby Scouter9 » Fri May 17, 2013 3:02 pm

Rich, I'm very interested in the route out of Bishop with better fishing! I've already got the permit for this Onion Valley idea, though. If only on principal, I swear I'm gonna get some of these guys that keep balking up into the Sierra!

Hey, it's an overnighter. They don't have to dig a cathole if they can hold it. #-o Some of the 12 and 13 years olds will.
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Re: Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

Postby maverick » Fri May 17, 2013 3:23 pm

Why not Little Lakes Valley? Minimal effort, outstanding scenery, and fun fishing.
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Re: Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

Postby richlong8 » Fri May 17, 2013 4:44 pm

maverick wrote:Why not Little Lakes Valley? Minimal effort, outstanding scenery, and fun fishing.

Little Lakes Valley is actually a great idea. Permits are much easier to get after Labor Day, in mid-September, for almost everywhere. I don't know if you can get a refund if you cancel a permit, and go somewhere else, but it might be worth it to nail the trip down for the sake of the kids.
If you do choose Bishop Creek trailheads: South Lake: go to Long lake or Bull lake, should fit your criteria. North lake: go to Lamark lakes. Lake Sabrina: go to Blue lake. They would probably catch fish at all those locations, and they are all about 3 miles from the end of the road/trailhead.
But Little lakes valley is easier hiking than the Bishop trails, and gives you more flexibility for lakes to visit.
Info is readily available on this site, and all over the internet on any of the areas named.
Good luck.
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Re: Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

Postby sparky » Fri May 17, 2013 5:58 pm

Scouter: It might be a little adventurous, but hiking under a full moon is an experience everyone must have once in their lives. I have done this many a friday night. It is a little spooky solo, but really fun with a group.

Matlock/Bench lake area makes for a good weekend from southern california as it is a little closer than Rock Creek. Can dayhike University Peak or Kearsarge Lakes via a few adventurous routes, or use the trail :thumbsup:

I use a great campsite by bench lake but you arent all going to fit there

DSCN0439 (600x800).jpg
bench lake
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Re: Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

Postby Scouter9 » Fri May 17, 2013 6:10 pm

I love moonlight backpacking and "use it" on a more advanced trip with fellas that have been out there before. This one is going to have youth that have only backpacked on overnighters in SoCal and is intended to give them at least a 1000' climb, a pop up over the magic 10k and a maximum of free time.

I have a general goal on treks that, when we get back, the guys say, "that was great, but I want to go further next time."
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Re: Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

Postby maverick » Fri May 17, 2013 6:18 pm

20 Lakes Basin is another great one right outside of Yosemite.
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Re: Need Advice on Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Bench Lake, etc...

Postby sparky » Fri May 17, 2013 6:38 pm

This is way off the charts, and I am just shooting from the hip, but I think Pear Lake out of Wolverton is one of the better short hikes I have done. I don't think it fits into what you are looking for....it is a bit of a grunt and the milage is a little high, but that exfoliating granite chute leading into the Tablelands is very enticing :D Lots of fun to be had around there too.....below the ranger station is really cool
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