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TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

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TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:06 pm

Part 2: Lakes near Seldon Pass

July 16. I was up at 6:30, quickly packed up the tent and drove up the road until I found a pull-out that had flat rocks so I could organize gear and eat my left-over steak dinner for breakfast. It was already a warm day and thankfully my spot was in lingering shade. I was planning on taking the ferry, but could not find the $20 I thought I had (found out later it was left on my kitchen table when I left home). I probably could have used my credit card, but decided that I did not want to go farther than Muir Trail Ranch because climbing the hill to Senger Creek in the afternoon heat would be too miserable, so some extra miles of walking would not hurt. I left the trailhead at 9:30AM and was plagued with little gnats and blackflies. Thankfully a wind picked up in a few hours to drive the little pests away. The trail is rather nice with good views of Florence Lake, although it is a bit “roller coaster”. I was surprised at the huge apparently new bridge across the San Joaquin. Since I had not planned to hike this section, I did not bring a map and did not anticipate the climb back up the north side to meet the trail from the ferry dock. At the junction I met a couple doing a day hike who were somewhat lost, so I pointed them to the trail to the bridge. I stopped for lunch. The heat was getting oppressive. The “trail” gets confusing with the inter-winding jeep road. A sign said “Muir Trial Ranch” so I took it. Soon I was down in the meadow with bugs, heat and a trail beat to fine dust by horses. Sitting down for a break, curious horses surrounded me. I came to a group of large tents, and was told this was not Muir Trail Ranch; it was down the road about half a mile. I was slowing to a snail’s pace, near heat exhaustion. I finally found the camp area at 3:15, set up my tent and immediately sat in the river! I had no desire to go to the hot springs. Many other hikers (mostly JMT folks) came wandering in. By evening there was quite a gathering. I met two women who lived near me so we exchanged phone numbers, perhaps to hike together in the future. I hit the sack early and slept well. (5.7 hrs, 8.1 miles, + 1325 feet).

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San Joaquin River from bridge

July 17. Up at dawn I quickly packed up and cooked breakfast, leaving at 6:45. I was so glad that the shadows lingered until I reached Senger Creek. Tons of JMT hikers were going down the trail. I quit counting after I had reached 20. I reached Sallie Keys Lakes by 9:45 and took my first real rest break. Sallie Keys lakes are very nice and full of little fish. The remaining hike up to Seldon Pass is breathtaking.

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Hear Lake from near Seldon Pass

At the top at 11:30 I spent time to just soak in the view of Marie Lake, scoping out where I was going to camp. I descended and then left the trail (and the crowds) and circled around the east shoreline of Marie Lake, first checking out the north end, not liking it, and returning to the shore at about mid-point to set up on a nice grassy bench a legal distance from the lake. A nice breeze kept bugs away. Marie Lake has a very complex shoreline, without much brush or trees (mostly rock) which was great for a fly fisherman like me, who always snags stuff on my back-cast. I fished from 2-4PM on the peninsula that looks like a boot. I could see fish cruising up and down below me, would cast, they would bite, and I could never hook one. After an hour of this (I guess you could call this bite and watch vs catch and release) I looked at my fly and discovered that the entire hook end was gone. I was fishing with a fly on a shaft. I put on a new fly and immediately caught a 10-inch and 7-inch Golden. Both were females full of eggs, quite healthy and fat. Then I cleaned the fish, and bathed to rid myself of fish smells. The weather was perfect. After dinner I wandered around taking photos. Although my campsite was scenic, it was terribly lumpy and on a slope so I slept terrible. Oh well, luckily I had an easy day ahead of me. (7.8 hrs, 8.2 miles, + 3520 feet)

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Marie Lake

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Fish from Marie Lake

July 18. After a very warm, dry night, I got up at early enough for half an hour of photography before coming back to the tent to cook breakfast. I left at 9AM and went directly east over a ridge and then traversed southeast along a white dike to a large gully which I descended due north to the Melody Lakes. On a previous trip I got really hung up in the complex joint-controlled lakes and cliffs; this time I knew enough to stay well southwest of all of the little lakes until I reached the southeast inlet area, where I circled clockwise around the hill at the north end of Three Island Lake. By 11:15 I found an established campsite with shade at the outlet.

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Sunrise at Marie Lake

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Melody Lakes

From noon to 3:30 I hiked down the outlet back to Melody Lakes to fish, catching three fish in the lakes and one fish in the outlet stream from Three Island Lake. I tried to catch fish that I could see in Three Island Lake, but they were not interested in my fly, laughing at me as I flailed away at the still waters. I gave up, cleaned the fish I did catch, took a bath, washed clothes and cooked an early dinner. All the fish were healthy albeit small golden trout (no big headed trout). In the later evening the fish started feeding and I could see that there were not a lot of them in the outlet arm of Three Island Lake where I camped. The little ponds below were full of very small fish (sardine size). I slept well and noticed the waxing moon getting brighter every night. (3.9 hrs, 3.7 miles, +625 feet).

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Camp at Three Island Lake

July 19. I was up at 5:45 and greeted by sunrise reflections on a glassy lake. I left shortly after 7AM and this time, traversed the north side of Melody Lakes, with better lighting to photograph, although, twice now I have not been able to get really good photos. I picked up the trail at Sandpiper Lake and did get some nice sunrise photos. The trail drops steeply to Lou Beverly Lake where the mosquitoes were the worst of the entire trip.

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Sunrise at Three Island Lake

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Sandpiper Lake

I quickly passed through! Once I hit the JMT I kept going west across Rose Marie Meadow and then headed uphill and luckily aimed just right to intersect the little ponds so I was sure where I was. This section is deep in forest and orienting is not easy. Soon I picked up a ducked route that headed towards Orchid Lake which I reached at 10AM. I planned on camping here, but the lake was quite small so I continued to Apollo Lake. I got hung up in some cliffs by taking a stupid route (coming back the next day I wisely followed the joint trends and had a much easier time!). At 11:30 I set up at an established campsite at the outlet from Apollo Lake and relaxed until 12:30.

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Apollo Lake

I then packed up fishing gear and headed to Cirque Lake. This also had a ducked route, although it is not an easy route. The ducks had me going over horrible talus. But it may be the best way to go, who knows? It seemed like a long ways around that ridge, and at one point I almost gave up. When I dropped to Cirque Lake, at the outlet I was surprised to see a young fellow- a sport climber who was going to do a “project” on one of the small cliffs overhanging the lake. I put my fishing rod together and cast into the lake catching a nice big fish (I think it was a Rainbow, perhaps a brook trout?) on the first cast. Well, there was dinner and the end of my fishing! I filled a zip-lock with water and the fish. Then I heard someone across the lake say “I am watching you”. It was a little creepy, but I think he was friend of the climber and was watching him climb. I never saw the fellow. I crossed the outlet log jam and took a few photos (all very poor due to poor lighting) and then headed back. I got too high and had to go back down the ridge to find a non-cliff part to cross.

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Fish from Cirque Lake

By the time I reached Apollo Lake at 3:30 I was beat and my feet hurt from all the side-hilling and rock hopping. It was horribly hot so I sat in the lake. I tried fishing Apollo Lake without luck. Storm clouds were building to the south covering the sun, providing welcomed cooling for the evening. (6.6 hrs, 8.6 miles, +1625 feet)

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View of Hildegard Creek

July 20. The moon was bright! One thing I really enjoy backpacking is watching the moon phases. When I awoke there were some fish feeding, so Apollo Lake did have fish, but the few that jumped out of the water to catch bugs were tiny. There was no fish feeding activity on any of the ponds below the outlet. I left shortly after 7AM and took a much better route back to Orchid Lake (followed an amazing grassy slot that went directly to the outlet of the lake), where the morning lighting was a bit better for photos. The fish were still feeding when I arrived. Again I only saw small fish. The ponds below Orchid Lake also had fish. The stream from Orchid Lake was still flowing, whereas the stream from Apollo Lake was dry.

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Sunrise at Apollo Lake

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Orchid Lake

This time I descended the north side of the creek which was much easier than my previous day’s ascent on the south side. The traverse towards Rose Lake was easy but I ended up 200 feet above Rose Lake in a beautiful little grassy meadow with deer. I decided to just go on up to Rosebud Lake which would actually save me some elevation on my planned day-hike to Hooper Lake. I had planned on backpacking to Hooper Lake but given the heat I did not relish descending the dry ridges and then walking a road back to Florence Lake. I guess I also just lost nerve, preferring the longer yet familiar return via the trail. Rosebud Lake was a real disappointment – the water quality was horrible, although there were fish in the lake. I set up and then headed out on my day hike at 11AM. My route to the pass was not the best – again I got too high right off and ended up on some side-hilling on steep loose scree. Looking over the west side, I said to myself, “OMG”. I was glad I did not decide to haul my full pack over this. I found a route down among cliffs and scrub brush, exiting onto rock slabs north of Crazy Lake. Unfortunately it was cloudy and gray. Crazy Lake is pretty, but the photos do not show this. I then walked slabs to Neil Lake, amazed by an incredible flower garden along the short stream between the outlet and the inlet to Hooper Lake. I went down to Hooper Lake, threw in a fly and immediately caught a nice large golden trout. From then on, I had no luck, and only the little sardine sized fish would show any interest. I pulled the fly away before they could bite. A storm was obviously approaching with thunder in the distance. The last thing I wanted was to be going over the pass in lightning. So I quickly packed up and went back. I got up the pass in record time listening to the thunder get closer and closer! I descended the loose sandy 400 feet before traversing to Rosebud Lake – a much better route. I arrived at my tent at 3:30, and although tired, decided to pack up and move down to Rose Lake. It was only a half hour hike, and I found a nice campsite on a small bench high above the lake on the northeast shore. I tried to catch another small fish to add to my bigger fish I caught in Hooper Lake, but no luck. So I took a bath, washed clothes and cleaned my one fish and added it to dinner. It was still stormy and the wind was strong, which made fly fishing difficult. Just as I finished dinner a few sprinkles fell from the sky. I was tired and went to bed! (8.5 hrs, 7.3 miles, + 2570 feet).

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Crazy Lake

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Flowers between Neil and Hooper Lake

July 21. I slept well, and awoke late, yet my site was still in the shade. The wind had stopped and the lake was like a mirror. The fish were feeding, but most were far out beyond my reach. I tried, but did not catch anything but got some nice sunrise photos. I packed up and by 9AM I was still in the shade. Descending to Rose Marie Meadow, the mosquitoes were horrible so I put on the head net. Back on the John Muir Highway, I immediately ran into tons of people. I reached Sallie Keys Lakes before noon and thought I could make it to the bridge on the San Joaquin that day, but the extreme heat on the switchback descent wiped my out. Although it was barely 3PM, I stopped at Muir Trail Ranch where someone said that it was 85 degrees. I found a nice waist-deep pool in the river and just hung out. I tried to find a campsite away from the regular crowded camp area, but every spot was dug up by animals with residual poop visible. Ugh! They really need to put in a composting toilet there. I went back to the regular camp area, set up and talked to a few JMT travelers. I cooked dinner early, fortunately, because soon it rained, much more than a drizzle. (5.8 hrs, 9.5 miles, + 1050 -3850- ouch on the knees!)

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Sunrise at Rose Lake

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Sallie Keys Lake

July 22. I got up at dawn and left before 7AM to beat the heat. This time, it was overcast and cool. I simply returned the same route as I entered. I had no money so did not consider the ferry. I got to my car at 11:30, washed up, and drove home (6 hours). I was a bit anxious, starting out from Florence Lake with my gas gage on empty! Thankfully I could coast much of the way to the first reasonably priced gas station. I only put in 2 gallons, hoping for cheaper gas in Madera. Well, I missed one turnoff, found myself driving the wrong way towards Fresno, turned around, thought I could get gas at Thunder Mountain Casino (no luck), got to Madera, got stuck in construction, drove in circles, got back on Hwy99, next exit was closed, and finally got off at the Pilot Gas station. I filled up with 16.9 gallons of gas (17 gallon tank). I was happy to get home without another driving “crisis”. (4.5 hrs, 8.1 miles, +1025 plus 6 hour drive).



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Re: TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

Postby giantbrookie » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:23 pm

Wow! Nice report and a nifty route. That is a really nice combo to do the Three Island-Sandpiper area, Rose, Marie, the Apollo-Orchid-Cirque group AND the Hoopers. That is certainly not a route commonly done. Very nice.
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: TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

Postby texan » Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:43 am

Thanks WD for the TR. Your reports bring back a lot of memories for me. Thanks again for sharing.

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Re: TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

Postby maverick » Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:46 am

Fabulous part II WD, very enjoyable read and pretty pictures.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Sat Jul 27, 2013 12:40 pm

Thanks for both reports, WD. I was on the other side of the Mono Divide from you and was telling my hiking partners about your trip reports. You really inspire me to get out there.
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
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Re: TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

Postby gary c. » Sat Jul 27, 2013 9:22 pm

Like some of the others have said, I love your reports and pictures. Thanks for sharing with us.
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
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Re: TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

Postby RiseToADry » Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:02 pm

Great report! FYI, all of the "goldens" you caught are actually brooks! And the fish from cirque, is indeed a rainbow. Cheers!
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Re: TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Jul 28, 2013 7:20 am

I did not know that brookies had golden bellies. Well, they tasted great! I need to get better at identifying fish species. Thanks for the correction. So what are these fish?

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Re: TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

Postby Troutasaurus » Sun Jul 28, 2013 9:44 am

Those are brookies as well. The bt have a wormlike pattern on their back. And yellow spots sometimes with a blue halo. Goldens have black dots and slash marks similar to the cutthroat. They are both beautiful fish. The brookies loses a point for being over abundant and stunted.
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Re: TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

Postby chrisdiercks » Sun Jul 28, 2013 10:07 am

Nice reports! Very nice area indeed. My vote is they are brook trout too, although I would not be surprised to find that there are lodes of hybrids up there as well. I swear that I have caught fish in that area that look a bit like both types of fish. But, younger goldens have a distinct barring pattern, and all have "gold" strip along the lateral line. WD, there are goldens on the east side of Seven Gables.
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Re: TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Jul 28, 2013 10:35 am

Thanks for the fish identification! I am not after Goldens, per se, just like to eat fish. Sorry I mis-identified them in my report. They were so vividly colored (more so when I first caught them rather than in the photos), that I just assumed they were golden trout. They were all pretty good fighters and quite fun to land.
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Re: TR: Part II Blackcap Basin Plus

Postby RiseToADry » Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:09 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:Thanks for the fish identification! I am not after Goldens, per se, just like to eat fish. Sorry I mis-identified them in my report. They were so vividly colored (more so when I first caught them rather than in the photos), that I just assumed they were golden trout. They were all pretty good fighters and quite fun to land.


No worries about the mis-identification! The picture you posted above are brook trout. As other's have said, they are identified by the worm pattern on their back, pink dots on their side, and white tipped fins. Golden's have significantly less spots that are only by the tail, and their overall coloration is that distinct golden red color especially on their bellies.

Out of curiosity, when you plan your food do you leave specific dinners out because you expect to eat fish? What if you don't catch any fish? Seems like a gamble to me, which is why I always pack every meal.
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