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TR: First Lk to Seventh Lk

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TR: First Lk to Seventh Lk

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Aug 20, 2013 1:39 pm

First to Seventh Lake, N. Pine Creek
Aug. 11-15, 2013

Aug 11. I was in no hurry since all I planned to do was get to Third Lake, but my “up at dawn” habit lingered. My toes were still a bit sore from the previous day’s hike out from Kearsarge Lakes. The Sage Flat Campground was quiet and peaceful. I spread out gear and food and leisurely pack up while eating breakfast. I decide to plan for 6 days (my permit) but in all reality, likely will only use 5 days. The original plan was to see if I could exit via Baker Lake (turned out the “pass” looked too ugly to entice me to go out that way). I had been in this area three times before to climb; ran in, ran out, and was totally focused on the climb. This time I wanted to really see the area, fish and poke around. I finally got to the trailhead at 9:30 and started up the trail from the parking lot. It quickly got hot! I was amazed at the number of people coming down the trail. It was Sunday so all the weekenders and climbers were finishing their trips. Add in all the day hikers, and it was a busy highway! A few of us were going in; I “leap-frogged” with a fellow who was going to Black Lake. I looked for campsites at First, Second and Third Lakes, taking the one at Third Lake and day-hiked back to First and Second Lake in the afternoon to take photos. A friendly young couple was camped near me at Third Lake. I took a quick bath in the frigid waters. Returning from First Lake on my afternoon hike, I ran into a Boy Scout group of tired boys and clueless leaders looking for a large campsite. I had just discovered the large group site between First and Second Lake on my ramblings, so I lead them back to the site. They were discouraged to lose the nearly 300 feet of elevation, but with two of us at the Third Lake campsite, there really was little choice. Then I walked back to my campsite. That little chore “cost” nearly 500 feet of elevation! But, I was not keen on having 15 Scouts camped on top of me! (To their credit, the boys were well behaved and polite. The leaders were nice, but lacked information on campsites and were not able to figure out where they were. There are twice as many trails on the ground as on the map, so that adds to confusion if you really cannot navigate well.) Back at camp I tried to fish, but decided the fish would never see my fly through the milky waters. Additionally, brush and cliffs make Third Lake difficult to fly fish for someone like me who back-casts into bushes all the time. As the evening shadows descended, I found photography a more rewarding activity. By the time I cooked dinner it was almost dark.

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First Lake

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Second Lake

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Third Lake

Aug12. I was up early after a poor night’s sleep. Although my tent site had a great view, it was on hard dirt that was too convex. There are tons of tent sites, all over-used and tended to be dusty and dirty. At least I had some rocks to put stuff on. I still was annoyed with all the dirt that ended up on my tent, getting me dirty as I packed the tent. At least this trip I had my wipes! I was off early; still did not have a watch so was “living by the sun”. I stopped at Fourth Lake for a photo. A group of guys were packed up (had camped there) and taking a group photo. I then took the short trail to Fifth Lake and set up camp on the little ridge between Fourth and Fifth Lake. That probably was the shortest “backpack” day I ever did! I backtracked to the trail junction and hiked to Sam Mack Lake. Nearing Sam Mack Meadow I spotted a rock cairn and thought it may be a marker for an off-trail route to Sam Mack Lake. It turned out to be a marker to the SnoTel tower! Well, I was already nearly to the ridge so I continued. Most of the hike then followed nice grassy ramps and gullies. I took the wrong gully at the top, ending up too high and too far right, so had to traverse and drop to Sam Mack Lake. I took a few photos, but was a bit disappointed. Then I saw another set of rock cairns, which was the use-trail from Sam Mack Meadows to Sam Mack Lake. The “trail” was quite steep and hard to follow. I am not sure it was any better than my route up. But I did get to see Sam Mack Meadows. I had camped here before but barely remembered it. Back at the trail junction to Fifth Lake I again ran into the Boy Scout group- They were again looking for a campsite. I told them that they probably would fit at all the little tent sites at the outlet of Fifth Lake, although the sites were tight and on a slope. I walked back to my campsite while they set up. The boys seemed to be having fun and did not mind the cramped conditions. They then spread out along the shoreline, floating twig boats, fishing, swimming- all those things boys love to do. Only problem for me was finding a private place to take a bath! Late in the afternoon I took my fishing rod up to Summit Lake and caught a nice 9-inch Golden. As I dropped to Fourth Lake to fish, a fellow stumbled out of his tent, shirtless and squinted at me. When I was fishing below at Fourth Lake I could hear him puking. I made a note not to drink water from the inlet creek! Booze and altitude rarely mix well as that poor fellow found out. Boy Scouts and drunken fishermen did not enhance my wilderness experience. I caught a smaller brook trout in Fourth Lake. Back at my camp at Fifth Lake I fished the shoreline and caught one more fat fish a bit bigger than the fish from Summit Lake. I cleaned them and fried them for a nice meal starter.

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Sam Mack Lake

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Summit Lake

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Fourth Lake

Aug 13. I peeked out the tent and saw sunlight on the highest tip of a peak and bolted out fearing I would miss the sunrise. I dropped to the shoreline of Fifth Lake and spent nearly an hour taking photos, then back to camp for breakfast. Again, packing up was a dirty chore because the campsite was trampled to fine dust. It was a shady campsite, but given the warm weather, that was fine. I packed up and did another very short trip to Sixth Lake where I met an older fellow at a drop-camp site. He told me that the packer would not go to the outlet (talus), where he had camped before and recommended that I use that site which was what he called “heaven on earth”. He was right! After going around the lake looking for sites, I settled on his favorite site. I then decided to day hike to Jigsaw Pass. From the outlet of Sixth Lake I traversed upward on an easy grass ramp and then dropped to a beautiful little lush hanging valley (two small ponds on the topo map). It was all talus to Jigsaw Pass so I decided to scramble up the rock and joint slots to view the snow northeast of Mt. Agassiz. I should have stopped at the top of the solid rock at 11,700 feet! Instead I continued up the talus staying on the slope of Mt Robinson to avoid the moraine. I was being a bit too smug about my route, and the mountain gods put an icy gully in front of me, where I had to skirt above the ice on car-sized talus. Things got sketchy! Looking back at a retreat, things looked awful. Looking ahead was still awful but at least much shorter; I continued. Finally I was able to get up onto the flat top of the terminal moraine at 12,200 feet. I walked down the gently sloping moraine and luckily found a good exit at about 11,900 feet. Back on solid rock I finally was able to relax. I sat down for lunch. Here, I later determined, the sunscreen fell out of my top pack pocket. Another lost item! I returned to camp, and came to the conclusion that the day trip was really not worth all that effort. All I got were three very bad photos (lighting was terrible), lost my sunscreen, got sore toes and knees, and nearly got stuck. The fellow at the drop-camp and his buddy walked around the lake. The older fellow was nearly 80 and this was his last trip to his favorite place and he wanted to show his buddy where to bury his ashes! They were really nice people and I enjoyed talking to them. The younger fellow had hiked up the valley north of Two Eagle Peak so I asked him about his trip. I decided that it would be a good day-trip for the next day. I had viewed the “pass” between Cloud Ripper and Sky Haven, that I had intended to go over and nixed that idea. The older fellow showed me the spot on a rock outcrop near my campsite that had a wonderful view of Fifth Lake below. He said this is where he used to have evening cocktails. Sixth and Seventh Lake have no fish, so I spent the evening taking photos.

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Mt Galey and Mt Sill viewed from Fifth Lake

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Fifth Lake Sunrise

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Fifth Lake from Sixth Lk

Augst14. I got up early and walked up and down the northeast shoreline of Sixth Lake taking sunrise photos. This definitely was the best photo opportunity of the trip. Even though there were two others at Sixth Lake, this site was really the first time I felt I was in the wilderness. Because there are no fish, the area is much less used and more pristine. After breakfast I hiked up the valley between Cloud Ripper and Two Eagle Peak. This time I smartly stopped at the end of the solid rock and stayed off the moraine! This hike was much easier and prettier. Yet, once you leave the trails and to the higher valleys you get into tons of rock, stark scenery and are really too close to the mountains to get good photos. Back at camp I packed up and intended to move to Black Lake. En route, I again bumped into some of the Boy Scouts who thought they were hiking to Summit Lake; they were hiking to Sixth Lake and were almost there. Again, they asked me “how far to Summit Lake”. I said, “You are on the wrong trail”. They changed plans and decided to visit Sixth Lake! They were camped at Black Lake. There went my plan for staying at Black Lake! From Summit Lake I dropped off-trail to Black Lake. This was the only area I went through that was not full of unofficial use-trails. I stayed high and circled around the north side of Black Lake and then walked through the Boy Scout’s camp, found the trail and descended towards First Lake. At the junction, I decided to go down to the creek rather than go back up to First Lake. Descending, I heard shouting and singing. A father of a large family was marching his brood down the trail, singing loud marching songs. After the main group passed, two stragglers (the younger ones) limped by, not happy campers! I crossed a log and found a campsite, turned around and saw the Snowtel tower. I took a cold bath and saw a fish so put together the fishing rod. There are plenty of fish, but all very small. The creek is very difficult to fish because it is nearly choked with brush and the water flows around numerous in-stream hazards. I ended up losing my fly and not catching a fish. But I did find a “bridge”, evidently used by the folks who manage the SnoTel site.

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Sunrise at Sixth Lake

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Seventh Lake

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Day hike from Sixth Lake

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Black Lake

Aug 15. I got up early, crossed my newly found bridge and headed down the trail. This time I took the lower trail that ends at the trailhead to South Pine Creek. I must have missed the direct trail down the creek because I ended up on a road and luckily ran into day-hikers who showed me the trail. I walked the road back to the parking lot and reached my car about 10AM. I could have walked out the previous day- plenty of daylight- but I would have been too tired to drive home and the extra rest was good for old knees. Then I drove home, glad to see that most of the smoke in the air I encountered on my drive down had dissipated. I was disappointed that Walker Burger no longer serves smoothies. Construction on Hwy50 made the last miles from Tahoe slow but I got home in time for a hot shower, nice dinner, wine and floating in the pool on my inner tube. I was ready for a little “civilization”.

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View up South Fork



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Re: TR: First Lk to Seventh Lk

Postby giantbrookie » Tue Aug 20, 2013 2:02 pm

Nice report and photos. The human encounters really spice things up and make for an entertaining read.
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: First Lk to Seventh Lk

Postby gochicagobears! » Tue Aug 20, 2013 2:10 pm

I love reading your TR's and seeing your photos, WD. Amazing. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: TR: First Lk to Seventh Lk

Postby kpeter » Tue Aug 20, 2013 10:21 pm

It is deja vu all over again!

You will see from my report that we did very similar trips a little more than a week apart. The first night at Fifth Lake we camped on the ridge between 4th and 5th lakes--I wonder if our tents were pitched in the same spot. Next day we moved down to the outlet where you describe the scouts as camping. Across the outlet and around the south side a couple of hundred yards there is a Jamboree sized camping area that could have held a few dozen scouts.

I loved the overlook from Sixth Lake over Fifth Lake! Your sunrise pictures across Sixth are wonderful--we were there only in the afternoon, your shots are dramatic. And we also did a day hike up above Seventh Lake to 11818 and took a similar picture across the pond there.

You noted no fish in Sixth and Seventh Lakes, but there were a gazillion frogs! I wonder if they were designated as some of the frog recovery lakes that featured elimination of introduced fish to allow endangered frogs to survive. When we were dayhiking around Sixth lake we did conclude that the outlet area was by far the best camping, although we enjoyed wandering above it in the flowery meadows between Sixth and Seventh.

BUT I am intrigued by how you got to Sam Mack Lake and also by your experience trying to get to Jigsaw pass. From Sam Mack Meadow there does not seem to be an obvious route to Sam Mack Lake--and we wondered how people generally did it. It sounds like you went high above the meadows to get there?

I had planned to try for Jigsaw Pass but changed my mind when the route up from Fifth Lake looked difficult to me, and when I read somewhere (probably here) that the rest of the route was a "talus slog." That dotted line route on the topos makes it seem a lot easier than it actually is. Your experience convinces me that I made the right decision.

All in all, a wonderful write up and I an envious of many of your photos. I rather wish I had gone a week later and met up with you. We would have been quieter than those Boy Scouts!
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Re: TR: First Lk to Seventh Lk

Postby gary c. » Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:40 am

Like many other I always ejoy your reports and pictures. Like kpeter I have a question about Sam Mack Lake. You didn't by chance fish it did you? Did you at least see some fish?
"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."
-- Lionel Terray
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Re: TR: First Lk to Seventh Lk

Postby old and slow » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:25 pm

Love reading your trip reports as well as your comments on all the various issues that come up in the forum. The fantastic fotos are a huge bonus. Thanks for the education and inspiration!
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