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Thursday, October 01, 2020

20 Lakes Basin/Hummingbird Lake Trip

 The labor day forecast was for 100 degree+ weather in the Bay Area and bad air quality. Arturo had suggested Leavitt Meadows, but a look at the forecast indicated that it would still be over 90F at 8000'. The 20 Lakes Basin was at 10000' and would have a reasonable temperature of 78 degrees, and even better, had no wilderness permit quota, so I made a reservation, called the ranger, passed the quiz, printed out the permits, and on Friday afternoon drove the whole family out to Mono lake where we stayed at a motel with trepidation.

On Saturday, we drove up 120 (having failed to get the Yosemite entrance permit we had to approach from the East), drove off the Saddlebag Lake turn off, and onto the dirt road. Once there, we parked at the edge of the pavement, packed up our backpacks and walked in.

A key feature making this trip possible was that Saddlebag Lake had a water taxi that could take your family (and packs --- yes they charge per pack as well) round trip for about $60. That saves 2 miles of hiking at 10000', a huge savings because everyone else complained about it being hard to breathe, despite having already spent the night before at 6000'.

With 2 days of food, we made it up to Hummingbird Lake, and were elated when 2 hikers coming the other way told us that they'd camped out there the night before and there was no one there. We used their established site and had lunch. It was warm, so warm that both kids put on their wet suits and played in the water and I braved a swim. Unfortunately, while setting up the Stephenson Warmlite, I heard a "crack" sound, and discovered that one of the poles had slit into the other and mushroomed. I managed to get the tent up anyway, but it was clear that I wouldn't be taking down the tent and setting it up again on this trip elsewhere. Once it was down it would be impossible to put it up again without doing serious damage to the tent --- it wasn't even clear that I could take it down without doing further damage.

The altitude made them lethargic, and it was all I can do at 2:00pm to persuade them to walk over to the next lake over, Z Lake. There was a huge amount of whining and stopping to rest the entire way, which was not even a mile long for a hike.

Not 5 minutes after we arrived at the lake, a plume of smoke (that we now know to be from the Shaver Lake fire) came in and we started to smell bad stuff in the air. The plume of smoke was obvious and it had to be a new fire.
The hike back from Z lake to Hummingbird Lake was easy, being downhill the whole way, so I heard zero complaints. We had an early dinner and turned in, as the temperature dropped with the sun's obscuration.

My plan to do the 20 Lakes Basin loop was shattered the next morning when everyone from Xiaoqin to the normally intrepid Bowen asked to go home. We'd woken up to ashes on the tent, though it was clear from the views of the moon and the stars that the smoke was actually mostly gone. I thought it would be been fine to stay but I was over-ruled.

Reluctantly, I packed up all the equipment, took a few final pictures, including one of a Coyote that met us just as we were departing Hummingbird lake. After we hiked back to the water taxi dock.I took one final hike to see Greenstone Lake while the others sat down and waited.

The water taxi arrived and picked us up and 2 other backpackers who were abandoning their trip for the same reason. Our trip was over. What a bust!

1 comment:

Chuck Karish said...

One year I met some friends at Saddlebag Lake. We rented a boat and putted around the lake, which still had some ice floating in it. I had just gotten a haircut and the tops of my ears got sunburned to the point of blistering. Then my friends hiked to the Minarets and I rode my motorcycle to Colorado.