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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Nelson Lakes Backpacking Trip

 I'd failed to take the kids camping this year. I actually had one organized the weekend before our Tour of the Alps, but I actually got sick a week before that and was on medication, and when the forecast called for rain I called it off since I didn't want to jeopardize a very expensive upcoming tour. So when Arturo suggested a High Sierra backpacking trip I signed up and so did Bowen and Boen. Boen, of course, is famous for changing his mind at random, so he eventually backed out, opting for a sleepover with a classmate instead. This actually would make my load lighter, so i didn't mind.

On Friday, we picked up Bowen from school, and immediately drove south towards Clovis. It was clear that traffic had resumed to pre-pandemic levels, and the carpool lane didn't help any. In Clovis, it was time to charge his car, and we had dinner at the Pieology next to the Tesla superchargers. We then drove to pick up the ranger permits, and found a campground near the road to camp for the night. The stars were pretty amazing.

The next morning, we drove the rest of the way to the trailhead, and repacked our gear --- we discovered that the 3 of us fit into the MSR Freelite, so Arturo could leave his tent behind. I decided to bring the hammock but not the sleeping accessories for it. This was a good thing because after the first mile it was quite clear that we had complete de-acclimated from altitude after our cycle tour, and would Bowen couldn't carry his sleeping bag and sleeping pad, so Arturo and I had to take those items out of his backpack and onto or into ours.

We had hoped to make it to the upper Nelson lakes, which by all accounts was quieter and had a better swimming platform, but it was clear that Bowen wasn't going to make it. After an hour and a half we made it to the burnt patch, which was ugly but thankfully short and surprisingly well shaded.

From the burnt area it wasn't a long walk to Nelson Lake, but Bowen was whining. Fortunately once you got to the lake it didn't take us long to find an established campground that looked ideal -- sheltered, somewhat shaded, with an obvious cooking area. We pitched the tent, setup the hammock in ideal conditions, and then moved equipment around.

After that, we hiked to Upper Nelson, which as Arturo promised featured a nice granite entry into the lake for swimming.

The lake was impressively warm! I got in and swim hard expecting to be cold like in all Sierra lakes, but halfway across the lake I realized that while my feet were cold my arms weren't! As an experiment I flipped on my back and did a deadman's float and realized that the water in the first few inches of the lake were much warmer! So if you did a breast stroke on your back you could lay back and enjoy yourself. I stayed more than 10 minutes in the lake.
After that, we hiked around the lake and walked back to the camp. Bowen loved campfires and Arturo and he got going on the campfire and gathering firewood while I got to relax and finish the rest of the book I was reading in the hammock.

The next morning was nothing short of stunning when I woke up, with a beautiful reflection in the morning in the lake and mist rising from the water. Even in the cold it was worth it to walk around and take pictures. I made a cup of coffee and enjoyed reading in the hammock again.

After that, we made breakfast, broke down all the equipment, packed it away, and said goodbye to the lake and hiked out.

The hike backdown took about half an hour less than the previous day, but the last bit back to the parking lot was all uphill, and the whining started. Clearly 2 nights at altitude wasn't enough to acclimate us. But we got back to the car and drove back home, eating lunch in a local park on the way. All in all it was pretty good.

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