Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wednesday Wanderings: Ansel Adams Wilderness

Two weeks ago I returned from a week of backpacking in the Ansel Adams Wilderness (California; just south of Yosemite) with my husband and oldest son. It's hard to capture a week's worth in a single blog post, but I'll take a shot at the highlights.

It started with the drive from San Francisco, through Yosemite, and on to Lee Vining, where we treated ourselves to dinner at the Mono Cone, an old-school burger joint. After a night camped in an unnamed location, we picked up a backcountry permit and hit the trail about 10 a.m.

A typical preparation scene.
The trail heads right up the wall, though unfortunately it leads to a trio of lakes that were dammed before the wilderness area was created. We thought the tramway was no longer in use, but when we got to the top we found that it's still the way workers commute to the job site when the dams need attention.
I'm sure they actually ride the brakes hard, but it looks like a roller coaster to me!
Eventually we found a tranquil campsite (though somewhat over-built by other campers; we don't build furniture in the wilderness, but we're not above using it when someone else does).
Mosquitoes were just bearable, especially with a bit of smoke.
More to our taste was the beautiful stream by camp, full of trout.

The next day was the real entry to the wilderness. We started up from camp, and kept going up. We blew past the final dammed lake, and used a mile of the Pacific Crest/John Muir trail to take us to the Marie Lakes trail. Then we followed that up. Through some beautiful meadows and up some more over a ridge to drop DOWN to the lake at last, at well over 10,000'.
I'd had some hopes this meadow was where our lake was, but we had to go on.
You do what you have to do to get that room with a view, after all.
Marie Lake, the lower of two (!) Yes, above tree line. It was too windy for mosquitoes.
Above tree line doesn't mean no plants. There were a lot of flowers.
If you're wondering, yes, there were snow banks melting into the lake. And yes, we bathed in it anyway.
The third day was a short but interesting cross-country trek to the next major lake basin to the south, Davis Lakes.
The spouse and son consider if there is a way down. There is.
Davis Lake was also beautiful and tranquil, and had a few trees around for a bit of shade, too. There is a trail, and signs people camp there, but no one else was around when we were.
 We found the most amazing meadows full of Indian Paintbrush in a number of places, including the upper end of Davis Lake.

Day Four saw a return to the PCT/JMT for another mile, over Islands Pass, where small tarns provide iconic reflections of Banner Peak. They also marked the point where we abandoned the trail again, cutting cross country directly for North Glacier Pass, half visible in this photo to the right of the peak and behind the trees.
And why, you ask? For Lake Catherine.
Banner Peak on the left, Ritter on the right. 
Our beautiful campsite on a tarn just below Catherine was home base for the next 2 nights. Yup, we even bathed with the ice bergs. I like to backpack, but I like to be clean, too!
Okay, bathing here meant splashing oneself well with the water and then getting out.
Day Five was dayhiking. We headed out early from camp to climb Davis Peak, 12,309'.
It's not the biggest thing around (which was admittedly part of the reason we chose to climb it), but views were pretty much 360 degrees. Far below the guys is 1000 Island Lake, and Nevada off in the distance.
Just below the horizon on the left side you can catch a glimpse of Mono Lake.

After dinner some of us explored a little further, to see more of the Ritter Lakes.

Day Six was another short day, dropping down to 1000 Island Lake, where we found a camp near a perfect beach and went for a swim, took naps, and lazed away the afternoon.
I called it Balcony Camp for the granite balcony.
 A note on that granite: much of the Sierra has it. It's the stuff that Yosemite is famous for. But all that stuff up around Banner Peak is something else, and instead of making nice slabs that are easy to walk on, it makes big blocks. I got very tired of hopping over big blocks, and was very happy to see granite again.
Sunset with Banner Peak. Due to a lack of clouds, sunsets were understated.
Our final day was 7 or 8 trail miles, but we made an early start and we were motivated--we wanted lunch at the Mono Cone.  At this point, we have about 5 miles to go--and 3000' to descend. But there's a burger and shake at the end of it, and we made it.
That's Mono Lake again in the background.
That's all, folks!
Last view of Banner.

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2016
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  1. I could sum it all up with one word, Stunning. You are so lucky being able to hike round places like that. Did you manage to recreate any of his photos?

    1. Yes, I am lucky! As for the photos: to be honest, I don't know all his work, but can't think off the top of my head of any from the areas we saw. Wouldn't be surprised, though, if he had an iconic shot of Banner Peak.

      Well, there you go: pretty close to our photos ;)


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