2006 1000 island lake

ALL-TROUT 2006:  Another Wallet is Lost

Thousand Island Lake
Agnew Meadows Trailhead to Garnet Lake to Thousand Island Lake to Gem Lake to
Silver Lake Trailhead

August 19 – 22, 2006
Andrei, Charles, Steve


Sadly, this is a “10 minute recap” rather than a play-by-play.  We stayed busy (read: hiking) during the trip, and this journal was never liberated from this writer’s backpack.  Here are a few thoughts to memorialize this splendidly beautiful, if a bit strenuous (for us) trip.

Day 0:  The Pre-Trip

Charles and Andrei drove out from Ventura on the morning of Friday the 18th.  They enjoyed a leisurely drive, stopping along the way to investigate Fossil Falls and other points of interest.  This writer, on the other hand, left his office at 3:15, forcing his way through the Friday traffic to finally reach the rendezvous point, South Lee Vining Campground, at 11:00 P.M., where he was promptly rewarded with a refreshing beer for his efforts.

Day 1:  Agnew Meadows to Garnet Lake

Breakfast at the “Whoa Nellie Deli” in Lee Vining was excellent, except Andrei left his wallet behind (lost wallets seem to be a consistent theme in All Trout adventures).  We drove to the Silver Lake Trailhead on the June Lakes Loop to leave this writer’s car, and then climbed into Andrei’s truck and headed to Mammoth for a wilderness permit and some last-minute provisioning.  Then it was back to Lee Vining to retrieve Andrei’s wallet, and finally back to the Agnew Meadows Trailhead in Mammoth.

From Agnew Meadows, we commenced our 5.5 hour hike (including rests) to Garnet Lake.  We took the River Trail, about 6.1 miles.  Most of the River Trail was moderate, but the last .6 miles up the chute to Garnet Lake is extremely difficult.  This writer contemplated at numerous times whether his heart would actually leap from his chest from all the pumping it was doing, or pop, or engage in some other untoward act.  That particular hike is definitely worth doing again – just leave earlier in the day and take it slow (we hit the trail at 2:00 P.M. and our late arrival caused us to quicken our pace up the grade to Garnet).

Along the River Trail

Garnet Lake, which this writer and Charles had visited a few years prior, was worth every step of the hike, and remained as beautiful as it had been during the first visit. 

Garnet Lake

We were beat from the hike, and this writer had an altitude-induced headache, so we wasted no time in setting up camp, making dinner, and heading off to bed.  Our camp as on the north shore in a nice wooded area, much nicer than our camp on the bluffs of the south shore a few years prior.  The freeze-dried chicken stew was fantastic (we forgot to note the manufacturer, however), but spirits (at least mine) were dampened upon the realization I’d forgotten my fleece.  On a happy note, the weather was so nice it turned out I didn’t need the fleece.  Still, not a good thing to leave behind.  Spirits (at least Charles’) were further dampened upon Charles’ realization that his inflatable sleeping pad had a hole (although it was rather humorous to watch Charles continue to blow up his mattress for about 5 minutes without realizing it wasn’t holding air; it usually takes just a few breaths to fill up the pad). 

On the topic of gear, this writer reports that his new REI inflatable pad, which was purchased as a result of the horrible experience in the cold weather the year prior, performed admirably.  This writer had never slept so well on a trip, and feels that all of his years with the horrible foam pad were “wasted years.”

Day 2:  Garnet Lake to Thousand Island Lake

After a leisurely morning complete with fishing (this writer caught and released a native brook trout), we broke camp and bushwacked our way to Thousand Island Lake.  The hike was only 2 miles and wasn’t too difficult, despite the gain out of Garnet’s basin.  We made camp on the south side of Thousand Island Lake.  The site, although encircled by some large boulders, was somewhat exposed, but it made for an absolutely brilliant view of the stars.  There was no moon, so the sidereal display was all the more incredible.  We used a star map to find a few constellations (Scorpio, among others).  We camped near a small snow patch which had been holding over since the winter, which served well as a place to chill our store of tequila.

The Camp at Thousand Island Lake

Self Photo at Thousand Island Lake


Day 3:  Thousand Island Lake to Gem Lake

This writer’s stove failed.  Again.  Another recurring theme in All-Trouts?  After forcing Andrei and Charles to watch me tinker with the stove, in vein, we began a 6.5 hour hike (including many breaks for photos, lunch, and rests) to Gen Lake via the Pacific Crest Trail, Summit Lake and Clark Lakes.  It was a long hike (6.5 to 7 miles), but there was a lot of downhill and the scenery made every step worthwhile.  The drainage below Thousand Island Lake was spectacular, as were the lakes along the way, the views of Ritter and Banner Mountains, the few stream crossings, and the beautiful pool along the river/creek aside the trail, where we watched 5 or 6 trout swim for about 10 minutes.  (Not sure if it was Sullivan Lake’s drainage or Rush Creek, but you can’t miss it from the trail… a 10 or 15 foot deep pool of perfectly clear and almost still water.)  Also saw some backpackers using a llama to carry their gear, which made for an interesting moment as this author had a staring contest with the odd-looking beast.

Thousand Island Lake Drainage

Finally made it to Gem Lake in time to relax a bit, set up camp, and eat some dinner.  Gem Lake was impossibly large compared to many of the lakes we’ve visited over the years, no doubt because of the dam at the outlet.  We viewed stars again and had a great campfire, where I made a quesadilla using a forked stick to hold tortillas containing Charles’ gruyere cheese and Taco Bell “Fire” hot sauce.

Gem Lake

Day 4:  Gem Lake to Silver Lake Trailhead

We broke camp early and made it the 4 or so miles down to Silver Lake in about 2.5 hours.  The hike was almost entirely downhill – approximately 1,800 feet – with some interesting sights along the way, including a cable/railway for Southern California Edison’s hydro-electric facilities at Gem and Agnew lakes.  With the crazy descent, the railway, and the strong wind (and perhaps due to the lack of sleep suffered by this writer as a result of Charles’ false alarms of bear invasions), it was a surreal hike.

We picked up my car, celebrated with a beer Andrei had left in a cooler at the trailhead, drove to Mammoth to collect Andrei’s truck and to pick up a pizza, and headed home.  Another excellent and beautiful trip.  Just be sure to pack lightly and be in decent shape.  Until next year…