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Yosemite – North Country V

September, 2012 | 1 Comment
Unnamed Lake in upper Stubblefield Canyon

Unnamed Lake in upper Stubblefield Canyon

There is something about the Sierra High Country that always draws me back. Maybe the rugged granite terrain, the ease of off-trail adventuring, the openness… don’t know, but it is captivating and I can’t stay away too long. The hardest part of getting there is the getting there. Usually, if the access is easy… you get the crowds (i.e. Tioga Highway), or it is a several day trek¬† from any West side trailhead. When I talk of high-country… in the case of Yosemite – above 8000′ . The terrain is a bit more exposed and the level of brushiness goes way down.

This time I decided to try an access point from the East – Twin Lakes – outside of Bridgeport. The climb a bit more abrupt, but the distance to the high-county was not too great. It was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend… and what a zoo at the trailhead.

Thompson Canyon

The Twin Lakes trailhead sits at the Mono Village Resort which was busy, and the pay-for backpacker parking lot at the trailhead was nearly full. Once on the trail though it quieted down a bit. Mostly just day hikers hiking up to Barney Lake and a few backpackers returning from longer trips.

Rock Island Lake

The first day was short – camping a ways above Barney Lake – owing to the long drive in and a pretty heavy pack. Weather was nice Sierra beautiful, clear skies and warm. The next day I trail hiked up the switchbacks to Peeler Lake and beyond that left the trail, crossing over into Thompson canyon. At this point you’ve reached the high country above 9000 feet, something that takes many miles coming from the West side. I’ve stayed several nights in Thompson canyon before and part of the design of this trip was to come back for a couple more. It did not disappoint, though it was drier than the last time I was here, the lakes were as I remembered. I spent my layover day exploring a lake in upper Stubblefield canyon that seemed hardly visited, rugged and remote.

Crazy Mule Gulch

The next day’s travels were up and over the ridge separating Thompson Canyon with Kerrick Canyon, catching the trail for a ways and then off to another lake above Seavey Pass. The route was fairly easy going and the lake was your typically nice Sierra pond with lots of exposed granite. From here, the next day followed some deer trails up a nice meadowy pass to Rock Island Lake.

Sitting at nearly 10,000 feet, Rock Island Lake must get a pretty harsh winter. The lake sits in an open bowl with few trees at the Southern end – lots of granite boulders. It’s pretty exposed and I imagine the wind does whip through here during storms. Had a nice quiet night though this time.

Smedberg Lake from above

The next day was a hiking pleasure. Wasn’t sure how my route would play out as I had planned to hop another ridge leading into Slide Canyon. The topo showed what could be a way down a fairly steep descent but you never know how these thing play out. From Rock Island Lake, I crossed over Suicide Ridge (hmm) into Crazy Mule Gulch, which I thought was very nice.

Headed up higher into the gulch and then down following a creek into Slide Canyon. About a thousand foot drop into the canyon that had some steep bits, but nothing too hair raising. Finally reaching the canyon bottom I followed it further down til the canyon started to narrow. Slide Canyon is quite nice, wide and fairly flat with open meadows and patches of trees here and there with a meandering creek running through. From here, a climb up to Doe Lake, my next destination for the night.

Slide Canyon

Doe Lake was great… a pretty developed camp – for the backcountry -¬† at the South end, which had great view off down Piute Creek. Hit a spot of rain this afternoon and had great clouds that evening. Another layover day followed where I traveled to some of the neighboring lakes: Sister, Smedberg, and Tallulah lakes… all nice, but not as nice as Doe Lake. Saw someone fly fishing at Tallulah… my first person since Peeler Lake.

The Slide

Now it was time to start the hike back. Up Slide Canyon, hitting the trail leading back to Twin Lakes. Slide Canyon was a pleasant and easy going trip up canyon. Until you get the ‘slide’.

And what a massive thing that is. A huge portion of the ridge gave way at some point in the past with an avalanche of small-car sized boulders that completely filled the canyon bottom – at least a quarter mile across. The width of the slide is also at least a quarter mile and I mistakenly thought I try going up the middle.

Mule Pass

It was way too tiring going up and over and down these boulders. At about the middle of this escapade, I decided to head to the far side ridge and follow that. As it turns out, that is what the animals do and was much easier skirting the slide rather than taking it head on.

The trail leading up to Mule pass is spectacular with views looking down along Sawtooth ridge. My last night was another pleasant evening near Crown Lake and then back to the car. The resort had quieted down a bit though still busy, but still saw few people until I got within a mile or two of the lake.

Another great Yosemite trip which fails to disappoint in rugged beauty and great locations.

One Comment on “Yosemite – North Country V”

  1. Lee Bethel says:

    I read about your hike very interesting that is remote country . I also had read about the small plane that crashed in rum of stubblefield canyon 1962 and found by park rangers in 1994 that’s incredible . I have looked at a lot of pictures of that country very rugged . I would guess great trout in the high country lakes . And a lot of big bucks back in the day before lions got out of control .I’m 68 and still hike a lot but have bad left ankle . Or I would hike into that country think it would be great .