September 2023 | Ansel Adams Wilderness, California
In mid-September after our 7-day trek near Bishop, Claudia and I drove up to Mammoth for a few days of rest and restaurants, then headed out on another backpack trip in the eastern Sierra - this time a 4-day jaunt along the base of the Ritter Range in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
This trek continued our theme of visiting well known highlights of the Sierra Nevada during our three week road trip here. Since I haven't experienced much in this great mountain range, I figured we might as well start with some of the headliners on this trip, then maybe the next time we visit we can get a bit more off the beaten track. But on this trek we would again be tracing another stretch of the John Muir Trail and visiting some very popular (and very spectacular) lakes along the way.
Our first destination was Thousand Island Lake (sometimes referred to as "Thousand People Lake"), a vast lake with a postcard perfect view of Banner Peak. We arrived early enough to find a great campsite (pretty much right behind where I shot the above photo). Down by the lake shore below our campsite was a big flat-topped boulder which became our patio spot for most of our time there. What a great place to chill out and bask in the view for hours on end! A fiery sunset show was the icing on the cake.
Thousand Island Lake is one of those places that I've seen a bazillion photos of before and I always wanted to visit, so it felt a bit surreal to finally be there in person. It was just as beautiful as I expected!
On Day 2 we packed up and continued on. It was painful to hike right past Garnet Lake without stopping and camping there, but since it's only a few miles from Thousand Island Lake and it was still early in the day we figured we better keep hiking on. Ediza Lake was a mosquito hellscape so we pushed on even further up to Iceberg Lake, then crossed a lingering snowfield to continue up to Cecile Lake. But Cecile Lake was a lot more exposed and rocky than I expected, and the dark clouds were starting to rumble a bit so we kept going on down to Minaret Lake. So we basically ended up doing the bulk of the whole trek in one day... Oops!!!
Minaret Lake is just ridiculous; the Sierra went overboard with the spires here!
After a night at Minaret Lake, we backtracked back up to Cecile Lake where the mosquitos wouldn't bother us.
Cecile Lake felt almost like Patagonia with its stark rocky landscape and towering spire of Clyde Minaret right in the center.
After a pleasant day and night at Cecile Lake we packed up and hiked all the way down to Devils Postpile National Monument then hitchhiked back to our truck at the Agnew Meadows trailhead, completing another wonderful Sierra backpack tour!
Back in Mammoth we met up with Sierra photographer extraordinaire Nolan Nitschke who I've known online for a long time but finally got to meet in person. (His gallery is a must-see if you are in Mammoth!) And we enjoyed a colorful sunset looking west back towards the Minarets which we were just camping below the previous two nights. What a place!
After our two backpack trips near Bishop and Mammoth, both Claudia and I were pretty smitten with the Eastern Sierra and felt really grateful to have experienced them without the drought and wildfire smoke that has become so common in recent years. I suspect we will be back again sooner than later!