Thursday, July 12, 2012

Twenty Lakes Basin - Part 1

A brief discussion, with Adventure Pal Priscilla, of the many options for a hike resulted in what turned out to be a fantastic day in the mountains.  We would leave town at 6 AM, drive over Tioga Pass to Saddlebag Lake and hike the Twenty Lakes Basin loop trail.  The general consensus on hiking websites lead me to expect a 5 mile, maybe 3 hour hike. The map provided by Saddlebag Resort supported that idea.  Confidence in that map had seriously eroded by the end of the day,  but that didn't dampen our enthusiasm for one of the very BEST hikes either of us had ever completed in the Sierra Nevada.


Saddlebag Resort runs a water taxi across the lake to the north shore.  That's the boundary of the Hoover Wilderness and the beginning of the loop trail.  To the west the trail follows an old mining road to Steelhead lake and on around.  To the east the trail passes Hummingbird Lake, goes over Lundy Pass to Odell Lake and on around counter clock wise.  By default we headed out clockwise toward Steelhead Lake.

To the west, Mount Conness watches over the basin.

First up the trail is Greenstone Lake.  The couple on the shore were hiking cross country;  this clearly wasn't their first visit to the area.

Next up is tiny but precious Wasco Lake with North Peak in the distance.

The trail continues on the old road to a tungsten mine.  The tailings pile is on the far north westernly shore of Steelhead Lake.

At Excelsior Lake we took a break and had a nice visit with a backpacker who was interning with the Forest Service for the summer.  He was grateful to look over the maps we were carrying;  I hope they did him more good than they did us!

Shortly we rounded a curve in the trail to find a sign for Lake Helen. It seemed a little off, not pointing directly down the trail we were following so, of course, we happily continued on our way.  

The trail skirts Steelhead Lake then begins to climb up the mountain to the tungsten mine.  It got sketchy, but we were determined.  The view of Steelhead was spectacular.

The intrepid adventurers continued to climb until the trail ended at a point overlooking The Twenty Lakes Basin.
Opps!  Weren't we supposed to be 'in' the basin?!?  Not worries though,  the view was not to be missed and we weren't that far off the main trail!

On a shelf to the west, there were the Cascade Lakes that feed a waterfall into Steelhead.

To the east,  there was Shamrock Lake.

Directly below was Steelhead!  (Oh, and don't miss Little Steelhead, that tiny blue dot just to the left of Big Steelhead near the snow bank).

It didn't take long to back track down the mountain. A couple of log crossings over the creek and a turn in the right direction at the Lake Helen sign lead to the gorgeous welcome to Shamrock Lake.

A young Clark's Nutcracker squawked for his lunch while we had a badly needed rest.  Back on the trail there's another lovely view of Shamrock.

To be continued.......


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