Yosemite/Ansel Adams Wilderness Backpacking Trip
July 25 - July 30, 2012

Bob and Jennifer: 4 Nights, 5 Days, 34 miles - Favorite Photos (Click For Route, Elevation Profile, and Equipment Recommendations)

Jennifer hiking along Thousand Island Lake at the end of the 3rd day of backpacking.

The Day Before We Start, Wednesday, July 25

Before Jennifer and Bob started backpacking, Bill, Jennifer and Bob stayed at Tuolumne Meadows, after dropping Bob's car off at Rush Creek Trailhead, near Silver Lake, the end of the backpacking trip. Since it was a beautiful day and Lambert Dome was right near by, all three climbed it, with Jennifer deciding not to do the final bit. Here are pics of Bill and Bob sitting on the top of the dome.

Day 1 of Backpacking, Thursday, July 26

We planned the trip so the first day would be along the Lyell River with only a slight rise in elevation as we walked through the meadows. Covered about 8 miles.

Bob and Jennifer just starting out

An easier way to carry backpacks. The poor white llama was a bit sick and not carrying

The Lyell River/Creek at our first campground

Bob purifies water before dinner

Flowers on the Lyell

Day 2 of Backpacking, Friday, July 27

After spending the night at this very pretty campsite next to the Lyell, listening to the water flowing over the rocks, enjoying the colorful flowers, and seeing a deer in camp, we began the uphill trek leading to the Donahue Pass. We were at about 9,000 ft elevation, while Donahue Pass is at 11,056 ft and about 3.4 miles from our campsite.

Leaving camp, the first climb begins

Tuolumne Meadows now far below

Horses coming up the trail

Two ways to cross the Lyell. The first looks a bit easier, but a slip can put you over a drop to the right. Bob [not shown] took the packs over using Jennifer's poles this way. Jennifer chose the safer, if a bit harder, route upstream away from the drop off. All crossings were successful without any wet feet. Here's a video of Jennifer's crossing

Bob assured Jennifer that the next crossing would be a nice bridge over the Lyell just below Donahue. Since Bob had been across this very trail just a year ago, Jennifer believed him.

Moving aside to let the horses pass.

Looking back down on the Lyell we had recently crossed.

"Bridges" across the Lyell below Donahue Pass. So much for Bob's assurances.

We stop for lunch above the last Lyell crossing before Donahue Pass. Sadly for the marmot - closeup below - he got nothing.

Jennifer had not been positive she would make it over Donahue Pass on this second day, but it was clear that it would be easier to go up and over than back down, camp and up again the next day.

We make it to the top of Donahue Pass - elevation 11,056 ft!

But even better, we now have cell phone service and Bob finds out from Shirley that he has won the blue ribbon, first place prize for best landscape (mountain/river) photograph at the Sonoma County Fair! Click here to see (the first photo that appears).

Also, a lady stops by and asks for some of Bob's limited supply of toilet paper, which he provides. (Fortunately, Jennifer had brought plenty of extra.)

Oh, also, the scenery is wonderful. Here's a video.

Our campsite and a nearby stream in the meadows below Donahue Pass on the eastern side, around 10,500 ft elevation. Here's a brief video.

Day 3 of Backpacking, Saturday, July 28

On day 3 we hike from below Donahue Pass down to Thousand Island Lake. We decide not to take side trips to Marie, Davis, or Waugh Lakes, each of which would add a couple of miles round-trip hikes. We end up backpacking 6 1/2 to 7 miles with a nice lunch stop at the small lakes just below Island Pass.

When we first got up in the morning a man and a young boy whom we had met the previous day with their horses, were on the trail near our campsite. They asked us if we had seen their horses. Turns out the horses had gotten loose the night before. Later we met someone who saw the man and boy once again had their horses.

We saw lots of flowers in the meadows. Above are a few examples along with this video. The blue flowers are Lupines, the red are Indian Paintbrush.

Stream crossing, then on to Island Pass, where we ate our lunch and relaxed for a bit. Here's a video of the stream crossing and a brief video at lunch.

Below, we arrive at Thousand Island Lake, then hike for about a mile before finding a suitable campsite. The weather remains spectacular. We are both beat and ready for a meal and sleeping bag.

Banner Peak above Thousand Island Lake from our campsite in the evening around 8:30 pm:

Day 4, Sunday, July 29

On Sunday we leave our tents and backpacks at our campsite, and do about a 7 or 8 mile day hike, some of it off trail as we go over the pass from Thousand Island Lake to Garnet Lake. The pass, at 10,150 feet, is about 475 ft above Garnet. We did a lot of rock clambering without trail to get over and down.

About the most worrying event of the trip occurs early in the day as we hike around Thousand Island Lake. Jennifer slips while crossing a stream and bangs her knee into a rock. Fortunately, although there is a bit of blood and bruise below the knee, the injury is minor. After she cleans and bandages, we wait a while for her socks to dry (the boots stayed wet as the water had poured in).

We then continue past the lake and climb up to the pass to Garnet Lake. Meet a family/friends group of 12, several of them appear to be teens/pre-teens. Bob is absolutely blown away when he is told they all hope to climb to the very top of Banner Peak. We learn from others that this is a pretty common endeavor. Bob begins to think maybe he should try it some day. In the above photo that tallest mountain with the vertical straight wall is Banner Peak. Apparently it is easier to climb on the other side.

The following set of 6 photos are taken at the top of the pass from Thousand Island Lake to Garnet Lake

Shortly after the following three photos were taken as we were hiking by Garnet Lake, Jennifer's iPhone battery ran out. Bob did not bring his camera because it told him the day before its battery was dead. Bob had lost the extra battery he brought along. That means there was no chance to take further photos as we hiked by Ruby and Emerald Lakes on our way to complete the loop we were following to Thousand Island Lake. Needless to say, the scenery was beautiful.

We did get one more photo that day because of the kindness of a young man we met, Peter. He was carrying a professional camera on a long backpacking trip. He wanted a photo of him and Bob, because Bob reminded him so much of John Muir (this was the second time on the trip that comment was made). Jennifer took the picture, Bob provided his email address, and Peter emailed the resulting photo, which is above.

Day 5 of backpacking, Monday, July 30

We get up reasonably early on Monday morning with the intent of either going a few miles down to Clark Lakes to camp, or down to the Rush Creek Trail Head/Silver Lake, where Bob's car is parked. In the end, we get to the car at 4:15 in the afternoon; drive back to Bill and Jennifer's place in Oakland by around 10:15 that evening; then, after exchanging photos, Bob drives home and arrives at exactly midnight, where Shirley has hung a sign in the garage proclaiming "Yeah! Blue Ribbon Bob Welcome Home!" A glorious ending to a glorious trip.

And, as it turns out, Bob's camera battery was good for a few more photos on the last day, after all. So here are some.

One of the Clark Lakes comes into view

A closer view

As Jennifer and Bob came down from Agnew Lake, they saw a working cable railroad and thought about how much easier it would be to ride that. Here are 3 guys actually getting a ride up on a car. They even have their ice chest. No backpacks.

End of the Trail!

Welcome Home!

Trail Route

Elevations Along Trail
(Underestimates distance)

Equipment Recommendations

This was the trip Bob decided to upgrade his equipment, to move away from the external frame pack of many years and to replace his two person tent with the lightest weight one person tent he could find. Based on the experiences of this trip, there are 4 backpacking recomendations:

  1. Backpack: REI Flash 62 internal frame pack worked very well. I found it much easier on my shoulders than the external frame pack. It held everything I needed for this 5 day trip and I am sure it could handle a 9 or 10 day trip.

  2. Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 single person tent with fly that weighs under 2 lbs. This worked well and I will be using it in the future. For a couple of days I complained about it having no pockets built into it for storing my glasses, flashlight, etc. On the third night I discovered that it did in fact have a small pocket at the top of the tent that served that purpose. The tent itself goes up easily with only a couple of stakes really needed. However, the fly requires lots of stakes and is a bit of a pain therefor. However, our weather was perfect - clear, blue skies during the day and the galaxy overhead at night, so no need for the fly.

  3. Water purifier: First Need water purifier is the one my family has used for years. Once again it performed flawlessly. I could not recommend it more highly. Without the use of chemicals its filters take out both viruses and bacteria. The test before going on a trip is to put red dye in water. The purifier turns it back into clear, clean water.

  4. Sleeping bag: I inherited from my sister a 3 lb, down filled, Sierra Design sleeping bag. Boy did that keep me warm. Wonderful.

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By The Author:

Bob Phillips [phillips bob 27 at yahoo dot com - no spaces]
Santa Rosa, CA
August, 2012