Hello all, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on my hike to Agnew Lake from a couple days ago. The trailheads at Agnew Meadows are closed due to all the trees that blew down last November/ December. I had a few days off work and decided I'd like to try hiking to Gem Lake (and possibly as far as 1000 Island Lake). The only trailhead that was open for that route was the Rush Creek trailhead, which starts off on June Lake Loop, near Silver Lake (about 15 miles north of Mammoth for those unfamiliar with the area).
I live on the coast, so I didn't arrive at the trailhead until about 1300 hrs, in the afternoon (after stopping at the Mono Lake Visitor's Center for my wilderness permit). The trailhead starts at roughly 7,250' elevation, and the hike to Agnew Lake is a little under 2.5 miles.
I do most of my hiking at or below 300' elevation, with occasional hikes up to about 2,000'. I also don't hike in warm weather, as a warm summer day around here is 65 degrees. So needless to say, the 1,500' vertical elevation gain on a warm afternoon starting at 7,200' really kicked my butt. But more importantly, my pack weight...well, out of fear of embarrasment I won't tell you what it weighed, but suffice it to say...too much. Hahaha. (I actually don't know how much it weighed, but I plan on buying a bathroom scale today so I can find out). I got bruises on my hips and shoulders from the pack if that tells you anything. And the pack is a very nice one, and custom fit for me, so I know the weight had to be in the "way too much" category.
My hiking partner was Vixen, my 6 year-old female Belgian Malinois. She is very athletic, but hates warm weather with a passion. She loves cold and snow. So even she was getting pooped, and lying in the shade every chance she got.
All in all, we had an enjoyable time, and I learned a lot of great lessons. First...lighten my load. I have already thought of numerous ways to accomplish this, even with gear I already own. I have a 4 day backpacking trip to 1000 Island Lake planned for the end of July. I believe I will be able to get my pack weight down by 1/2 by then. Second lesson, I took the Bear Vault 450. I figured a smaller BV in my pack would leave more room for other gear, and be lighter than my bigger BV 500. While both these points are true, it wasn't worth it. I could barely squeeze my stuff in there (food for me and Vixen for several days). I plan on taking the larger BV next time, and putting more of my other items in it (like my cooking gear, etc.)
Third lesson- pillow. The "stuff your clothes in a stuff sack" plan just didn't work out for me. I am going to buy a lightweight backpacking pillow (suggestions welcome). I'm going to try and find one that lets my head breath, as the stuff sack made my head very sweatty, and I couldn't stand the lumps.
Anyways, here are some photos of the trip:
The Rush Creek trailhead:
Looking back over Silver Lake, towards the trailhead:
Looking down over the town of June Lake:
I got a kick out of this railroad that you cross several times on the switchbacks. It reminds me very much of the ride "Thunder Mountain" at Disneyland. Hahaha. Who puts a railroad up the side of a mountain? (It was put there for the hydroelectric plants. Both Gem lake and Agnew Lake are dammed for electricity):
Vixen taking a break (a common theme for both of us):
Agnew Lake (The dam at Gem Lake is visible in the upper right):
A closer shot of the Gem Lake dam, with another railroad going up from Agnew Lake:
Vixen, hidden in the shade on the trail between Agnew Lake and Gem Lake:
We also managed to do a bit of 4 wheeling. This was a very rough dirt road that leads to Parker Bench. It is accessed off of June Lake Loop, then the dirt road to the Parker Lake trailhead. About 1/2 way to the Parker Lake trailhead this road cuts off to the left, up into the hills towards Parker Bench. 4 wheel drive and a high clearance are definitely needed for sections of this road, which includes a small water crossing:
Our campsite one small valley to the south of Parker Lake:
A small brook near the campsite (more than 100' away of course). The aspens are beautiful! (If you look closely you can see Vixen posing in the middle of the shot):