Oct 11, 2019 – 8.25 miles with 2,340 ft of elevation gain
We decided to get our fall backpacking trip in this year by heading up to Mammoth. We knew that this was going to be our only trip this year as we were saving up vacation time and funds for our big adventure in 2020. Amy and I have become big fans of hiking in the fall, we don’t mind the cooler temps and the fall colors are really amazing to see. This year we were having our friend Joanne join us as she is trying to get opportunities to get out backpacking. Since they have a place up in Mammoth she and Amy took off to head up early on Thursday. This allowed them to get acclimated and get a few things ready for the trip. I would then head up early on Friday, grab the permit and then we would be off for our 3 day trip.
Friday morning the alarm went off early at 3:00 am. I was on the road with coffee in hand by 3:15. This is when the obstacles started! Its the only time I think you can cruise on the freeways in LA without worrying about traffic. So I was making good time until I reached the sign and cones saying the freeway was closed due to a brush fire. I quickly made a move to try and get around the closure but found myself stuck. With no idea of when the freeway would open up I decided to make a decision to go for an alternate route. This meant I had to turn around and head south heading to Victorville and get on the 395 there. Unfortunately it meant I was adding time to the trip. So what normally would have taken about 5 hours ended up taking 7. Now that I had the permit and met up with Amy and Joanne we headed to the trailhead. This is when we ran into the second obstacle. On our way towards Agnew Meadows the low fuel light came on in my truck. In my haste to get to Mammoth and grab the permit I didn’t notice the gas getting low. Not wanting to waste more time turning around for gas I took the strategy of coasting down the hills hoping this would save me enough gas to get out once we finished our hike.
We finally got to the trailhead at 11:45 and grabbed our bags from the truck. We were all excited to finally get on the trail. I went to put my pack on when I found out that I was missing half of the buckle to fasten my hip belt. We searched the truck hoping to find it but it must have fallen off the belt somewhere at home. This was going to pose a problem with the mileage we were to cover and a good portion of it off trail. I was able to secure the hip belt using just half the buckle, but wasn’t necessarily tight enough to fully unload my shoulders. It would just have to work.
We headed up the Shadow Creek Trail with blue skies and warmer than expected temps. The days climb was gradual which made it seem easier than what we normally seem to take on the first day. We were making good time on the trail and decided to stop for lunch. While we were eating a group passed by and asked where we were camping. I told them Thousand Island Lake, which then got me the response of “you can get to that lake from this trail”. As they walked away I quickly grabbed the map and noticed we had missed a trail junction we were supposed to take. This is when Amy pointed out that the trail she had pointed out was most likely the one we were supposed to be on. Yep she was right! I had been on auto pilot and and just had it set in my head the trail we took was the correct one. After our half mile side track we were back on trail heading to our destination.
We were treated with amazing fall colors throughout the canyon we walked up. We got to Thousand Island Lake around 5:00 and had plenty of time to set up camp before sunset. Amy and I were testing out our new Tarptent (Stratosphere Li) for the first time. We were treated with a spectacular sunset which was followed by increased wind and dropping temps. It was getting cold but we were trying to avoid heading to the tents just yet as we knew it would be a long night lying in the tent. By 7:00 we lost the battle and all ran to our tents to try and get warm in our bags. We had an almost full moon that night which felt like we had a spot light on us all night.
Even with all of our obstacles we had a great first day and were excited to see more tomorrow as we headed towards Minaret Lake.
Way to improvise. I bet you are really tired at the end of that day?