Photos from some of our hikes in 2018.  The Blog posts are just below the photos.

(Until July of 2016, if you clicked on the photos, they will take you to our trip photo logs on Picasa.  But then Google decided to make that impossible, even though they had provided us with both the website software and the compatible Picasa software so that we COULD do that.  Now the photos are on Google Photos, where we cannot make albums visible to the public.  We HATE Google photos.)

             Closer to home: Sonora in the fall                                  Twenty Lakes Basin at dusk

South lake in a gale                                                           Daniel and friends in Yosemite


                    Arches National Park                                                 Zion National Park


posted Oct 13, 2019, 6:08 PM by Paul Wagner

Our welcome to South Africa, in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront...

No. we didn't do much hiking there.  But thanks to P's long history in the wine business we got invited on a spectacular trip to visit Southern Africa, from Capetown to Kruger Park, with stops in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe as well.  it was a truly memorable experience. 

We began in Capetown, where we visited the infamous Robben Island prison and were given a tour by an ex-political prisoner of the apartheid regime.  It was very moving to hear him describe the enormous courage and fortitude of the prisoners, who effectively overthrew the government from inside the prison--a true triumph of the human spirit. 

From there we visited the Cape of Good Hope, where Vasco de Gama found his way around Africa towards the eastern spice trade.  Beautiful scenery. and some remarkable wildlife, including penguins, elands, baboons, ostriches, and more.  And we polished off the day in the wine region of Constantia--legendary wines that even Napoleon revered. 

The next day we visited the wine region of Stellenbosch, where we tasted great wines and ate wonderful food.  It is something else to see a vineyard with impala grazing in a field nearby...

After Capetown we flew to Botswana and then took small boats to Namibia for a cruise on the Chobe River.  Astonishing wildlife were, and we loved the huge herds of Cape buffalo and elephants,  And yes, we did get quite close to them! 

This crocodile was about fifteen feet long....

During our time on the Chobe, we also did a land safari along the river in Botswana, where we got very close to some lions...

Since we were only about 75 miles away, a visit to Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe was in order.  Even though this was the dry season, and the falls were only about 10% of peak flow, they were still thoroughly impressive.

And from there we flew back to Johannesburg to tour the Nelson Mandela House in Soweto and the Apartheid Museum--both remarkable.  I wish our politicians thought this way...

And finally, we spent four days in Kruger, doing more wildlife safaris, morning and afternoon.  Each one seemed to raise the bar in terms of the wildlife we saw, including a long list of antelopes (Impala, eland, kudu, duiker, bushbok, springbok, puku, waterbuck, wildebeests, roan antelope, sable, letchwe, steenbok...I am sure I am leaving some out here) plus hippos, hyenas, wild dogs (quite rare and endangered) leopards, warthogs, baboons, vervet monkeys, water monitors, giraffe, zebra....it was an absolute smorgasbord of nature.  And that doesn't even begin to touch the huge variety of birds, from eagles, vultures and storks, to endless brightly colored bee-eaters, oxpeckers, rollers, weavers, kingfishers, hornbills, lapwings...it was almost overwhelming. 

Here are a few more photos, but a larger selection can be found at the link at the bottom:

Every day we were treated to a sunset worthy of note...here are just a couple of them:

link to the rest of the photos:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/wgu1yg5qG26cVntX6

Gotta go!

One Last Trail Crew...

posted Sep 19, 2019, 10:10 AM by Paul Wagner

This post is by P:

It was supposed to be a three day trip, but I bailed.  First we were supposed to hike into Scout Carson Lake, where we would set up a spike camp and work on the Horse Canyon Trail.  But with the weather report calling for a series of showers, Ranger Chip opted to play it safer and set up camp near Silver Lake. at the Silverado Camp.  That's where I met him on Wednesday morning.

My day had started much earlier, when I got up before 5 a.m. (after teaching my class at the college the night before) and drove up to Silver Lake near Carson Pass.  When I arrived Chip was just getting ready to hit the trail, so I threw a few things into my day pack and followed him up the trail.  The weather was cool (50 degrees) and overcast, but there was no rain, and the showers were only predicted for the afternoon.  But hiking uphill at a good pace quickly encouraged us to strip off a couple of layers on the way up. 

After about two miles, we met the first group of young workers from the East Sierra Conservation Corps--a great group of young people from all over the US who had spent the summer doing trail work in the Sierra.  This was their last week of work, and we were hoping to get most of the Horse Canyon Trail in shape.  This is a big project, because the trail is open to mountain bikes and dirt bikes--and those can really tear up a trail that would normally stand up to simple foot traffic.  Every section had to be overbuilt to withstand the impact of a dirt biker racing along. 

During the morning, Chip directed the six members of the ESCC on various projects along the trail, while he and I tackled others.  At one point we were carrying large rocks between the two of us so that we could protect the exposed roots of some ancient junipers on the trail.  These were large, flat slabs of granite, and I used some muscles that I hadn't used in a while...One rule about rock work--always choose rocks above the trail.  It's much easier to roll them downhill than it is to carry or roll them up!

Lunch was chilly, as we sat among the rocks with the ESCC team and chomped down our food.  There was just a hint of sunshine from time to time, and the showers we had seen were very light, or headed to the peaks north of us.  So far, so good.

In the afternoon, Chip suggested that we tackle a series of water bars on a long straight section of trail. (Water bars are angled dams that direct water and erosion off the trail and down the hill.)  Again, given that these were going to get hammered by dirt bikes, they had to be built to last.  And as we  worked on the first water bar, the rain showers became slightly more frequent, and heavier.   By the second one, it was a steady cold rain, with temperatures in the low forties, and gusty winds--since we were working at about 8500 feet near the top of the ridge. 

Over the course of the next two hours. we watched the rain get more consistent, and the peaks above us disappear into the clouds, until we, too were enveloped in the mist and gusty winds. What fun! And it didn't get any warmer, either. 

At 3:30 Chip suggested that we begin to pack up and head down the hill. back to camp  Most of the tools were left on the job site, carefully tucked into the shelter of some dense juniper trees, and we struck off down the hill at a brisk pace for what was now nearly a three-mile hike in the rain and wind.  By the time we got down to Silverado Camp at 4:30, it was still raining, the temperatures were dropping, and I was soaked to the skin from the waist down.  (Note to self: water resistant pants are not water proof.  In fact, they are simply pants.)

I thought about what I had in the van.  My hiking boots were soaked.  I had clean, warm sock and undies, and I had brought along a nice warm sleeping bag.  I had food and a stove.  But the thought of spending a night in the van, hoping some of my gear would dry out, and then doing it all over again, had me thinking hard--especially because the weather report called for more showers the following day--and lower temperatures. 

And so I bailed.  I thanked Chip for a fun day on the trail, and he laughed.  I congratulated the kids of the ESCC for being better people than I am.  They were.  And I got in the van and drove home, with the heater and defroster on high. I drove through another 25 miles of cold, miserable weather before I got down below the cloud cover.  By the time I got to Sacramento, it was almost sunny, and I was toasty warm. 

And today I read the weather report: Partly cloudy in the morning then becoming mostly cloudy. At lower elevations, a slight chance of rain showers. At higher elevations, a slight chance of rain showers in the morning, then a chance of rain and snow showers in the afternoon. Highs 43 to 58 higher elevations...57 to 67 lower elevations. Snow level 7500 feet increasing to above 8000 feet in the afternoon. Prevailing southeast winds up to 10 mph shifting to the west in the afternoon.

Rx: Nature

posted Sep 5, 2019, 6:53 AM by Paul Wagner

We loved this video that our niece in Spain sent us:

There are more of these on nature-rx.org

Dinkey Lakes Trip Report

posted Sep 3, 2019, 8:16 AM by Paul Wagner

Hoping to sneak in a few days of hiking before the big crowds of Labor Day, we drove south to the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness and found just what we were looking for.

Day One:  it began a long drive down to Courtwright Reservoir with stops in Madera for lunch at a Chinese restaurant (forgettable) and Prather to pick up our permit and get the latest Tom Harrison Map of the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. As usual, during the hike we noticed a few differences between the USGS topo maps and the Harrison map—and in this case, the Harrison map was a bit more accurate.  We camped at the PG&E campground at Trapper Springs, even though we could have camped right at the trailhead.  But the campground had vault toilets and drinking water.  We paid $24 for that!  After dinner we climbed up on the nearby dome for wonderful views of the reservoir and surrounding peaks.

Day Two:  With M’s foot still a question, we’ve been aiming for shorter hiking days, and this was no exception.  Our goal was Cliff Lake, less than five miles from the trailhead.  The first three miles was a cakewalk, with quite a few bugs in the middle, but the last third climbs up to Cliff Lake and was about as much as her foot could manage. 

We were at the lake by lunchtime.  After our PB&J sandwiches, we set up our tent in a quiet spot a bit back and away from the lake and took a nap.  With most of the afternoon still ahead of us, we set out cross-country to find Christenson Lake, which was lovely and quiet.  We hiked around it, then went back to Cliff Lake to catch a few brook trout.

Boy are there a lot of campsites at Cliff Lake.  Most of them are huge, too close to the water to be legal, and completely cleared of anything organic—just rocks and sand.  That night we were joined by two couples—one quiet couple camped far away on the other end of the lake, and the other couple camped between us and managed to shout, hoot and holler most of the evening as they played some kind of game through the forest... 

Day Three:  This was going to be an easy day, just up and over the pass, and then another mile to Island Lake.  We took it slow up to the pass, and then the trail drops very quickly to Rock Lake.  The trout were rising like crazy at about 9:30, but we continued on to Second Dinkey Lake, and then took the more rustic trail up to Island Lake.  This is marked as not suitable for stock, but it is really only difficult in a short section—one that was also complicated by a massive treefall.  Once we detoured past that it was easy, and we arrived to find only two people there—and they were leaving that day. 

We found a nice campsite perched up behind some huge boulders on the west side of the lake, and set up camp.  We explored around the lake for the rest of the morning, and then after lunch we climbed the small dome north of the lake for some absolutely stunning views of the other lakes in the area, plus the whole Sierra crest to the east.  Fabulous.  We also met a group of about six or eight guys, one of whom was flying a drone around.  A few cross words were exchanged at that point.  Grrr.

And once back in camp, we decided to cross-country over and down to Fingerbowl Lake—another absolute jewel of crystal clear water set into a granite bowl.  Wonderful spot.  And while there were no fish in the lake, it would have made a very nice and quiet campsite.  Next time. 

Day Four: We thought we would leave Island Lake to the flying droners, so we got up early and left for Second Dinkey Lake and Rock Lake.  Since the fish were rising there the day before, P thought it might be worth fishing there this morning.  It was, for 8-10 inch brookies. 

We didn’t set up our tent at Rock Lake though, because we really weren’t sure about our plans.  We waffled about this all day long.  After fishing, we decided to day-hike down to Little Lake for lunch: a short, steep trail that led to another amazing lake.  There was a perfect (and perfectly legal!) campsite there, and we ate our lunch out on the peninsula underneath the towering Dogtooth Peak.  Had it not been for the steep climb back out, we might have gone and fetched our packs and camped here for the night.   

After a lovely lunch (we didn’t see another soul on this trail) we got back to Rock Lake where P fished a bit more.  A group of three guys had set up camp on the far southeast corner of the lake, and we had staked our claim to a nice spot on the ridge to the northeast.  They skinny-dipped while P fished, and luckily we weren’t too close to each other. 

But as the afternoon progressed we started thinking about the hike out the next day…and M was worried about it.  So we decided to hoist our packs and hike back up over the pass and down into Cliff Lake.  But this time we camped at Christenson Lake instead, and we had the place to ourselves.  It was a really lovely spot, with views from the ridge behind our camp to the far Sierra, and towards the lake and this side of Dogtooth Peak. Idyllic.   

Day Five:  This was an easy one, just about five miles, almost all downhill.  But we were surprised by the number of hikers we met.  We had seen an average of six people per day for the previous three days, and now we were meeting real crowds hiking up to Cliff Lake on Sunday.  We made it back to the van to discover that the parking area (which had had only five cars in it when we started our trip) was now packed to the gills with at least thirty cars. In fact, P moved the van so that a late-arriving hiker could park in our place.

What struck us about this area was that it was really quite easy to access, and yet we hadn’t met that many people.  Sure, some of the lakes were heavily impacted by campsites and fire rings, but all in all, it was everything we could hope for in a trip that didn’t require long miles on the trail, and still delivered everything you’d want in a backpacking trip.

The rest of the photos from our trip are here:   https://photos.app.goo.gl/udpzeV8tqaidNYSXA

We are getting on...but not so fast!

posted Sep 2, 2019, 8:52 PM by Paul Wagner

With our deteriorating joints, we've found that we can't hike the same trails we used to hike--or at least, not the same way.  A few years ago, we hiked fourteen miles with a pack on, and felt reasonably good about it.  Now we aim at closer to five miles a day.  And while we have done a number of five to eight day trips in the past, these days we're usually planning for 2-5 days, to limit the total pack weight we have to carry.

What other ways have we adapted to our weakened knees and feet?  We  like the idea of a base camp, where we can set up camp and then day hike to a series of destinations within a few miles of our campsite.  Those work well.  And we've become more focused on finding those remote trailheads that scare away some hikers, but allow us to hike a few miles and still find some semblance of solitude. 

An example of the former was our recent trip to the Lake Sabrina Basin, where we camped above Dingleberry Lake for a couple of nights and explored many of the lakes above that as day hikes.  And our hike to Chain Lakes in the Emigrant Wilderness was an example of the latter--a difficult drive to the trailhead, and when we got there, we were the only vehicle in the parking area.  So was the hike into Thornburg Canyon near Carson Pass. Once we got a mile into the hike, we were alone.

We hope those of you who are younger and more athletic are taking full advantage of your youth and fitness--and hiking to those wonderful destinations that we can usually only dream about now!

About those orange tents

posted Aug 26, 2019, 3:20 PM by Paul Wagner

Since we posted about highly visible and brightly colored tents on our blog, we've received a lot of comments.  And we did some poking around.  Turns out that REI and MSR only use that bright orange for rain flies on expedition/alpine tents--in other words, only on tents that are intended for use in snow.  Same with Kelty.  For their three-season tents, the rain flies for all three companies seem to be a nice calm grey....which is easy on the eyes.  That's nice.

And as we have noted, our Tarptent is a lovely granite grey---and so are most backpacking tarps.  Seems like those companies get the message. 

Marmot, Big Agnes, Nemo,  Black Diamond, and The North Face all use bright colors for many of their tents. Maybe they haven't actually read the Leave No Trace principles.   

Here's what the LNT organization itself says:  "Bright clothing and equipment, such as tents, that can be seen for long distances are discouraged. Especially in open natural areas, colors such as day-glow yellow may contribute to a crowded feeling; consider earth-toned colors (ie. browns and greens) to lessen visual impacts." 

We welcome comments from tent manufacturers on this topic!


Fire restrictions in Yosemite

posted Aug 21, 2019, 12:39 PM by Paul Wagner

Yosemite National Park is experiencing high fire danger, along with continued hot and dry weather patterns. Due to the current and predicted fire conditions and fire behavior, the Superintendent of Yosemite National Park will be implementing Stage I fire restrictions until further notice is given.

By order of the Superintendent of Yosemite National Park and under authority of Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 2.13(c):
  • No building, maintaining, attending or using a fire (including campfire, cooking fire, and charcoal fires) within Yosemite National Park below 6,000 feet in elevation. Portable stoves using pressurized gas, liquid fuel or propane are permitted, as are alcohol stoves, including tablet/cube stoves. Twig stoves are not permitted.
  • No smoking below 6,000 feet except within an enclosed vehicle, a campground or picnic area where wood and charcoal fires are allowed or in a designated smoking area. All public buildings, public areas of Concession buildings (including restrooms), other areas as posted and within 25 feet of any non-single family residential building remain closed to smoking at all times.
  • Campfires and cooking fires may still be used in designated campgrounds and picnic areas in developed portions of the park in accordance with park regulations.
    • Designated Campgrounds: Upper Pines, Lower Pines, North Pines, Yellow Pines, Camp 4, Wawona, Bridalveil Creek, Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, Tamarack Flat, Yosemite Creek, Porcupine Flat,
    • Designated Picnic Areas: Tuolumne Meadows, Lembert Dome, Tenaya Lake, Yosemite Creek, Wawona, Mariposa Grove, Glacier Point, Cascade, El Capitan, Cathedral Beach, Sentinel Beach, Swinging Bridge, Housekeeping Camp, Church Bowl, and Lower Yosemite Falls.
  • Campfires and cooking fires may still be used in residential areas in developed portions of the park in accordance with park regulation.
    • Residential Areas: Wawona, El Portal, Yosemite Valley, Hodgdon Meadow, Foresta, Aspen Valley, and Tuolumne Meadows
There are no administrative exemptions to this order. Notice of closure will be posted and areas will be monitored to ensure compliance. This designation will remain in place until rescinded.

Epic Campsites and International Orange Tents...

posted Aug 20, 2019, 8:41 AM by Paul Wagner

It's true.  When P started backpacking, he used a bright orange tube tent, and it served its purpose.  And there's a reason that alpine shelters are bright orange.  When you need a rescue in the snow, that orange color can help get you seen, found, and rescued.
Our camp---and a few shots of the tent I designed and made. It weighs a little over three pounds, and is both water and insect proof!©http://backpackthesierra.com

So what does that have to do with backpackers today?  Not much.  And frankly, we've grown a little tired of seeing bright orange and yellow blobs of color decorating so many photogenic sites, as if they are posing for the cover of a magazine. 

If we really subscribe to Leave No Trace principles, shouldn't that also apply to leaving the landscape views unmarred by glaringly unnatural colors?  It's a little like those hikers in the Southwest who insist upon climbing up into the rock arches, and then staying there for hours, ruining every other hiker's hope for a more natural photo. 

In fact, when was the last time you saw a magazine photo of a backpacking camp that didn't feature day-glo colors?  All well and good, but hardly the epitome of the natural world.  We hope that tent manufacturers will take note:  stop polluting the views with your logoed eyesores.

The new tent...taken out for a spin ©http://backpackthesierra.com

Epic campsites?  We think they should be quietly hidden in among the trees, where they can't be seen (and where you can also enjoy some shade during the day), not plopped into the view of every other hiker who makes the effort to enjoy the wilderness.
Our campsite in the evening   ©http://backpackthesierra.com

When P started making his own tents, he began with a neutral slate blue material.  And then later on, he used an even lighter pale granite color.  This was so successful that we once found that another group had set up their camp within 25 feet of ours, because they didn't realize that our tent was a tent, not a granite boulder among the trees. 

And today, we have to give kudos to our Tarptent.  We're delighted with the performance of the tent.  And we're delighted that it fades nicely into the landscape with its soft grey color. 

LNT indeed.

What could possibly go wrong?

posted Aug 19, 2019, 7:39 AM by Paul Wagner

By now you know that we have hiked something more than 2500 miles in the Sierra Nevada and other parts of the West.  We've backpacked for years and years, and we are as experienced a pair as you are likely to find on the trail. 

So what could possibly go wrong? 

Well, on our last trip, just as an example, we had a few misfortunes.  P's toothbrush broke.  It was a source of some amusement to see him trying to brush his teeth holding the stub of the brush with both hands.  And his sunglasses also snapped above the ear.  No worries, we had packed duct tape--except that for some reason P had switched lip balms, and the duct tape was around the old lip balm tube, not the new one. 

That's OK.  We also have adhesive tape in the first aid kit.  In fact, that tape came from P's parents' first aid kit...and let's see...his mom passed away how many years ago?  It was tape, but it wasn't adhesive.  hmm.  Luckily, we still had a few small band-aids, and a couple of them, wrapped around a twig as a splint, fixed the sunglasses at least enough to get him home. 

Just a reminder that it pays to make sure all your gear is newish...and that you've also got a back up!  

Stunning Sabrina Basin

posted Aug 17, 2019, 7:58 PM by Paul Wagner

With only a few more days before school starts, we wanted to get one last trip into the Sierra, and headed for Sabrina Basin.  We'd hiked out of both North Lake and South Lake, so this was the last of the three trailheads for us to explore.

Day One: It was a long drive from Napa over Echo Summit and Monitor Pass to the Mono Lake Ranger Station, where we got our permit at about 1 p.m.  There were still plenty of spaces available for both Monday and Tuesday, so we felt sure that it wouldn't be too crowded.  After a quick bite at the Lee Vining Mobil Station, we drove down to Bishop to buy a few last minute supplies (a dinner for that night, a hair clip for M, and an extra bottle of Advil for our aching bones) and set up camp in the Sabrina Lake Campground.  There were still places available here at 5 p.m. and we took a short walk around the area and settled in to an early night.

Day Two: We packed up and parked Le Vin Blanc on the road right outside the campground, then hit the trail by 9 a.m.  Fishermen were already on the lake as we slowly climbed up past the trail to Lake George and onwards to Blue Lake.  We got there in time for an early lunch, and probably should have taken a short rest at that point.  But we didn't.  The mosquitoes were not too bad in the middle of the afternoon, and we pushed on past Emerald Lakes to Dingleberry Lake. 

There were a few campers on the granite ledges above the South end of the lake, and we half-heartedly looked for a campsite on the North end.  But that was pretty rugged terrain.  We wandered along the creek beyond the lake, and finally settled on a campsite overlooking the two fords of the creek:  one for hikers, one for stock.  It was a pretty spot, with shade in the afternoon for our nap, and nice views all the way around.  We set up camp, napped, fished, rested, and generally felt a bit worn out after only five miles of hiking.  But that comes with age, we suppose. That night the mosquitoes made their presence known in spades, and we turned in early to escape them.  Still, it was lovely country, and the weather was perfect: warm in the sun, cool in the shade.  

Day Three; instead of packing up, we left our camp set up and day-hiked up to the lakes above.  After fording the creek, we ran into a wilderness ranger doing trail work.  In addition to sharing our experiences working on trails, we got our permit checked and had a nice chat.  On our permit we had initially named Topsy-Turvy Lake as our destination, but we were happy with our campsite at the fords.  And when we saw Topsy Turvy Lake, we were even happier with our decision.  While it was beautiful, there didn't seem to be many campsites at Topsy Turvy  amid the vast fields of talus--although there might have been a few above the lake on the South side--and they would have been very exposed.  We like shade. 

From there we continued on to Sailor Lake, and then topped out at Hungry Packer Lake, which had apparently earned the name Hungry Mosquito Lake this year.  The bugs were absolutely fierce.  We were hiking in headnets and it really helped to keep moving!  Which we did.  Lots of people camped around here, by the way.  

We hiked cross-country over to Moonlight Lake and had a nice rest and snack sitting among the huge talus blocks above that lake.  Then we continued down the granite slabs to Sailor Lake again, and back down to our camp.  It was interesting that the ford, which was about 75 feet long over a long string of rocks, was drier later in the day, and wetter earlier in the day.  Clearly the snowmelt was taking twelve hours to get down the creek to the ford.  After lunch and a nap. we decided we'd explore Dingleberry Lake some more.  While much of the shoreline was rugged, we did manage to find a route down from the trail to the North end of the lake, where there was a lovely pool, and a series of campsites further out above the canyon beyond the outlet stream.  This would make a nice base camp, and it seemed to get little traffic.  Back at camp that night, we dodged and swatted the bugs, ate our dinner, and again headed to the tent just about dusk, leaving the field to the pesky mosquitoes.

Day Four:  We'd heard that Donkey Lake had fewer mosquitoes, and since that was also on our itinerary, we headed there next.  The trail back down to Blue Lake is really beautiful, and we enjoyed it much more in this direction.  Once at the junction, we took the trail towards Donkey Lake, and were surprised to see a second junction only 1/4 mile later to Baboon Lakes.  On our topo map, and on the Tom Harrison map, this junction is much higher up, right where the trail crosses the creek.  Hmmm.  Oh well. 

We continued on to Donkey Lake, absolutely loving the scenery of the creek as we followed it up the canyon past pools, cascades and rapids.  And Donkey Lake was charming.  We set up camp and went to explore a bit, doing some fishing, filtering water, and getting a feel for the place.  The lake was so clear and there were so many trout on the surface that at times it looked like an aquarium.  After lunch and our usual nap, we headed back down the hill 1/2 mile to pick up the trail that was shown on our maps to Baboon Lakes.

What a bushwhack!  We followed cairns and blazes; struggled, clambered, and finally found a section of trail that looked reasonable.  After about an hour, and at least one conversation about turning around, we topped out on the crest of a ridge, and there was Baboon Lake.  Spectacular!  We wandered around the lake for quite a while before exploring different routes down.  We could not believe that was the only trail!  But as we explored, we found an easier down to the trail, and as P watched our progress and took in our surroundings, he suddenly exclaimed: "Donkey Lake is right over there!" 

He was right.  It was just 75 yards from where we had found the first real section of cairns to follow...and the whole first part of our hike up to Baboon Lakes had been a complicated and unnecessary circle.  For those who are interested, if you find the small round pond just West of Donkey Lake, you can follow a series of cairns southwest up that ridge, over into the next chute, and at the top of that chute the cairns will lead you into the main chute that takes you up to Baboon Lakes.  It's steep, but passable and clearly marked.  And while it took us just over an hour to get up to the lakes, it took us only 25 minutes to get down, once we understood the geography. 

 (BTW, the other, signed trail to Baboon Lakes from near Blue Lake must take a very different route---but we never saw it, even though we looked for that trail up at the lake itself.  We assume that it stays west of the creek the whole way up...)   Great fishing that afternoon in Donkey Lake for brookies and rainbows from 6-10 inches long...and almost non-stop action.  That evening we fought the bugs one last time, finally giving up around 8 o'clock to get into the tent. 

Day Five:  It's always easier downhill, unless the steps are really tall.  So we were back at the trailhead by eleven a.m., knees a bit sore from all the steps, but happy enough with a really magical trip.  We drove into Bishop, grabbed a bite to eat at the Burger Barn, and then drove back to our cabin above Sonora in time for fresh salad, sushi, and showers. 

What a great trip. 

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