Monday, August 15, 2011

Crystal Basin Trip Report - Day 5 - 8/10/11

-Sunrise at Twin Lake and cross country hike to Silver Dagger Lake-

          Just before first light I crawled out of bed and reluctantly put on a pair of shorts and my ‘not so warm’ hiking clothes. I knew the first couple of minutes would be cold but I would warm up in no time once I got moving.
          I told Sarah that I might attempt Mt. Price but my ultimate goal was Silver Dagger Lake which lies above Twin and Island Lakes among scree and slabs of granite.
          My pack was heavy as I set off on my bike toward the Grouse Lake Trailhead. Once at the trailhead I issued myself a day use permit as required for the Desolation Wilderness. I breezed through the next half mile, locked my bike to the same tree as the day before, and set off up the trail. Within a few minutes I stripped down to my T-shirt as I was keeping a good pace. I wanted to make it to Twin Lakes for sunrise. As I climbed higher I gained vistas of Wrights Lake below and the distant hills being kissed by the first rays of sunlight. I knew what time the sun hit the edge of Wrights Lake from watching sunrise the previous morning and it would be even later that the sun would hit Twin Lakes. So I knew by keeping my eye on when the sun hit Wrights Lake just how fast to push myself.
          The trail follows a stream for a ways before coming to the Desolation Wilderness Boundary sign. Continuing on, I traveled in and out of granite and forested areas admiring lots of blooming Penstimon along the way.

Desolation Wilderness Boundary

          I passed by the turnoff for Grouse, Hemlock, and Smith Lakes where the terrain then turned mostly to granite. I found the route by following rock cairns. I enjoyed the solitude the trail offered for I knew on my return hike I would surely run into hordes of hikers. The granite path leveled out a bit and I traversed across the slabs toward Twin Lake. At times the trail was basically a stream due to the late season snow melt. I crossed over the outlet creek using the provided stone boulders. This marks the near arrival to Twin Lakes.

Entryway to the Land of Oz(Awes)

          A short distance further and I was at the western shore of the lake. I had made it before sunrise so I looked around for a good spot to watch. I ended up crossing over the outlet stream soaking my feet in the process. The creeks are much higher than normal for this time of year. A man and his son were fishing from the shoreline and were the first people I had seen so far. They had a campsite set up not far from the lake.
          Twin Lake is bounded by granite so it wasn’t hard for me to find a nice spot by the waters edge to watch the sun come up. I ate a second breakfast as I waited. Again, the lakes surface was very still and reflected the mountains beautifully.

Twin Lake Outlet Creek

Morning Light Above Twin Lakes

Sunrise Over Twin Lakes & Twin Lakes Cascade

          After the sun peaked over the mountains I continued around the north shore toward Twin Lake Cascade. I passed through a small but beautiful wildflower filled meadow.

Wildflower Filled Meadow

          I knew Silver Dagger Lake lay not too far above the falls but I realized an opportunity to catch another sunrise directly above the cascade. I scurried down to a steep ledge and again, waited for the sun to rise.

Sunrise Over Twin Lakes Cascade

          It was a good time to apply sunscreen as I knew the sun would be scorching as soon as it got just a little higher in the sky.
          I traveled on and soon came to large snow drifts which I had no problem traversing. Luckily the snow was hard and there was no post holing. I had a little difficulty crossing a small fast flowing creek on the way to Boomerang Lake but managed without getting wet.
          There was so much snow pack that I lost the trail which really didn’t matter too much as this is where I was to venture cross country to Silver Dagger Lake. I headed East up the steep rocky slopes gaining elevation rather quickly. I soon found myself looking down on several pristine ponds that feed the Twin Lake cascade. I ventured across the talus slopes in search of Silver Dagger Lake. After a couple of stops to check the map and compass I eventually arrived at my destination. Silver Dagger Lake also known as Shangri La is a gorgeous sliver of a lake. I guess by definition it isn’t really a lake, but who cares about the technicality.

Silver Dagger Lake

Silver Dagger Lake

          Sporadically scattered around the shoreline were delicate patches of Red and White Mountain Heather. These plants are extremely delicate and require one to tread lightly and be mindful of every step.

Red Heather & False Summit of Mt. Price

          I explored around the small lake for some time still contemplating making the ascent of Mt. Price. Several factors deterred me from continuing on. First off, Sarah was sick at camp and I already felt bad enough leaving her behind alone to take care of herself… Some husband!? Secondly, the sun was already taking its toll on me and I had already burnt a lot of time taking photos. And lastly, the snow pack covering the terrain leading up to the peak looked steep and slippery and I would prefer to have a hiking partner.
          With the decision to abort the summit attempt, it gave me more time to relax and enjoy where I was at.

Water Depression

Silver Dagger Lake

          Time seems to disappear when I’m in the mountains and it is often difficult to return. I was however, completely satisfied with my journey to this point and decided to head back to camp to be with Sarah.
          I took a different route back across the talus and happened upon an interesting spiral painted rock. It looks like the spiral was painted on a solid rock that has since broken apart giving an even more interesting appearance.

Painted Spiral & Island Lake

          Below me were great views of Island Lake set in a large granite cirque. As its namesake suggests, the lake is full of islands.
          I came to one snow field where I was able to have a little fun glissading. Other than that I had to hike carefully as the footing was rough. Soon I was back on an actual trail which I followed along the shore of Boomerang Lake and back toward Twin Lakes.
          I started the descent and started to run into day hikers about half way down the trail. I was glad to be finishing up with my hike because it was already hot out. One family hiking up asked me if they were close to Enchanted Pools. I told them they had missed the turnoff and kindly walked them downhill and pointed them in the right direction. As it turned out they were are camp neighbors.
          The rest of the hike was pretty much a formality as I hiked back to my bike in short order and rode back to camp.
          I arrived to find Sarah resting in bed still not feeling well. We rested beneath our canopy swatting mosquitoes away from our faces constantly.
          Sarah was itching to leave camp so we took a drive to explore some forest roads in the vicinity. It’s what I like to call hiking with the car. We ended up finding some great secluded spots with excellent creek access. Spots we will definitely revisit in the future.
          That evening I decided to forgo any sunset adventure and relax at camp with Sarah. We had dinner and a large campfire before turning in for the night.

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