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Kearsarge Lakes Trail to Charlotte Lake - 3 members in 7 triplogs have rated this an average 4 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Aug 08 2017
Mudhole
avatar

 Routes 27
 Photos 1,661
 Triplogs 20

45 male
 Joined Apr 05 2013
 Peoria, AZ
Onion Valley to Happy Isles, CA 
Onion Valley to Happy Isles, CA
 
Backpack avatar Aug 08 2017
Mudhole
Backpack172.00 Miles 31,180 AEG
Backpack172.00 Miles14 Days   2 Hrs      
31,180 ft AEG29 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
This was my solo northbound journey from Onion Valley to Mammoth Lakes, CA and then from Tuolumne Meadows to Happy Isles northern in Yosemite Valley to complete my final 160 miles of the John Muir Trail. I hiked for 172 total miles over 14 days which included the entrance in from Onion Valley, 8 alpine passes, and some side trail mileage done at Muir Trail Ranch, Red's Meadow, Devil's Postpile, and Tuolumne Meadows.

The original plan was to hike for 18 days straight, meeting up with a friend on day 11 who would join me for the last 7 days. Part of that final week would be spent covering 4 days of trail that I had already completed back in 2015. When my friend had to cancel after I was already on the trail, I chose to take 4 zero days in Mammoth Lakes to heal my feet and enjoy some luxuries. I reconvened with the JMT for the final 3 days of trail that I had yet to complete, making this a 2-section adventure all in one trip to close the gaps of the remaining miles of this amazing trail.
Named place
Named place
Mount Williamson
_____________________
"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clean away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." - John Muir
2 archives
Jul 01 2016
Lucyan
avatar

 Routes 1
 Photos 11,257
 Triplogs 707

39 female
 Joined Jan 18 2011
 In the Wild
Rae Lakes Loop TrailSierra Nevada, CA
Sierra Nevada, CA
Backpack avatar Jul 01 2016
Lucyan
Backpack37.60 Miles 12,640 AEG
Backpack37.60 Miles4 Days         
12,640 ft AEG
 
4 day backpacking trip on JMT/PCT trails from Onion Valley to Rae Lakes and back via Kearsarge Pass and Kearsarge Lakes

Day 1: Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes
Day 2: Kearsarge Lakes to Rae Lakes
Day 3: Dayhike to 60 Lakes Basin and Dollar Lake
Day 4: Rae Lakes to Onion Valley
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2 archives
Oct 08 2014
Oregon_Hiker
avatar

 Guides 8
 Routes 337
 Photos 5,898
 Triplogs 440

73 male
 Joined Dec 07 2010
 Phoenix, AZ
Kearsarge Lakes Trail to Charlotte LakeSierra Nevada, CA
Sierra Nevada, CA
Hiking avatar Oct 08 2014
Oregon_Hiker
Hiking8.70 Miles 2,700 AEG
Hiking8.70 Miles   8 Hrs   47 Mns   0.99 mph
2,700 ft AEG15 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
This was a day hike to Kearsarge Pass and back from the Onion Valley Campground. The afternoon before my planned hike I drove up to the trail head in Onion Valley to check it out. Information from the Nat. Forest Visitor Center at Mono Lake said the camp ground was already closed for the season and I planned on camping at one of the Grays Meadows CGs at a much lower elevation. The drive up a seemingly endless string of switch backs to get to Onion Valley was an adventure in it self. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Onion Valley CG was still open with few campers. I picked a spot with nice views and got into a conversation with my neighbor. He was another one of these guys about my age who had been camping/hiking/skiing in the eastern Sierras for many years and was still coming back every year.

The next morning I started the trek up to the pass. I took my time on the first set of switch backs - I had eaten a big breakfast and all my blood was going to my stomach instead of my legs where it was needed. Oh well, I had all day and there were plenty of pictures to be taken. A lady and her dog passed me on this stretch walking at a brisk pace. She would later pass me on her way back down from the pass when I was only about half way there - made me feel like a real slug. I later found out from the camp host who knew her that her trail name is Strider. She can do the 4+ mile, 2700 ft elev gain hike to Kearsarge Pass in 90 minutes and does it regularly for exercise. She runs a motel in Independence.

The views across Owen Valley are incredible as you hike up the grade. There are some beautiful large trees along the trail as you reach Gilbert Lake. Red bark, short needles, tiny cones - I'm guessing they are some kind of Sequoia. A few more lakes and a long traverse across a steep hillside on a well built trail and I was at the pass. The view to the west was amazing. The Kearsarge Pinnacles form a high and very jagged barrier along the south west side of the Kearsarge Lakes basin. The lakes below invite you to explore their beaches. There was a small thunderstorm building up over the pinnacles which added to the drama of the scene. After a quick lunch and some photos I reluctantly headed back for the trail head.
Flora
Flora
Foxtail Pine
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Sep 14 2014
trekkin_gecko
avatar

 Guides 5
 Routes 343
 Photos 4,106
 Triplogs 2,607

61 female
 Joined Nov 17 2008
 phoenix, az
Charlotte Lake and Rae Lakes Basin, CA 
Charlotte Lake and Rae Lakes Basin, CA
 
Backpack avatar Sep 14 2014
trekkin_gecko
Backpack26.25 Miles 7,250 AEG
Backpack26.25 Miles3 Days         
7,250 ft AEG30 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Partners partners
johnlp
Tortoise_Hiker
john and denny had planned a quick trip to the sierras for a two night backpack and invited me to join them

day 1
on the road early sunday morning, arriving at onion lakes trailhead after a stop at the visitor's center to pick up permits
there is quite a list of rules to follow :?
forecast looked good and the ranger dismissed the dark clouds gathering over mt. whitney
hit the trail around 11:30
my first trip to the sierras
fresh pine-scented air, big views and a waterfall just to get started with
we had a good 2600 feet to gain kearsarge pass
i was thankful that i had trained with a pack and had a weekend of hiking in flagstaff to prepare
even so, it was not easy ascending kearsarge trail
we passed several lakes (gilbert, flower, pothole) and waterfalls along the way
the views at the pass were outstanding, especially of kearsarge lakes and pinnacles
we took the lower lake trail to the john muir cutoff to charlotte lake
the trail winds along bullfrog lake through forest
the terrain reminded me of certain parts of mt. lemmon, glacier national park, and colorado, but the overall effect was unique
had to climb up a ways to drop into charlotte lake, and ran into the remains of a steady rainfall
charlotte lake and rae lakes got quite a bit of rain sunday afternoon
we were all hoping we wouldn't have to deal with that
found a nice campsite, explored, took pics, cooked dinner and turned in early
it rained for awhile during the night
denny and i had tents, but john was in a bivy and didn't even notice :o
didn't get that cold, maybe upper 30s

day 2
took a couple hours to get breakfast and packed up, but soon enough went back to the JMT junction and up to glen pass
this side isn't bad with more gradual switchbacks and we were on the pass well before noon
tremendous views of charlotte lake along the way, and surrounding peaks and the the entire rae lakes basin at the pass
a steeper hike down to the first lake, then cutting across an isthmus to camp on the east side
found many nice campsites, selecting one with a lake view
set up camp, had lunch and coffee and relaxed, then took off on our planned day hike to sixty lakes basin
i'll have a separate triplog for that one, but for now i'll just say it was an adventure, putting us back at camp well past dark for dinner
got up in the night to see a half moon lighting up the surrounding cirque and reflecting off the lake, yet dark enough to see stars
incredible
had it been just a bit warmer, i would have sat up to enjoy it
i never sleep well backpacking or camping, hyper-alert to odd noises
it was very quiet both nights with only a handful of other campers and no bugs whatsoever :)
weather was good all day, and maybe low 30s that night

day 3
didn't get a real early start today, either
packed up while having coffee and breakfast and took off around 8:30 or so
we all knew the climb up to glen pass would be steep
packs might have been a couple pounds lighter by now
a tough ascent but a more gradual descent to the junction with kearsarge pass trail, where we took a break
this time we stayed on the upper trail, and got nice views of bullfrog and kearsarge lakes
the last half mile of this was demanding, and we took another break at the pass to admire the scenery up high one last time
another four and a half miles back to the trailhead, which we took at our own pace
denny's knee was bothering him, and i hope it's nothing major
burger and fries in lone pine and the long drive back

random thoughts:
this two night sampler just whetted my appetite for more
cactus to clouds and mt. whitney go on the list
it's a long drive, and kudos to denny for doing all of it
we all had the right basics for two nights, although had it rained more, it would not have been nearly as much fun
this is a good time of year to go with fewer crowds and no bugs
the bear vault wasn't as annoying as i thought it might be, although it certainly adds weight
i need to pare my pack weight down to about 25 pounds
brought a few things i didn't need, and too much food
breakfast and dinner and snacks - no need for lunch
my sawyer squeeze worked well with water so abundant
i'm still new at backpacking, as i've only been on 5-6 trips
learn something every time
john and denny were great partners and good company, and i really appreciate you boys including me on this trip
it was an awesome one!
Fauna
Fauna
Mule Deer
Culture
Culture
HAZ Gear
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1 archive
Sep 14 2014
Tortoise_Hiker
avatar

 Routes 78
 Photos 7,233
 Triplogs 2,565

58 male
 Joined Apr 02 2005
 Mesa, AZ
Charlotte Lake and Rae Lakes Basin, CA 
Charlotte Lake and Rae Lakes Basin, CA
 
Backpack avatar Sep 14 2014
Tortoise_Hiker
Backpack26.25 Miles 7,250 AEG
Backpack26.25 Miles3 Days         
7,250 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Partners partners
johnlp
trekkin_gecko
John, Kelly and I headed out early as we had a lot of miles to cover. The plan was to get our permits and get to Onion Valley and hike to Charlotte Lake before dinner time. Kelly and John brought food for the drive and we didn't even need to stop for lunch.The weather forcast was sunny :roll: for the whole trip.
We started our trip in good time and except for the light rain it went well. The mix of vegatation, small lakes, and high mountain ranges seem to come together to create such a WOW factor! Once over Kearsarge Pass we took the low trail by Kearsarge and Bullfrog lakes. We would take the high trail on our way back so we could see as much as we could in our trip. Good choice as this was a cool little area. We made it to Charlotte Lake. John and Kelly picked us out a nice camp spot. Ranger not on Duty(be back Tuesday note). Rain stopped for dinner but came back later that night for a little while. Kelly and John had extra snacks so I helpped lighten their packs :) .
We got up early but hung around for a couple hours. Kelly and John like their coffee :DANCE: .We headed for Glen Pass and from talking to a few people found out Rae Lakes got hit harder with rain. That turned out to benefit us as the weather was better and a lot of people left. That would leave us plenty of camp spots. The climb up the Pass wore me down but the views help make you feel better ;) . Painted Lady, Rae Lakes, Fin Dome, etc. Very nice area. Kelly and John picked us out a great camp spot. We ate lunch,set up camp, and recharged ourselves for our dayhike adventure :o :y: . We finished our dayhike just after dark.We ate dinner and hung out at Johnnys. I actually stayed awake until 9:30! Great day and hiking without the Pack was nice.
Today we had to hike Glen Pass and Kearsarge Pass. Kelly was full of energy and lead the way while John stayed back to keep me motivated. We still made good time and it went pretty well. The views were still great but we said our goodbyes to the Rae Lakes and 60Lakes basin :cry: .
The views of Charlotte Lake and Mountain ranges going back in better weather stood out even more. We took the high trail to Kearsarge Pass on the way back and were glad we did. Not only for the different views of Kersarge and Bullfrog lakes but also for a little less climb. Great views and looking down on where we were 2 days ago was cool. We made good time until the pass.From there John and Kelly gained more energy and I lost mine and dragged behind. They waited for me and and then we headed for Lone Pine for Lunch. We stopped in to report our Bighorn Sheep sighting(dayhike) at the Ranger station. Frrom there it was off to the cafe where Kelly bought us burgers and fries and a cold beverage.
I was the youngster on this trip but only in age. These two are :worthy: :worthy: .
Thanks for all the planning,leading,lunch, snacks, and friendship! You guys rock!
Great Trip! :y:
The drive home. :zzz:
Culture
Culture
Campsite
Meteorology
Meteorology
Sunset
_____________________
Tortoise Hiking. Stop and smell the Petrichor.
2 archives
Jul 03 2010
writelots
avatar

 Guides 19
 Routes 39
 Photos 5,577
 Triplogs 337

46 female
 Joined Nov 22 2005
 Tucson, AZ
Kearsarge Lakes Trail to Charlotte LakeSierra Nevada, CA
Sierra Nevada, CA
Backpack avatar Jul 03 2010
writelots
Backpack18.90 Miles 6,246 AEG
Backpack18.90 Miles3 Days         
6,246 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I now completely understand why folks who are accustomed to backpacking in the Sierra come to AZ and are like "ick - seriously?". What an incredible, incredible, incredible place. I was like :o the entire time, and pretty much paralyzed by Tibber-mode from the word go. There were moments of :scared: , and a little bit of :sl: , definitely lots of :sweat: . It was almost too exciting to :zzz: . Of course, as is true with all great adventures, it didn't go exactly as we planned... :whistle:

To start with, the trip was really supposed to go to the Rae Lakes. This had particular interest to me not only because of the whole "blah-blah" about Rae Lakes being the most spectacular backpacking destination in the country, but because my middle name is Rae, and I felt like it was calling just to me. We discovered about a week before the trip, however, that the snow conditions on Glen Pass may be more than we were able to / wanting to deal with. No Glen Pass means no Rae Lakes, unless you want to do a high country trek about 40 miles out of your way. Our plan B was to make it up when we got there. No problem, right?

Rather than camping overnight up at Onion Saddle after a 10 hour dash from Phoenix, the group decided instead to crash at my mother-in-law's pad in San Bernardino. While this was a total boon for the good-nights-sleep side of things, it was not really good for the get-an-early-start brigade. We didn't make it to the visitor center in Lone Pine to get our permits until almost 11am. Then after lunch at Carl's Jr. (I still shudder), and gas, and what not, we weren't even in Onion Valley until after noon. We scrapped the idea of hiking any further than Kearsarge Lakes that day, opting in exchange to take it slow and easy while our bodies acclimated to the elevation and our backs got used to the extra weight of those pumpkin heavy bear vaults.

Once past the trailhead, though, it was drop-jaw beauty the entire time. I suppose if you want more details on this part, you'll have to look at my pics. But if you're the impatient type and you just want a quick summary here are two important things you must know:
  • You are reading the wrong girl's trip report for brevity
  • When this place is feeling kind, it is SO so very soft and gentle! Unlike the desert, where in it's softest moments it will still bite/stick/stab/starve/suck you dry - this place has a welcoming air to it that just amazed me. Soft, spongy ground. Predictable rocks. Drinkable water at every turn. Vegetation that is more likely to cradle you than kill you. I was in awe, and I was thrilled to be alive. I think I set a record for the number of Wendys in one trip. I just couldn't stop.

The first night we camped near (but more than 100' from) the shores of the Kearsarge Lakes. Across the lake was a waterfall that looked like it was designed by a famous landscape architect. Above the lake were frozen granite peaks. Between the lakes were burbling, clear mountain streams. Birds singing, crickets chirping, children laughing...okay, so no kids, but it was just that idyllic.

We agreed to take the mornings as they came, so I slept until the sun started to warm the tent. (Luckily, this time of year, that happens quite early up there). I got up and put on some warm layers and headed out to take some photos of the lake and the environs. I think I stopped after I realized that processing that many photos was going to take me a lifetime. I came back to camp, we ate breakfast, explored the waterfall, then broke for the trail again. Rather than hiking back up the hill to the trail junction, we decided just to follow the creek downstream to the next lakes and meet the trail there. SO fantastic! No catclaw, no prickly pear, no razor sharp rocks. I felt like play gazelle, or would have if my lungs weren't still a little desperate for oxygen.

We pondered our map during a snack break at Bullfrog Lake, and decided if we couldn't go over Glen Pass, then at least we could get close to it. There were a few lakes on the map that looked just as inviting on topo layers as the lakes we'd just camped at. So, we started humping it up hill toward the pass. We walked past Charlotte Lake, which was on this trail far below us. Beauty. Some of the other hikers we'd passed mentioned hiking past the lake and to Charlotte's Dome - but since there weren't trails there on our high-dollar, low-resolution maps, we'd scrapped that as an option.

Turns out we should have listened. As we got closer to the pass, we approached the first of the lakes, we crossed a number of small snow fields, as well as numerous run-off streams that told us that there was still lots of snow up there. The bowl-shaped enclosure of the first lake was protected enough that the lake was still partially frozen. Even if it had not been the consistency of my mom's iced-tea, it just wouldn't have made for good camping due to the fact that it was in a bowl made out of granite and dust. Sweet. We stopped for a lateish lunch, winded by the 11k+ altitude and a little worn out, and feeling a bit sheepish that we hadn't read the terrain a little better.

One of the party continued on (Mark, the fit adventurous type) to the pass with only a bottle of water and his camera, while the rest of us decided to head back to Charlotte's Lake to camp. We'd decided against it at first because it sounded quite busy because of the established campsites and ranger station and infested with mosquitos because of it's lower elevation. However, as we hiked in we found it to be tranquil, quiet, nearly deserted (save for a slightly over-used backcountry ranger) and relatively light on the bug presence. It was a wonderful camp, a perfect place to watch the 9pm sunset, and a little slice of heaven after all of our climbing and exploring.

The plan the next day was non-existent. Instead of trying to pretend we had one, we decided to leave our camp put for the moment and day-hike out to see more of the lowlands below Charlotte Lake and check out some new vistas of Charlotte's Dome. We didn't make it far before we realized that the rapid descent through trail-less forest would not be nearly as much fun on the way down. We snacked rather lavishly, enjoyed some incredible views, then made our way back up the valley to break down camp.

Now the plan was to return to Kearsarge Lakes and camp for the final night before a quick hike out. Everyone was dreading the long drive back. We took the higher trail back, which contoured along the side of the valley about 300-600' above the lakes. When we realized that we'd have to descend that hill in order to camp, then ascend it again before we left, we elected instead to go ahead and get the pass behind us before nightfall. We figured we could camp at one of the very pretty little lakes on the east side of Kearsarge Pass.

And, as fate seems to do so often out there, we were shown yet another path, which I think we all jumped on with an eagerness born from being tired and sunburned and ready for a hot bath. We met up with a through-hiker at the pass who was headed to the trailhead that evening, hoping to find a ride into Independence. Well - it so happened that we had a car there, and we were headed that way, and it was, after all, earlier than we thought it'd be when we got to the pass...so maybe we just hike all the way out in one day. It's all down hill, right? Then we can give this nice little through-hiker (her name was hummingbird and her total pack weight was under 8lbs) a lift.

So, the down-hill "race" as it were, was on. I took fewer pictures than I might have liked, and I got to spend a little less time contemplating the giant trees, but at the end of the hike I was relieved and content. I'd get to sleep with Mr. Gary and the four-legged children that night - and to me, at that moment, that was a treasure beyond all those mountains and lakes. I think I might, finally, after more than 18 months of frenzied hiking, backpacking and traveling, have worked a little bit of that wonderlust out of my system. :sweat:
Geology
Geology
Granite
Meteorology
Meteorology
Sunset
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Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.- Barack Obama
Sep 10 2007
mazatzal
avatar

 Routes 31
 Photos 2,166
 Triplogs 1,074

62 male
 Joined Jul 28 2004
 Scottsdale, AZ
Onion Valley trailhead, CA 
Onion Valley trailhead, CA
 
Hiking avatar Sep 10 2007
mazatzal
Hiking5.00 Miles 400 AEG
Hiking5.00 Miles   3 Hrs      1.67 mph
400 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
After picking up our permit and doing a bit of shopping I dropped my brother at Whitney Portal and he went part way up the Mountaineers route. I went over to Onion Valley to check out that area. I went a few miles up the trail.
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average hiking speed 1.33 mph

WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

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