Saturday 26 August 2017

California Backpacking Trip Report Part 2/2: Ansel Adams Wilderness

After Yosemite, we started the 'real trip' which involved backpacking into the Ansel Adams Wilderness.  A shuttle bus in Mammoth Lakes dropped us off at the Agnew Meadows trailhead where we started our hike.  We spent our first night on Ruby Lake, followed by three nights on Thousand Island Lake and our last night at Badger Lakes.  We had approximately 2,000ft in elevation gain from the meadows to Ruby Lake, and as expected, it was a bit of a slog to get there, but not without spectacular scenery.

We hiked along the River Trail for quite some time and eventually had to cross one of the many rivers bisecting this area.  I crossed and then enjoyed watching my friends work their way across.  Mike lost his sandal and Jensen almost lost his boot! A move that could have had bad ramifications for our hiking trip!

Mike fords the river
 The trail climbed steeply up to Garnett Lake where we encountered our first snow of the trip.

We also had our first look at Banner Peak (right foreground) and Mount Ritter (left background).  The ever present sentinels of our stay.
Garnett Lake
 After crossing our final pass of the day we dropped down into Ruby Lake.  A beautiful little glacial lake.
View from our campsite on Ruby Lake
 Most of the area was steep and without many flat areas, but we made it work.

Steller's Jays were constant companions at the lower elevations below the treeline.
Steller's Jay
 The next day we headed north to Thousand Island Lake. On the way, we passed Emerald Lake

Thousand Island Lake did not disappoint.  Banner Peak towers over the crystal clear waters of this lake.

After setting up camp, Mike and I decided to scout ahead and started to climb up the broad shoulders of Banner Peak.  You can see below how Thousand Island Lake gets its name.

As we made our way up to higher elevations, we encountered more and more snow.

At higher elevations, Clark's Nutcrackers were everywhere.
Clark's Nutcracker
 As we got higher, a storm started to roll in, but we decided to press on to reach Lake Catherine.  We were rewarded with some stunning views of this little lake.

On the way back we decided to slide/ski down the slope in our boots.  It saved a lot of time and was great fun!

The entire alpine area was carpeted with wildflowers of all different colours.

Camp at Thousand Island Lake

Green-tailed Towhee hiding among the pine needles.
 The next day we explored a different section of the mountains with Alex and Kyle.  As luck would have it, the solar eclipse was happening! Mike had brought us each special glasses to view the eclipse.  I was happy to snap this one shot of the moon passing in front of the sun.
Solar eclipse
 Some areas of snow were tinged pink.  This is called 'watermelon snow' and is caused by a type of green algae with a carotenoid pigment.

Below is one of my favourite shots.  This flower is called White Mountain Heather.

 We decided to go back to Lake Catherine with Kyle and Jensen the next day.

Alpine Paintbrush
 Our last night was spent at the Badger Lakes area.  This area was much more heavily treed, as it was approximately 500m lower in elevation.  Badger Lake was beautiful, and we were the only ones camping in the area and had it all to ourselves!

Mike and I went swimming, but even at this lower elevation the water was frigid and left us gasping for air!
Badger Lake
 We climbed up on the cliffs beside the lake and watched the afternoon of our last day pass quietly by, a great ending to a wonderful trip.

Ansel Adams Wilderness is a special place, and one I would love to come back to some day. We made the drive back to Las Vegas where we stayed over one night before taking the redeye flight back to Toronto.

California Backpacking Trip Report Part 1/2: Yosemite

Kyle, Jensen, Mike and I just got back from spending the past 8 days backpacking and hiking in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains and Yosemite.  We flew into Las Vegas and made the 5.5hr drive to the Mammoth Lakes area.  Our first day was spent doing the Cloud's Rest Trail in Yosemite National Park.  This famous trail gives spectacular views of one of the most iconic rock features in North America: Half Dome.

The hike was quite strenuous, with a couple of thousand feet of elevation gain in the first half of this 25km long trail.  But the views did not disappoint!  Below are a few pictures from the top.

This raven was hanging out on top of Cloud's Rest, I like the shot below with Half Dome in the background.  We could see people climbing Half Dome, like tiny ants, with my binoculars.

 The trail narrows on either side as you approach the summit, and the sheer rock in the canyons below is something to behold.

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Algonquin Canoe Trip 2017

I spent Saturday to Tuesday up in Algonquin Park on a canoe trip with my family, including Caitlyn, Paul, Dad and my niece Emma who was experiencing her first backcountry canoe trip. We had been looking forward to this trip for a long time and were elated that the weather cooperated with full sun all 4 days! We spent our first night on Little Doe and the next two on Tom Thomson.

We had a great time of swimming, hacky sack, Diny rock (fun game I co-invented), and just relaxing.

The most exciting moment came on our last night just after we had hung our food at around 11pm. We all heard an odd sound coming from up the hill and realized it was the rope we had hung the food packs from, straining from something heavy pulling on it.  We put two and two together and tore up the hill.  When I got there I saw a Black Bear running away from the packs further up the hill.  I chased it away while making as much noise as possible to scare it off.  Fortunately, it had not gotten any of our food which would further habituate it to people.  Paul's pack had several teeth marks and lots of slobber all over it but was otherwise fine. The bear was quite bold and returned and watched as we untied the packs to look for a more safe spot to hang the food. In the dark, all we could see were its eyes glowing back at us from the flashlights and the occasional sound of it huffing. Unfortunately, there weren't any better trees with high branches to hang from and so we brought the packs to the fire pit and stood guard for several hours until we were sure it wasn't coming back. Quite the experience, especially for my niece's first trip!

Below are a few of my favourite scenic shots from the trip.