Monday, October 31, 2011

Gem Lake via Rush Creek Trailhead Oct 8-10, 2011

Our Camp near Gem Lake

Gem Lake

Gem Lake

Over looking Waugh Lake

Cary coming down 

Aspens and Gem Lake

Last month Cary and I went on a fall backpacking trip.  To be honest I had a furlough day so it was  a perfect time for a mosquitoless backpacking trip.  Friday night we drove up to  Mammoth where we stayed the night at a Motel 6.  Once we arrived at our motel we had to come up with a game plan for our backpacking trip.  Our original plan was to hike the 1,000 Island lake area via the River trail.  Unfortunately Mammoth got hit with 19 inches of snow during a midweek snow storm and closed the road to the trailhead.  After looking at a map we decided to try the Gem lake area out of June lake.  The next morning we woke up and went to the ranger station in Mammoth to change our plans.  After a few hours for breakfast and driving we arrived and started hiking the Rush creek trail by 11.

Before we set out hiking we didn't know how the snow conditions were going to be.  We left the crampons behind and brought the snowshoes just in case.  After a few hours of hiking and tramping through snow (not enough to put on snowshoes, just gaitors)  we arrived at Gem lake (3.5 miles from the trailhead).  The lake was absolutely beautiful with snow covered mountains all around.  It was hard to find a place to camp since the flat ground was covered in light snow.  We ended up shoveling off a thin layer of snow to set up our tent.  The rest of the afternoon we went exploring around the lake.  At night we focused on night photography.  It was a great night to shoot, a cloudless sky with a bright moon made our 10 minute exposures look like it was the middle of the day minus some faint start trails.

The next morning we woke up late, shot some more and then headed out to Waugh lake.  After a mile and a half of trekking through snow we got to a point where we had to break trail in deeper snow.  This made hiking slow going.  After a mile or so later I began to feel lightheaded and ill.  This usually happens because I don't eat enough and my blood sugar drops.  We stopped for lunch on top of a hill where we could see both Waugh and Gem lake.  Incredible!  After lunch I began to feel a lot better but still pretty tired.  We decided to head back and meander around Gem lake.  When we trekked back to the lake we found a meadow of aspen trees along the shore.  We got our cameras out and spent the next hour or so shooting the aspens with the snow capped mountains in the background. We arrived at camp in the late afternoon.  After filling up some water and eating an early dinner we got out our cameras and   tried our best to capture the night landscape of Gem lake.

The next morning we woke up and ate our smores poptarts and headed back to the parking lot.  Hiking back was a lot easier since it was mostly down hill and lots of the snow on the trail had melted.  The trail was a little steep.  It was about a 2,000 feet elevation gain from the trailhead to Gem lake.  The days were about 60 degrees and the nights were cold, around freezing.  Overall the trip was great.  It was one of the more scenic trips we have taken.  The snow covered mountains really was a treat, even though it slowed us down it made for great backdrops in our photographs!

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