SHR Day 26: Northern Twin Island Lake to Foerster Creek, Total Miles: 7.2, Cumulative Miles: 251, Elevation Gain: 2310 feet, Elevation Loss: 2015 feet, Campsite: Foerster Creek
Today we spend several hours in the morning drying out clothes, sleeping bags and tent from the rain and wade through the creek yesterday. Then we get off to a late start for us around 9am.
We first head up granite benches to the southern Twin Lake where we watch trout surfacing for bugs. This is a sublime area with rounded ridges of granite fringed with grasses. How fun it would be to while away time at this lake with a fishing pole. But that is not our plan as we have to make progress and the route finding is intense.
It is all off trail today and like yesterday the route finding is intense. We have good info from Roper’s book and gpx tracks from onthetrail.org but the route finding is on a micro scale level. We know what side of a lake or ridge to be on from our beta but it is often about the crack or ramp right in front of you – does it go through or pinch out in a wall? Here you read the landscape carefully and every step is taken thoughtfully.
Roper claims that this is one of the most untrammeled sections. We cut across several ridges of granite and to a beautiful lake at 10,200 feet where there is a sharp contact between dark phases of an older melt and the granite.
Here we see many Sierran treefrogs. They are tiny, less then the size of a quarter and are spotted with a dark band through their eye. Every step we take sends a few of them hopping into a panic and we try not to step on them. They are everywhere at this lake! On the edge of the lake we spot a Great Egret. I didn’t know you could find Great Egrets at 10,000 feet. But, hey, this one is eating frogs and has found the jackpot. Quite a feast for one bird!
From the lake we contour across steep ridges with a Saddle between two dark rock outcrops. From here we are able to drop down into Bench Canyon. Roper makes Bench Canyon sound so idyllic calling it “sublime” where “groves of conifers harmonize perfectly with shining slabs and glistening brooks”. He is right about this valley. It feels like a hidden paradise.
But we have to leave this beautiful place and head up the next pass. All days are measured on the Sierra High Route by the difficulty and number of passes. This section, though, is more about navigation on a micro scale and less about the passes. We have only one pass today which is of medium difficulty: Blue Lake Pass. We climb up to Blue Lakes.
The air is crisp and the tundra has changed from green to a golden brown and red color. Fall is here. It is always amazing when you have been on a hike long enough to see the seasons change.
After a few slab climbs we are at the pass. This pass is probably the most spectacular and my favorite on the trip. The view back towards the Minarets and Ritter Range is mind blowing.
We eventually work our way down to Foerster Creek where we camp for the night. It took us a while to find water and a place to stay. Tomorrow we will look for and hopefully find the trail to Lyell Canyon.