Sierra Jewels

3-day Backpacking along the JMT and PCT in the eastern Sierra Mountains

Aug 6, 2017

Heading into the mountains along the shadow creek trail.

I was looking for a backpacking in trip early September. A buddy of mine who is also a private pilot suggested flying into Mammoth in a private plane and looking for something around there. Typically that area is quite a drive from the bay area, often requiring driving south around the Sierras due to fairly limited numbers of passes, which are often closed to snow. Flying in added to the cost a bit, but made it possible schedule-wise. It also meant some really nice views, like this shot of a large forest fire in Yosemite.

We flew up for a closer look at this large fire in Yosemite.

Unfortunately, we hadn't planned ahead much and this is a very popular area with trailhead quotas. It's also the first restock stop along the popular John Muir trail after leaving Yosemite, so it's a busy area. Still, it's busy for a good reason as it's gorgeous. However, we had to walk into the NPS and hope for a same day trail quota slot. Our plans were flexible, but we got roughly our first pick: A hike that day out of Agnew Meadows trailhead.

Agnew Meadows Area Trails

Our route took us along Shadow Creek trail North to the intersection with the John Muir trail. It followed the John Muir trail past 4 lakes (Garnet, Ruby, Emerald, and Thousand Island Lake) to intersect with the Pacific Crest trail. The gemstone lakes are the source of the name of this post. From there, we looped back along the Pacific Crest Trail, which is also known as the High Trail along most of this section. We also took a brief detour out and back along the Shadow Creek trail to see Ediza Lake.

Still lots of snow and water even in August

Due to a record snowpack last winter, conditions were still quite wet, even though we were in September. Some of the roads had opened only a few weeks earlier. We mostly stayed below 10,000 ft, so only small patches of snow in a few places. The waterfalls and creeks were overflowing, which was awesome to see. On the downside, there were a few muddy trails and an overabundance of mosquitos everywhere. The mosquitos only subsided when it got too cold at night for them to fly, or when it was raining.

Lake Ediza

My favorite spot along the trail was probably our side trip for lunch on Lake Ediza. The bridge had washed out to make the approach a bit of a minor scramble. The views were definitely amazing, with the snow covered Minarets setting the backdrop of the lake.

View from the High Trail / PCT.

I tried out a new camera for this trip, the DSC-RX100M3. Usually I either take a bulky DSLR or a cell phone. The DSLR has the problem of bulk and weight as well as my fear of pulling it out in adverse conditions like rain. I also can't wear it anywhere with convenient access. The cell phone is light, but the battery doesn't typically survive. In order to keep it running, I turn it on and off between photos, which takes too long. This little compact camera was convenient and took decent photos as you can see. I didn't know it was timestamping every image though, which ruined a few of these a bit. I've since fixed this setting.

Brisk morning breakfast

Sunset on the return trip.