Twenty Lakes Basin

On our return drive from Mammoth Lakes, we stopped on the east side of Tioga Pass for a bit of hiking out of Saddlebag Lake. At the upper end of Saddlebag is a basin at roughly 10,000 ft with lots of lakes. We enjoyed our time there last year, and so returned for another visit, although this time we rode the water taxi to the upper end of Saddlebag.

Shamrock Lake

There was a price to pay to enjoy this beauty—this was mosquito heaven at this season. Later in the day the breeze picked up, and this knocked the nuisance down a bit.

We walked right by Greenstone Lake without stopping or exploring. It appears to be a fairly shallow lake fed by the Conness Glacier high above. After a short climb, we came to Wasco Lake, a small, skinny lake, and again we passed by.

Steelhead Lake, a larger and deeper lake, was the next we came to. Steelhead drains to the east down Lundy Canyon, and the trail follows the canyon down to Lake Helen and then turns to come back to Saddlebag via Lundy Pass. Steelhead still had a few snowbanks at the water’s edge, so in order to explore Cascade Lake (the lake above Steelhead) we cross-countried through granite slickrock and cracks.

At the outlet of Steelhead the trail, which had been wide and easy, got a little gnarly. There are a couple of ways to go, but both require a stream crossing, with feet-wet rock hopping, or balancing across a small log. Both were more than Karen wanted to attempt, so we started looking for plan B that would at least get us a view of Shamrock Lake before returning the way we came.

Following the stream down was too tough, with cliffs ending in small ponds. But by starting higher up the hill we found a way through numerous small ponds, marshy areas, and rocky outcroppings to a nice view overlooking the south end of Shamrock Lake.

Still to explore on some return trip are Twin Lakes (above Shamrock Lake), Z Lake (kind of right in the center of the standard loop trail), and Conness Lakes (four of them below Conness Glacier).

Our drive home was uneventful, except for a stupid traffic jam on the lower part of Tioga Pass road. There were no pullouts or shoulders, but folks spotted a bear in a small meadow below the road, so they just stopped and abandoned their cars in the middle of the road. So we all waited for the looky-loos to finish their picture taking.

Twenty Lakes Basin 2010 photo gallery

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