15 miles. 10,500 ft. 4 Lakes. 16 Liters of Water. 32 Hours.
Day 1: Rainbow Basin Trailhead > Blue Lake > Emerald Lake > Dingleberry Lake
We started later at the trailhead than normal due to me experiencing altitude sickness pretty badly the night before and the three of us (my husband and our buddy) taking our time to check out of Convict Lake area, where we were for a friends wedding.
Before I begin, can I stop for a sec and preface how much appreciation I now have for taking care of myself at high altitudes? We’d been going pretty non-stop and as a result I had very little water and too much sun and in turn found myself so sick…I started throwing up at cocktail hour and only finally stopped at about 2am.
The next morning everyone was telling me that we didn’t have to do the backpacking trip and could just go home instead, but considering it had been a solid few hours since I last hugged the toilet, I felt like it was OK to go. Not that it was going to be easy, but I would survive. After all, we were SO close.
So off we went. We loaded up our packs and hit the trail. It seemed like my mouth was dry within seconds of walking, and at that very moment I was thanking myself for getting TWO extra large water bottles…even if we did run into multiple creek crossings that I could have filled up at. That’s the fear though, right? The one time you don’t bring enough water you’ll need it. The trail was a steady uphill climb with the terrain being a combination of dirt and boulders, which quickly turned into rounds of switchbacks…lets just say I sort of tried to block this moment out. 😉
“One day’s exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books. See how willingly Nature poses herself upon photographers’ plates. No earthly chemicals are so sensitive as those of the human soul.” – John Muir
Took awhile to get up the mountain, due to me having to stop a few more times than normal, but we finally made our way to Blue Lake. I immediately had a surge of energy…I don’t know if it was the lake, having made it somewhere, or just knowing that if I needed to pass out – there could be a viable option there. Either way, it was a small win. We continued on to Emerald Lakes where we found a pretty cool meadow to grab a break and snack at and from there ventured on to Dingleberry Lake — where we set up camp. Made our rehydrated meals and passed out at 7:30pm. Killer first day. There’s something to be said about pushing yourself so hard that you can hardly keep your eyes open at the end of the day.
Day 2: Dingleberry Lake to Donkey Lake
5:32 am. I woke up to grab a sip of water and as I glanced up I saw the most gorgeous pink, orange sky and these clouds that were so heavy and beautiful. Everything was still…that was until I jumped out of my tent in excitement, snatched my camera and ran to the rock ledge nearby to try and snag a photo. The view was unreal. The tree line. The water. The sky. It took my breath away. Then I heard the birds chirping “cheese-burger” and I found myself with the hugest grin on my face, like I had just found a pot of gold or something. Well, I sort of did I guess. 😀
After packing up, we planned to hike up and around to the other nearby lakes: Hungry Packer and Moonlight among others. We found a few options:
- The “hiker route”: There’s signage on the trail for this trail, but it was pretty dicey. This part of the river was pretty high and then we’d be climbing up a rock ledge covered in snow. The snow wouldn’t have bothered us if the climb up the rocks weren’t so steep or the snow had been packed tighter.
So this route was out.
- The “topo map” option: The map was showing us there was a different crossing down the river about 100 yards so we checked it out. The water was calmer here, but definitely still freezing and pretty deep in parts…and about 30 feet across. It probably could have been doable, but with getting waist deep in the water and risking getting out packs wet. No one was that fond on the idea so we decided to forego this trail for the time being.
So, we headed back…sort of.
First we stopped at Dingleberry to fish. And, guess what?! I caught my very own fish. The FIRST ONE EVER. And, yes, I totally freaked out. 😀
We chilled here for a bit, but wanted to try and get some miles in even if we couldn’t go up further, so decided on Donkey. We knew that it was a bit shorter than that of Blue to Dingleberry, so we headed back to Blue and went right at the junction vs. left. There was a water crossing here too, but there was also a NICE BIG LOG. I love it when that happens. Hiked about another 30 minutes or so and then found ourselves at Donkey. It was so desolate. So beautiful. Fishing spots. Cliff jumping Rocks. Good camping spots. We felt like we hit the jackpot.
Fast forward a few hours.
Yep, that’s when the mosquitos decided to come feed. And I’m not talking about a few here or there, or just one person getting the brink of the bites. I’m talking all of us having SWARMS of these guys. And, they were RUTHLESS. We had already set up camp (because we thought this was heaven on earth!) but realized that the only way we were going to be able to hang here is if we all just hung in our tents…and not just for an hour or two. It was 3pm. Sun wasn’t going to be going down until 8ish or later as we had experienced the night before. Not really what we had in mind. So we made an executive decision to get the hell out of there. 🙁
I got 26 mosquito bites there.
There wasn’t much for camping spots on the way down, so we ultimately headed all the way back to the trailhead and decided to take advantage of light traffic and started the trek back to LA, sun burnt, itching from our bites, tired, but all with smiles on our faces.
“The world is big and I was to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”
– John Muir