Trip Date: August 16-17, 2020
Trail: Twenty Lakes Basin trail
Distance: 8.5 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 460ft.
Location: Hoover Wilderness
Permits: Wilderness permits required for overnight stay. Permits can be obtained here.
Being able to show my sisters just exactly why I don’t mind the 6-hour drive to Mammoth is probably one of my favorite ways to get them outdoors and in the backcountry. It was Anjoelina’s very first backpacking trip, and Brittany’s 10th (or so); and to have them both here with me in Mammoth was something special. Since my sisters were new to backpacking, I like to plan the easy adventures, with little to no elevation gain, great scenery, and of course, an alpine lake. The Twenty Lakes Basin area consists of twenty (or so) alpine lakes, all of which are easily accessible by hiking the Twenty Lakes Basin loop trail. When I completed the loop earlier this summer, I imagined this to be a good place to bring my sisters and about one month later, we set foot on the trail for a quick overnight trip to Shamrock Lake.
It was the middle of August in the Eastern Sierra, known for its late afternoon thunderstorms, and we had a 30% chance of rain that afternoon. Okay, so maybe not the most ideal weather for a first time backpacker, but guys she had NO complaints! It was still warm enough for us to wear shorts and tank tops, but I made sure we all properly packed layers to warm up later that night. If you’ve ever gone backpacking with me (which most likely you haven’t) you know that I tend to take forever packing up my bag at the trailhead; I just like to know that I have everything needed to basically survive a night in the backcountry and when I start second guessing myself, well..that’s when a completely packed bag gets empited out and re-packed all over again.
Since our trail was relatively easy, flat and short it wasn’t necessary to start hiking at the crack of dawn, although that does mean more time spent outdoors at your destination! We started hiking around 3:15pm, maybe a little later than I would have hoped for, but being the middle of summer, we still had ~6 hours before the sunset. It was a Sunday afternoon, so the trailhead wasn’t as nearly as packed as I’ve seen it before, which meant less people on the trail. Like previously mentioned, I’ve hiked this trail a numerous of times, with a few different people and even solo backpacked it last year! Having my sisters here with me and seeing their reaction to this beautiful place was special. Moments I won’t soon forget. The trail is pretty well maintained, so for awhile I had my sisters hiking in front while I stood in the back, just to make sure things were okay, also allowing me to snap a few photos of them on the trail.
Saddlebag Lake is at the start of the trailhead and the largest of the lakes basin area. Since neither of my sisters have hiked this trail, it was important to me that they visit all alpine lakes that we come across on this trip, cause why not?! From Saddlebag Lake to Greenstone Lake, we continued on our hike until we reached Steelhead Lake. From previous reseach, I discovered a few more lakes behind Steelhead Lake and decided to go check them out this time around. Had no other people been camping there that night, we probably would have stopped there and set up camp, but we decided to keep moving forward and came acoss the cutest little waterfall flowing into Steelhead Lake. Once we got back on our main trail, we had a quick stop for some snacks and water before continuing on our way.
Slowly, but surely, the sun was starting to set behind the mountain– just as we reached Shamrock Lake. Having camped there earlier that summer, I knew exactly where I wanted to set up camp. Unfortunately, someone had already beat us to it, now having to scope out a new site. We started to follow a use trail that eventually led us to the other side of Shamrock Lake, with no luck of finding a decent spot for camp. By this time, we’re hungry, tired and just want to drop our packs. I know my sisters were getting frusterated with me wanting to score the perfect campsite, but if it’s your first time sleeping in the backcountry- why not let it be somwhere amazing?! So we backtracked. About half a mile or so. And when we finally agreed on a spot, we had just enough time to set up camp and warm up before the clouds started to roll in and we lost all sunlight. The clouds were thick and kind of dark, not really sure what to expect for sunset, but it eventually lit up the sky. We watched a storm rolling by, from the comfort of our tent, miles and miles away. Thunder then lightening, more thunder and more lightening, but it never rained that night! We saw lightening through the tent for most of the night and I was pretty sure I heard a loud crackling noise and nothing to make of it.
The next morning was dark. Sky full of heavy clouds and it smelled hot. Fire hot, like something was burning. It wouldn’t surpirse me if something caught fire from the previous nights storm. We hung out around camp for a few hours, hoping, wishing and waiting for the sun to come out, so that we can possibly jump in the lake, but sooner than later, rain clouds starting rolling in and we all decided that there was NO way were getting in the lake. Bummer. Being my sisters first backpacking trip to an alpine lake, and none of us felt comfortable enough to get wet. So we packed up and hiked out. Of course about a mile into our hike back, it starts to rain. Smells so good, but now we’re getting all wet. We decided to speed up our pace, and the rain only got stronger. It was at that moment I feared my sister having a bad time. No one likes to be cold and wet. I turned around to check if she was okay, and to my surprise, she had the biggest smile on her face that melted my heart. She was having a good time. Although cold, wet and tired…we were all having a good time. And since we were already wet.. I decided to introduce her to her first hot spring experience…in the rain…and if that wasn’t the best way to end a backpacking trip, then I surely don’t know to properly live life. 😅