Baker Lake / Johnson Lake Loop

4 September 2020
Baker Lake / Johnson Lake Loop
(13.1 miles, +3,200/-3,200 feet).

I originally thought we might backpack in Great Basin, but the distances are quite small, and longer trips tend to go on ridges that sound a bit sketchy (at least they did when we spoke with a ranger at the Visitor Center).  The longest established loop in the park is just 13 miles, so we decided to do it as a day hike.

It was very warm last night, which does not bode well for a big hike with lots of climbing in the sun.  But we got an early start so it wasn’t too bad (at least at first!).

An early start
Trail companion
A lovely aspen grove

We followed Baker Creek up, and it was fringed in green, giving it a fairytale quality.

Ooohh, green!

We refilled our water bottles at a pretty spring and then continued our climb.

It took us about two and a half hours to get up to Baker Lake.  Just like the lakes we saw yesterday, this one was quite dry.

Baker Lake

We took a nice long break and I explored the forested area where people camp.  It would have been nice, maybe, when the lake was full and there was some snow on the hillsides.  But I was glad we decided to just do it as a day hike instead.

The next part of the hike was my favorite: an off-trail climb up to Baker Lake Pass.

Pyramid Peak
Baker Lake Pass
Looking back as we climbed
Half Cookie takes a break
Wheeler Peak ridge
View from the pass
Looking down on Johnson Lake
Heading down

The hike down from the pass was on trail, but it was steep and slippery in some places.  It might have been easier to do the loop in the other direction!

Also, as we descended we past through some mining ruins that gave the area a creepy feel.

Mining stuff
Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake was definitely more full than Baker Lake, but it was ringed by dead trees and the water did not look very inviting.

Death on the lake
Looking back at the pass

After another nice long break at the lake, we started our descent.  We passed more mining remains, including buildings that housed miners and contained equipment to mill ore.

Abandoned mining cabin

Another 1,000 feet of descent took us away from the mining area and into a very pretty meadow.

Half Cookie admires Baker Peak

We descended some more but then had to climb over a saddle to get into Timber Creek.

Climbing through aspens
Almost to the saddle
View from the saddle

Then we started a very steep descent that was not on my map.  They apparently have rerouted the trail since the USGS maps were published.  It was well-switchbacked, but a little frustrating since I was concerned we might be headed towards the wrong drainage.

We hope this is right!

But soon enough we were back down, and near the trailhead we met a friend.

You remind me of Thanksgiving!

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