Twenty Lakes Basin

20 June 2022
Saddlebag Lake and Twenty Lakes Basin Loop
(9 miles, +1,000/-1,000 feet).

Wow!

Today was one of my favorite hiking days of all time.

Driving down from South Lake Tahoe, we originally intended to stay in Lee Vining and do some day hikes in Yosemite. But then I remembered there is a new reservation system for the National Park that restricts entry between 6am and 4pm. Not wanting to depart in the middle of the night, I searched for hikes nearby and found one right outside the Tioga Pass entry point: Saddlebag Lake.

This is a very easy trail at high elevation that gets right into some high sierra scenery that is nearly as good as the best I’ve seen.

But the start was just a wee bit depressing. Saddlebag Lake is extremely low with the drought this year, and it was weirdly buggy on its southeastern shore.

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Saddlebag Lake
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Western bog laurel

But soon a gentle breeze scattered the bugs and we were around the lake and into some excellent scenery in the Twenty Lakes Basin.

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Into the wild!
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“The hills are alive, …”
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Nevada Lewisia
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I love it!
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Hummingbird Lake
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Lundy Pass
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Odell Lake
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Kennedy’s buckwheat
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Gorgeous suncups!

We hiked down a snow-filled chute to get to Lake Helen.

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Here we go!
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Not so bad
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Lake Helen
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Half Cookie makes her way down

At the outlet there was a nice pile of rocks to cross over, but an ancient sign there was so worn we could no longer read what it said, and we had to do a short climb to continue the trail.

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???
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Half Cookie’s class 3 moves!
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Spreading fleabane

I left Half Cookie at the lake so I could get a better look at Lundy Canyon and Excelsior Mountain.

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Lundy Canyon
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Excelsior!!!
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Lobeleaf groundsel

I rejoined Half Cookie and we started our way up the basin.

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Lake Helen
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Some lovely tarns
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Half Cookie climbs the granite

Climbing up to Shamrock Lake, I slipped on some snow and fell flat on my back into a huge puddle. Refreshing!

And five minutes of hiking later, I realized I was missing my phone. I had to backtrack to the scene of the crime to retrieve it!

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North Peak
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Shamrock Lake
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More suncups!
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Mill Creek
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Steelhead Lake
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What a great day!
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Wasco Lake
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North Peak

As we rounded Greenstone Lake, we got a bit off track, heading up trail towards the Conness Lakes. But we figured out our mistake and headed back to the inlet crossing for Greenstone. I will definitely have to come back to explore up there!

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Mount Conness
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Greenstone Lake
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Gorgeous snowfields
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Greenstone Lake inlet
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Yellow-bellied marmot
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Bye bye Greenstone!
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Hello Saddlebag!

There were several snowfields to cross on the southwestern side of Saddlebag Lake, but nothing technical.

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Koch’s wolf spider
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Back in the snow
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Few-seeded draba
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Up close!
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Saddlebag Lake dam – water so low!!!

The hike was so good today that we thought we should probably end this trip on a high note. But we will definitely be back in the Sierra in July!

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