Return to 20 Lakes Basin

Return to 20 Lakes Basin

About a year had passed since we backpacked the 20 Lakes Basin in 2011. What a difference a year makes. The Sierras received far less snow last winter. There wasn’t nearly as much standing water, and the grass had already started to turn brown. But probably the most notable change was the lack of mosquitoes. We did see a few here and there, but they didn’t seem all that hungry. Compare this to last year when mosquitoes put our tent under siege!

Twenty Lakes Basin
Driving up Tioga Pass

We began our return to the 20 Lakes Basin by leaving way too late from Carson City on a Sunday afternoon back in July. We’re still getting the hang of packing for overnight backpacking trips. Although you can only take what you can carry on your back, it’s still a bit of an art to make sure you remember everything, while at the same time, not over-packing and making your pack too heavy. Forgetting one little item can create hardship, but carrying a few too many pounds can create a huge burden. By the time we got to the Mono Lake Visitor Center to get our Hoover Wilderness permits, it was nearly 5 PM.

Twenty Lakes Basin
Getting Started at Saddlebag Lake

We still had enough time to hike to camp if we hurried, but thunderstorms were starting to rumble in the mountains above. We had to make a decision. Risk hiking in a thunderstorm at 10,000 feet, only to make camp just before dark? Or stay low for the night and get an early start in the morning? There wasn’t much to gain by sticking to the plan, and following the plan could certainly lead to problems. We decided to have dinner in Lee Vining instead, and look for a campground in the lower area of Tioga Pass.

Twenty Lakes Basin
Leading the Way

We found a pizza place with an outside patio out of the wind. It was also right next to our car so our dogs could keep an eye on us and not get too upset. After dinner, we drove up Tioga Pass to the Lower Lee Vining Campground. The campground is clean enough, but it was busy and loud. One nearby neighbor had a noisy generator hooked up to his RV that competed with the sound of the rushing creek. The generator ran late into the night, and I tried to imagine what on earth it was powering. I finally settled on the idea that the RV occupant had to be inside an iron lung. Why else would they disturb the rest of the campground if it wasn’t absolutely necessary?

Twenty Lakes Basin
Making our way around Saddlebag Lake

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