Florence Lake, Blayney Meadows, Selden Pass, Marie Lake, Vee Lake, Bear Lakes Basin, Medley Lakes...

Tuesday, September 4th through Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Tiny Map
Click here or on map at right for larger map =>
Click here or on Marie Lake above for slideshow
Marie Lake
Marie Lake Area Backpacking Trip, September, 2012
Click photo for nifty photos/movies that can even be slideshown (Trademark! "Slideshown" is mine!)

Links To Various Things On This Page

A lovely narrative of our trip
Play By Play (day by day) as a kind of stark description of the trip
Distance Estimates
A few notes about the Photos and Movies and Slideshow

A few notes about the Photos and Movies and Slideshow since I make changes for each trip:
There are more words. Not on all of the photos/movies, but some of them. And when there are there is a note right after the text under the image/movie being displayed that says "read more below thumbs," and yeah, that is where the further blah blah by me sits.
The Slideshow is set to a 7 second interval for stills, and a number a bit longer than the length of the video in seconds for the embedded YouTube "movies". Depending on how responsive or not YouTube is, along maybe with connection speed, a video in Slideshow mode could sit a bit before the Slideshow moves to the next, or even go to the next before it completes. Whatever, eh?
In Slideshow mode if there is more text under the two rows of thumbnails, after the "read more below thumbs" there will be a "pause" link that will pause the Slideshow. The "start slideshow" link at the top will get it going again.
If you just want to see the still shots without the embedded YouTube videos, click here.

Again: To go the Photos and Videos of the trip (best of what's here)
click here or click the top photo of Marie Lake, or that other link.

Play By Play Of Our Trip (Day by Day)

Eventually there will be a Trip Report here with, uh, more story-like prose. But for now, these are the details of the trip as I transcribed them from Julie's notes she took. (She's good about that!) Oh, and yes, that's who was on this trip: Julie O'Rielly (aka "Kanani") and I, Rich Apple (aka "Apple").

Tuesday, 9/4/2012 caught noon:thirty ferry across Florence and started hiking 1 pm. - 2:25 lunch - 4:30 talked with the two rangers who said that though it's the longer way and some folks complain (more up and down) our route using the the second turn down to the Muir Trail Ranch (barely east from MTR and closest from the JMT), was more scenic. - 5 pm Blaney Junction w/JMT - 5:30 our camp at furthest east of backpackers' camp there (w/wasps!)

Wednesday, 9/5 10:15 started hiking - 4ish Sallie Keyes - 4:53 Heart - 5:45 Selden - 6:30 our old camp at Marie Lake from 2008 JMT trip

Thursday, 9/6 probably left camp at Marie about 10:45 or 11:00 - at 1 pm at Seven Gables "Hazardous" trail turnoff from JMT - 5:30 got to Lakelette Camp (Jumping Fish Lake, but don't tell anybody). From about 2:40 to 3 we're, uh, negotiating that wet rock chute part of that "trail" - puts the "Hazard" in Hazardous!

Friday, 9/7 10:30 started hiking from Jumping Fish Lake - 1:20 up on lookout rock at top of gully from lowest Seven Gables Lake up to Vee Lake (rock chute trail we did not take), and having a view of Vee to the east - 2 pm at Vee and 2:15 to 2:30 around where we camped but trying to figure other options. (After chat with British couple we did camp there at what turned out to really be the one cat-bird seat there.)

Saturday, 9/8 10:30 started day-hike to Bear Lakes Basin - 11:10 Little Bear Lake lower - 11:20 Little Bear Lake upper - 3:15 back at camp at Vee

Sunday, 9/9 10:20 started hiking from Vee Camp - 1:30 at the outlet from Jumping Fish Lake (just beyond our camp at a water cascade, and with some hail) - 3:50 at the "rock chute" that had been so dicey on the way in (with rain then, but not so bad today in terms of slipperyness) - 4:30 find the Ants Camp at the falls

Monday, 9/10 10:15ish (?) start from Ants Camp and take a few wanderings before going for the x-country to the JMT - 12:05 at the turnoff for Lou Beverly from the JMT - 12:35 at Lou Beverly - 1:30 just reaching outlet from Sandpiper - lunch spot about 2 at Sandpiper - 4 pm found Medley Camp

Tuesday, 9/11 10:40 day-hike to Marie - 12:15 near Marie on east side - 3 pm back at camp at Medley

Wednesday, 9/12 day-hike to Three Island Lake - past larger southern part of Medley and at fish jumping pools north of Three Island Lake and pretty much east of Flat Note Lake at 11:15 - back at Medley camp around 4, but had included long hike around Medley for route back

Thursday, 9/13 11:00 left Medley camp - at x-country ridge pond on way to Marie at 11:25 - 11:40 at the barkless tree stump en-route (just before the drop to froggy's turn) - 12:00 at little tree growing from granite - and shooting photos along the east-north edge of Marie at 12:20 - 1:10 at our old camp, and scouting around from a lunch spot and getting into our new camp area around 2 pm

Friday, 9/14 11:20 left camp - at noon left Marie after cleanup of burned clothes bullshit - 2:15 Sallie Keyes for lunch (north end at water crossing) - 6:30 at main trail after the, uh, shortcut down the Sallie Keyes Creek "trail" - 7 pm back on real trail again after Blayney Meadows wandering (lots of horse crap and didn't get to water) - 7:30 camp at what must have been a crossing of Alder Creek across that main trail from Florence to Blayney

Saturday, 9/15, 11:30 start for Florence Ferry - 12:50 got to phone - 1:15 back at junction where we hadn't read the Frisbee - 1:45 at footbridge over South Fork San Joaquin River where we got water - 5 pm at trailhead - 'nuther 15 minutes to car...

Distance Estimates:

1-Florence to Blayney: 5.6 (.6 + 4.7 + est .3 junction to camp)
2-Blayney to Marie: 8 (est .3 + .9 + 5.9 + est. .9)
3-Marie to Jumping Fish Lake: 7.2 (1.8 + 1.4 + est. 4, some "trail?" w/chute)
4-Fish Jump Lake to Vee Lake: 3.5 (est. 3.5 not up gorge, some "trail?" plus X-Country)
5-DH - Vee to Bear Lakes Basin (Bearpaw) and back: 7 (est. X-Country)
6-Vee to Ants Camp: 6.8 (est., some X-Country, and down/up "trail?" chute)
7-Ants Camp to Medley: 4 (est. .3 X-Country + est. 1.1 + 2.1 + est .5 X, some X-Country, some "trail?")
8-DH - Medley to Marie X-Country: 6 (est. 3 one way based on "few" in Sierra South and our meandering, all X-Country)
9-DH - Medley to Three Island Lake and around all Medleys: 4 (est. - X-Country...)
10-Medley to Marie: 3.8 (est. X-Country to, plus .8 around lake)
11-Marie to Alder Creek via Sallie Keyes Creek "trail": 7 (est. very "trail?", plus wandering)
12-Alder Creek to Trailhead: 7.5 (est. 2.3 + 1.2 Ferry-NO + 4 est.)

All only estimates...

Ttl w/out Day Hikes: 53.4
Day Hikes Ttl: 17
Ttl w/Day Hikes: 70.4

trail home

Narrative of our trip with LOTS of words, some photos - including a few not in the slideshow but here for telling the story. It's a "TR" (Trip Report) for a great Sierras forum called "High Sierra Topix", so to see this same thing in its natural habitat, click HERE HERE HERE. Or just read what you can handle of it right here. There will be no quiz.

With the entire Mister Toad's Wild Ride portion of Kaiser Pass Road still ahead of us, we set out from our rustic cabin at Huntington Lake's "Lakeside Resort" the morning after Labor Day. "Lakeside" was great but some big bash for all the employees that day meant we didn't get a last hot breakfast, but we dined just fine with granola, milk, and whatever else we'd squirreled away from the store the night before.

I'm going to state it here to put it absolutely on record (even if just my opinion) that the "like backpacking in your car" mostly single-lane-cavorting-as-a-two-direction-road - "Kaiser Pass Road" - is just as fun and "hairpinful" as ever, but from the Y to the two trailheads (Vermillion Valley and Florence Lake), Vermillion still wins for the best nail-biting. Barely, but it does. Unless that's just 'cuz I was driving last time we went to Vermillion, and Julie was driving this time to Florence?

We caught the noon:thirty ferry across Florence (think "motorboat" much more than, say, the Mark Twain Riverboat at Disneyland) and the Pirate at the helm (he wore a bandana with pirates so I can call him that) offered us the deal to save a couple bucks and buy our return ticket too. We declined, partly due to the morning's clever planning to each have our exact $12 in hand, but boy-oh-boy, wait until you hear later how THAT turned out to be the right decision.

Day 1, Hike in to Blayney Meadows: We stayed on the trail to the Blayney Meadows junction you'd first come to from the east. We've never been that lower route from the junction west of Blayney that must cruise along through the meadows nearer the San Joaquin, but the way we went was probably a bit more exercise (trails go up, trails go down) and it also gave us a chance to talk with two cool rangers doing great work out there and willing to share some good insights.


ROUTE INFO: We were keeping our eye out for where to leave the main trail on its way to Blayney and turn left (north) a bit before it crosses Sallie Keyes Creek. This would be an old trail called the, duh, "Sallie Keyes Creek" trail, and if you want to read lots of amazing information about it, see maps, personal experiences of actual people, there was quite a bit of useful back-and-forth at: http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8283. We'd already decided to not go up it, but to try to find it and take it for our hike back down... What I can tell you, though, is if you're serious about wanting to get onto this trail going up to Sallie Keyes, don't expect much of a junction at all. Know the topography, where you are, and how you'll be looking to venture off the trail to turn left and north probably just before you pass the last white blob on the standard topo map that's north and west of Sallie Keyes Creek. If you've gotten to the right area you'll end up on vague use trails heading uphill, north and east at first, and eventually see big painted arrows on large granite boulders. I'm not kidding, and I hope those were, uh, painted a long long time ago, 'cuz that was way uncool and it's easier to excuse people who are dead. The following image is a close-up of the only evidence we saw of a marker along the main trail (taken on the way out - we never saw it on the way in).


At the Blayney backpackers' camp we ended up at the site farthest east, and possibly the only site with its very own Yellow Jackets nest. And YIKES I forgot to tell you how at the very beginning, in the trailhead parking lot at Florence, Julie got stung on the hand by a Yellow Jacket. So by the time we found this lovely site (5:30ish pm), her hand was way swollen up. But I don't think it had started itching yet... With very little experience around this Yellow Jacket thing, we remained wary and hoped for the best. And we seriously did not take too many chances riling up those YJ's buzzing in and out of their hole-in-the-ground nest under that downed tree.

Day 2, Blayney (10:15 AM) to Marie Lake (6:30 PM): The cut-off trail from Blayney up to the JMT heading north to Selden seems more obvious than it used to be a couple decades ago, but its steepness is still quite intact. It seems that right at the junction with the JMT there was quite the kerfuffle of hikers gathered going this way and that, and I can't quite explain how out there in the wilderness it suddenly seemed crowded and like everybody was in everybody else's way. Odd but friendly, and we did escape unharmed.

ROUTE INFO: A ways past where Senger Creek crosses the JMT on our way to Sallie Keyes, Heart, and Selden Pass, we watched for a marked x-country junction. We'd talked to a solo hiker coming down the trail who we got curious about the Sallie Keyes Creek trail back down. Sounded like he does trips in the area quite a bit and was going to look into that sometime, and he said he had passed a junctionish spot that must have been it. Well, we never spotted any "for sure" spots for turning off the trail, but figured we could still look or just make a go of it on our way out.

We had a late lunch at Sallie Keyes at a prospective camp and it was closing in on 5 PM. I remember Julie had a headache, her Yellow-Jacket-stung balloon hand had started itching, and we were both a bit weary. (Yes, to many reading this, the word "wimps" might gurgle to mind about now, but did I mention we're both well into our 80s? A nice little lie to fool you into some extra sympathy, but seriously, neither of us are spring chickens... Unless you know any spring chickens in their late 50s.) The bottom line was we'd really hoped to have cleared the beautiful pass and get parked at Marie Lake that second night in, and after some lunch and drugs (a spot of caffeine can help a headache, especially when I dole it out as a half-caplet and call it "meth"), we both felt up to trekking to one of the most majestic passes in the Sierras. We found our old JMT-2008 camp at Marie for a glorious sunset followed (hours later) by an equally glorious sunrise.

wild sunrise

Day 3, Marie Lake (10:45ish AM) to lakelet (5:30 PM) where "trail" east to Vee turns south towards Seven Gables Lakes: From Marie north on the JMT down to Bear Creek eventually had us at that sometimes-a-ford water crossing just before the junction up to Vee Lake (sign says "Seven Gables Lakes," and also "CAUTION: HAZARDOUS TRAIL"). Bear Creek there was crossable on the rocks, and did I mention we love the sticks? Trekking Poles. Light Leki's... Started using them for JMT-2003 and have never looked back.

ROUTE INFO: We were looking to cut a corner and do a very known x-country route that on maps looks to head east from the trail about a half mile before you get to the crossing of Bear Creek and the junction (a half mile of losing els), and yes we found some trail markers and started off that way at one point, but then we had a doubt or three and enough prior experience of wandering whilst not sure where we were that we hopped back on the trail. We did the shortcut on the way back, which if you use the HST Map at this location and check the "Trails (Not Maintained/Routes)" box, you'll see it. Very green. And especially with the USA Topo tab on the map selected, you see this thick green line heading for the trail heading mostly west, leaving the East Fork of Upper Bear Creek and the trail where they (well, the trail anyway) head northwest. That thick green line is a route from Honeymoon Lake on the East Side north of Bishop to the JMT.

ROUTE INFO: The trail from the junction up to the Seven Gables area is a bit unmaintained, but really pretty darn good, easy to follow and easy to hike. Except for one tiny tiny section. And that part was made even more dicey 'cuz we had some light rain. And just as you're getting to this section from either direction, you are treated to a very reassuring and very huge duck. Duck... Trail marker... "Cairn" in the full Wikipedia sense of the word. Are these markers from either direction saying, "yes, believe it or not, this is the trail," or are they perhaps rock pile monuments to honor (or even entomb?) others who tried to go this route? The fact is, it is the route, and while many might hardly slow down, it was a packs-off, scurrying around, oh-no-it's-raining-wet-and-slippery episode for us, the solution of which ended up being my lowering each pack down an alternate drop - other than the main "hiking" chute - and our eventually getting all straightened away again to wonder, "That, uh, was the worst part of this trail, right?" It did turn out it was the gnarliest, but there was still some "huh?" stretches to come.


Camp was at a lovely and lively little lake with great views of the southern end of the Seven Gables peaks, and somewhere I read that for rock-climbers, those peaks actually offer the more interesting routes. From that last "route info" section, clearly "rock climbers" is not something for which either of this trip's two hiker-critters could be mistaken.


Day 4, "Jumping Fish Lake" (10:30 AM) to Vee Lake (2 PM): A beautiful area and fairly obvious where you need to go, following the water up to the first of the Seven Gables Lakes, and then turning east and loosey goosey up to the outlet of Vee Lake.

ROUTE INFO: Yeah yeah, I know - not this again! But really, I think it could be useful to point out that if coming up this "trail-route" from the JMT without camping at the Lakelet, you'd be fine to stay west of the water running from Seven Gables Lakes, and at the first point where the water goes through a tricky narrowing, you do stay west of it and hike up a bit. There are markers going higher, but try to keep to the ones that stay lower or you'll just end up having to shimmy back down. (Yes, we know this from experience.) Eventually you'll drop down to the water (uh, try not to do that literally) and rock hop just on the south side of the narrowing. (Well, rock hop in September...) Where you cross you're right at the creek coming down from Little Bear Lakes. When you get to the next narrowing before the first Seven Gables Lake, you will want to stay to your left on the east side of the water. Well, that's what we did, and yes the route was dicey and a bit nail biting in places, but doable.


ROUTE INFO: East from the inlet to that north-most Seven Gables Lake is a part of a "trail" you see that goes east up a gully directly to the outlet from Vee Lake. I think we were right to peg that visible part of a "trail" as a Ulysses sort of Siren Song. We x-country'd up to Vee using a book description and heading south from that first Seven Gables Lake then swinging east and eventually northeast to where the top of that gully gets to, and then just a short walk to the Vee outlet. Well, that short walk only after clambering up to a nice knob-peak overlook just south of the top of the gully for lunch and views. I do see the "green line" HST Maps route from Honeymoon Lake to the JMT apparently just loves that gully and goes right through it. I will add here a bit of info from later in the trip (spoiler alert) that we thought we'd take the gully down, and at one point I took off my pack and clambered a ways farther down to see if there was just the one section of rock-climbing type negotiations with the giant boulders we'd come to, possibly then with clear sailing on a lovely little trail switch-backing through the gully... But no. I saw enough of continuing huge-boulder-clambering to know the gully wasn't for us.

Julie at that knob-peak overlook

At Vee we camped on the north side of the lake, and for how open it all is, there really aren't, like, a lot of campsites. We did get to talk to a couple from Merry Old England who were passing through from Bear Lakes Basin and heading for... Feather Pass? Lasalle Col.? One of those... (They hadn't trekked all the way from the British Isles, but like others we ran into up in that Vee/Bear Lakes Basin area, they were venturing thru via loops from the east side.)
We did scout around some for a less exposed campsite, but eventually figured out we were in the catbird seat for that side of Vee. Our site was great and our water access after a short walk down to the lake was perfect with a bit of a peninsula, the west facing end of which had a nice granite "beach" for getting in and out of the water. We did swim and get cleanish, but it was kind of cat-and-mouse with some light rain versus enough sun to get dry and warm. Ice cold water and then a breeze doesn't add up to "warm" but it does add up to "dry", and if one doesn't have the warm layers to put on to get warm at that point, then one really shouldn't be up there at the 11,163 feet els, eh?

Day 5, Bear Lakes Basin day-hike: Oh boy, a day-off filled with nothing but meandering through the beautifulness and enjoying an easy pace exploring-all-the-closer the tarns, the granite nooks, the flowers growing out of crannies, the various critters bounding about on land, darting underwater, fluttering in the air... and all the while with no backpacks riding on our shoulders like 35 pound monkeys. I'm not sure what monkeys normally weigh, and we did have daypacks, of course. With the occasional sprinkles and sometimes-light rain, you gotta have a daypack on a day-hike. So, well, "8 pound monkeys" with water and food?


Pretty much north from our camp at Vee up to the ridge is, I think, close to the "thick green line" route from the JMT to Honeymoon Lake before it cruises through Bear Lakes Basin after trekking up from Vee, and fortunately there is no trace of any intense green line when you're there. But come to think of it! There did happen to be an amazing crazy-with-green-lichen-covered... rill? Well, let's go with "rill" 'cuz it sounds fancy, even though it was just a little stream tumbling down to... I think Big Bear Lake? Anyway, so much intense green lichen up and down the stream, but alas, it was pretty much perpendicular to where the conceptual HST Maps green line route runs, so probably not the inspiration for the color.


ROUTE INFO: Our meander from Vee Lake to as far as Bearpaw Lake in Bear Lakes Basin for both directions went kind of parallel to the two Little Bear Lakes, and by a downright gorgeous little tarn about half way between the lower Little Bear Lake and Vee Lake, then over the ridge about half way along the north shore of Vee. There did, though, look to be plenty of routes through the various wrinkles in the peaks betwixt Ursa Lake or Big Bear Lake and the northeast end of Vee Lake (top-o-the-left-side-of-the-V). And indeed we did see some of the x-countryers we'd run into at Bearpaw appear at that far end of Vee after we were back at camp.

wild sunset

I don't think I said a word at the end of the Day 4 description, but both sunsets at Vee were to die for. Some weather meant some clouds and some clouds meant lots of spectacular sky formations for some insane sunset lighting. Pretty awesome in every direction!

Day 6, Vee Lake (10:20 AM) to Ant Camp (4:30 PM): The mornings at Vee were great in terms of lighting, too, but it was time for us to skedaddle on down the trail, and though we peered, wondered, and had considered taking a shortcut over to Medley Lakes via a fairly well-documented route over Seven Gables Pass, we had kind of ruled it out. The vague "trip plan" thought we could spend some time at the Seven Gables Lakes (probably the southernmost one) and kind of first explore the x-country route (which is how we like to roll), but maybe the "northern side is steep and rough" part of the description had us picturing hundreds of vertical feet like the 14 foot or so "rock chute" we'd negotiated in the rain and were still a bit trepidatious about for the return trip. Besides, if that wild "rock chute" part of the trail had proven so challenging, shouldn't we hop back onto that bike? Uh, even if we didn't actually fall before, like would be for the bike analogy... Uh, never mind.

ROUTE INFO: Putting this here just 'cuz I'm on the topic, but the "rock chute" part of the unmaintained "trail" up to the Seven Gables area from the JMT was a whole different deal when dry. We ran into some rock climbers on their way to some of those Gables peaks shortly before reaching that dicey spot, and like a mountain wimp I did ask them about it. They were an odd crew of three and possibly annoyed with my asking 'cuz to them it was, well, a "couple steps" on the trail and nothing more. Bob Dylan was the friendliest of the bunch (no, really - it was him - I swear), but I think it was the tallest of them who, uh, kind of let loose with a "hoot owl" impersonation right in the midst of our conversation (and no, unfortunately I'm not talking about something performed via the mouth using wind and vocal chords, but yes we can say "wind" was definitely involved). At any rate, when we did get to the daunting "rock chute", it proved a fairly easy clamber up with packs on, but yes, using hand-grasps of the rocks and a bit of muscle. I think just to "unwimp" myself I did insist on trundling back down packless and then wearing Julie's pack up.

Ant Camp. It's not like there was only one ant there, but the more accurate "Ants Camp" just doesn't roll off the tongue as well. They were quite populous there at a nice cascade/waterfall spot, which I think is right about where the "trail" veers away from the East Fork of Bear Creek and northwest into Upper Bear Creek Meadows on its way to the JMT. We went off-trail from there the next morning, so I can't say for sure. I can say another name for the camp could have been "Camoufrog Camp" but that would probably be easiest to explain with a picture.


Day 7, Ant Camp (10ish AM) to camp at Medley Lakes (4 PM): I'm not going to do a "route info" here 'cuz I already babbled about this, but we did cross the East Fork of Bear Creek and wandered in the proper direction (mostly west and a freckle south) to catch up with the JMT heading south. Saved some steps and some elevation gain... We then hung a left back off the JMT at the Lou Beverly Lake turn (sign shows "Sandpiper Lake" too), and we were headed to Medley Lakes. (Just "Lake" on the topo, but trust me, it's "Lakes"...)

Trail was fine, scenery was finer, and as we got up again to that 10,000ish foot elevation and Sandpiper, ah it was glorious to be up in the alpine zone again. The next few days would be the "no other humans" portion of this trip.

I think Julie spotted a potential clean-up in the south side of Sandpiper, but we'd had a great lunch in a bit of shade with great views south, so we hiked on 'cuz of time. Burnin' daylight! No worries, we did some day-hiking and got back to rescue some various odd shiny debris (we never did fully recognize what the heck it was) from the bottom of the lake near the shore.

Medley seems like a bunch of little lakes and you have to negotiate a bit of wandering to pick your way through them, and for all those pockets and landmasses strewn throughout, we found very few doable campsites. The one we found was great, though, and was just before dropping down to the lowest (elevation-wise and southernmost-wise) large part of Medley Lakes, and that was after we'd decided "no" to a peninsula campsite that probably gets usage sometimes even though it simply isn't legal (too close to the water). We figured it would be a drag if someone else came along and camped there, but hey, I already mentioned this was the "no other humans" portion of the trip, right? Score!

Great water access, great swimming with great granite for getting in and out. Well, maybe just a little steeper of a "walk in" than a sane person would like... Oh, and all three evenings had superb sunsets. I'm failing to mention all the times on this whole trip there were bits of precip, but having the weather around "shore do" make it all the more fun to look at in the sky.

Day 8, Marie Lake day-hike: Yeah, this is how we roll. We were sure we wanted to do the easy little x-country over the ridge from Medley to Marie in a couple days, so that was day one. Well, day eight. I scrawled a little route map on a topo for a video showing Julie returning from one route option we tested after crossing over from the Medley area, and it - or we - did not pass that test. The written description we'd seen talked about keeping your elevation as best you can when traversing the ridge, and ducks were around and having us stay higher at this one point, but then it got to a hoist up that even with daypacks we weren't going to do.

So that video shows a return stretch from that, but hey - all that is available at my full slideshow site (referenced at the top of all this "blah blah blah-ging"), so for right here I can, duh, just put that topo scrawl I did to put in the video. Before I do, though, I should share something exciting and important about getting back to our Medley camp that day, and that is that just before we thought we were going to get cleaned up and refreshed, a wild-ass hailstorm pounced. It was a good one, and was kind enough to hop on out of there in time for us to just do the water thing and still have some last rays of sun for drying/warming.

ROUTE INFO: I think for our day-hike and then eventual backpack from Medley to Marie we basically went this route shown below, and yes, it's pretty easy to do. Like any x-country: careful, solid steps.


Day 9, Three Island Lake day-hike and around the Medley Lakes group: Okay, I said "no other humans," but at Flat Note we did see a tent. It was probably the camp of a climbing crew off bagging peaks. Wonder if any of them was tall and had a self-generated tailwind to help propel him up the route? Those rock climbers!

We got back to visit lower Medley and eat lunch while fish-watching. "Paiute Cutthroat Trout" is wrong in the video. "Golden Trout" was the make and model of the entertainment there.

Before we got back to camp we did walk to the other side of our section of Medley Lakes and thought we could find a land route back to our west side after meandering north a bit, but no! All the way back to the divide between Sandpiper and Medley to cross all the way over, and then the jangle of granite walkways to get back to our camp, a route we already knew so well. There were plenty of worthwhile sights on that other side, though, plus - with these days off - we figured we needed the exercise.

Day 10, Medley Lakes (11:00 AM) to Marie Lake - (northeast end at 12:20 PM): Having been to Marie or hiking by it a number of times, it was great to walk around this north end and have that whole new perspective. Stunning area, and I don't think I mentioned yet that this entire trip was cooked up over that view of Marie from Selden Pass and how enticing those peaks to the north and east look. So that was the idea, go to Marie and then wander off into all that beauty. So it was great to be back to the beauty that is Marie Lake, but some people were camped just a bit up from our same camp we were at before, so we were glad to do more hunting and find a great camp elsewhere. Oh I'm not about to tell you where it is, but my nose would not grow like Pinocchio's if I said it's in a comfy little crow's nest high and surrounded by rocks, and just a short hop and skip down to the end of what is almost an isthmus going across Marie at her, uh, waistline. And yes, a beautiful sunset and a beautiful sunrise were to follow. The other campers actually packed up and left before the evening, so again, we had Marie to ourselves. Well, "to ourselves" in terms of humans.

Marie Lake

Day 11, Marie Lake (11:20 AM, but then Noon 'cuz...) to main trail heading for Florence Lake right about at where Alder Creek west of Blayney Meadows crosses it (7:30 PM): 'kay, if you've done the time math you see this was a long day, and it started out with extra stuff to do at Marie 'cuz we found some odd mess at a camp as we were hiking out. Someone had made some attempt to burn some really odd clothes? Spandex? Do they hold ice skating competitions in the winter at Marie? Whatever it was, it was a lot of something, and as we dug it out to carry it out and get it out of Marie's hair, we felt very fortunate that we didn't find anything untoward, such as body parts. Yech, but at first we'd actually started to leave, saying "too much", but then I said something about how we're just going to get some distance along the trail and feel too horrible and have to come back. So yeah, like most folks we do find and carry out quite a bit of other people's trash, but this was just "what were they thinking?" to the Nth degree. Sigh. And to give credit where credit is due, Julie had the garbage bag we put the garbage in, and she carried it out, strapped to her pack.


But yay, more "long day" to come. For anyone who's been in the area and over Selden, I don't have to blather on too much about how stunning it all is, so I won't. We encountered a fun little JMT design with sticks and drawings in the dirt at the pass in the trail, and we lunched at the north end of the eastern Sallie Keyes Lake, but then we figured we really should give the old Sallie Keyes Creek trail a go.

ROUTE INFO: Sallie Keyes Lakes alternate route down to Blayney Meadows - Sallie Keyes Creek Trail. Good info from others along with maps and so forth in comments in the posting (and yes, this is a repeat from above): http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8283

ROUTE INFO: For our adventure down this trail I'll say we hadn't seen a very clear x-country type junction from the main trail, so from Sallie Keyes Lakes we figured we could just stay west of the main trail shortly after leaving Sallie Keyes. There is a very large "meadowy" area that is west of the main trail and seems lower, so we headed to the other side of that from the north end, and then headed south. We picked up some markers and so forth, but in retrospect, I think the "trail" can be reached easier staying on the main trail until you get about as far as that body of water south of Sallie Keyes, uh, even though you don't see it from the trail. Years ago I went for a morning stroll south from the east side of Sallie Keyes and saw it... It's on the map and looks a bit like a cowgirl boot, so if you can estimate when you're lined up with it, then go west, cross Sallie Keyes Creek, and start looking for markers. We probably ventured farther west while still too far north, but we did head back to the east some and eventually found some huge ducks. Even artful! I think the trail is quasi maintained by some Muir Trail Ranch people now? We did find some red (or faded to pink) pieces of tape on tree branches and followed those, and eventually we were definitely on an old (and steep) trail that was mostly a corridor filled with varying sized boulders. "Unmaintained" would be the operative word, and at the time "vintage" came to mind. We ended up probably not too far from the main trail at the bottom after some chaparral type terrain, and there were plenty of markings on a rock ridge type mound guiding us back northwest, and even a couple arrows painted on big rocks. (What up with that?) So then we angled naturally with the slope a bit more southwest, and lo and behold, the main trail from Blayney to Florence, which was already in progress.

So for our trip down, probably sometimes on the Sallie Keyes Creek Trail and other times just wandering, it got to be 6:30 PM when we actually hit the trail. We spent a little too much time thinking we'd head across Blayney Meadows (this is all northwest of the Trail Ranch now) to get to the San Joaquin, getting grossed out by all the meadow horse poop, made it back to the trail, talked with some guys hiking in around dusk, with, uh, guns poking up out of their packs. Turned out the next day was the first day of gun hunting season, and these guys were that into it (to get up there and perched). To be honest, neither of us eat meat and we root for the deer 'cuz, well, we like deer, but these hunters and other hunters we talked to driving out on "that road" from Florence when we'd gotten all confused - well, all the hunters we talked to were very friendly and helpful. Just the same, we pictured waking up to bullets flying, so when we finally did get to camp we rigged up some bright red pieces of cloth Julie had brought (I think just for that reason - she thinks ahead!) to tie onto our hats. We may have looked like Communists, but not so much non-human critters.

Our camp was our latest one, getting dark, but we did find a nice spot by Alder Creek just up from where it crosses the trail. A pretty deer strolled around camp and we warned her to scamper far far away and hole up for a few weeks.

Day 12, Alder Creek (11:30) to... Well, I'll shut up about that so as to not give away the exciting end of the story: In the morning we were treated to some rascal squirrels chasing each other 'round and 'round a tree. Squirrels just wanna have fun! We broke camp and prepared for heading back to "civilization" and figured we could probably get to the ferry-landing phone in time to call for the 1:00 PM ride back across the lake.

In my best Woody Allen impersonation, "Funny story..." We moved it along pretty good hoping to catch that ferry in time. I think I snapped a photo of a lizard posing on a trailside rock, but really didn't do him justice just to keep things moving. We got to the junction where you can go left to hike south of the lake or stay right and continue down to the ferry landing, and there was a Frisbee with old faded writing on it, about which we thought, "Yeah yeah, we read that Frisbee on the way in..." Scurrying down that sometimes trail/sometimes Jeep road the Trail Ranch folks use, the reservoir comes into view. Not really focusing on it, I think "hey, a ways to go," and say something about how it looks like they've let a bit of water out. We're looking at the time, we're looking for the satellite phone station, we're... making it, we're going to make it for the early ferry!

So we get to the phone and it's 12:50. Maybe a bit later than they'd want you to phone, so I convince Julie she should call since hers is probably a more pleasant voice... So as she gets through, and says to the ferry gal, "Hi, we're here at the ferry-landing and we'd just love to reserve a ride back across." To which the gal says (and you understand I'm paraphrasing all of this), "Honey, we would love to give you a ride back, but if you turn around you'll see that we don't have a lake."


Really looking with the eyes AND brain both engaged, yeah, there were still nice big blue areas of water, but, uh, those don't all connect to each other. That reservoir had been drained.

Frisbee Sign

Sigh. The hike around has more pretty sights, of course, but somehow when you think you're done hiking... But we were fine. Took a look at that faded writing on the Frisbee at the junction on our way back (we'd seen the Frisbee signs at the ferry phone thing, so that was the Frisbee we figured we'd read), and yep, it was a notice that ferry service would be ending early, so keep those hiking boots on and turn south now for that last 4.5 miles... Got water by the big bridge going over the San Joaquin, didn't get shot, made it to the car and "that road"... After some, uh, confusion and driving an extra 6 miles... Why the extra driving? You have to imagine conversations like "No, this looks different. Look at all these woodpiles of chopped trees." "I think we turned on to some special logging road." "Should we turn back?" Plus it was dusk, the first day of gun hunting, and there were camouflage-wearing hunters in pickups and SUVs, probably kind of hunting from their vehicles? Sometimes pulled over, sometimes cruising even slower than normal for the road... So we did ask one bunch car-window to car-window, and again, terribly nice people, helpful and engaging, and, well the bottom line was yes, that's the way to Huntington Lake.

Turned out for the chopped trees, yes, after Labor Day and the end of tourist season, I guess the gloves come off and the chainsaws come out. And for the early draining of Florence? It may have been because they had to drain Shaver Lake some in order to work on its dam? So after that, probably because Shaver is lower, more accessible and gets more business, they drained Florence to refill it? I don't know. Maybe all the people in Fresno flushed their toilets at the same time.

We did make it back to the "Lakeshore" at Huntington Lake barely in time to have dinner and get the last cabin they had, so we were happy puppies. To sum it all up in a lot fewer words than all the above: Another great trip!