Backpacking Trip to Sword and Lost Lakes

On June 19th, Donna and I went backpacking.  …Our first visit to the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness area.  We camped at Lost Lake which is nestled in the morning shadow of The Dardanelles off Highway 108.

Additional pictures

We left Friday morning.  Jack and Kalika were going to drive up in the evening, hike in the next morning and meet us.  Donna and I had a very pleasant drive up stopping in Oakdale for food.  As we got near the trailhead we realized that the directions we had given Jack weren’t quite right so started doing the Highway 108 patrol to get cell signal.  We wanted to send him a few direction clarifying texts…. We’re pretty sure that Jack has an “Awesome, Thanks!” auto text message cuz that’s pretty much all we got in response.  But he must have gotten the message cuz he made it to the trailhead just fine.

It’s a fairly short hike in… most of it downhill… but the beginning had a sharp ascent.  The parking lot was about 7150′ and we climbed up to about 7450′ before starting the descent to about 6700′ or so.  Then we climbed up to lake level …. about 6800’… The total hike in was about 3.1 miles.  We were racing the sun and ended up in the dark as we puzzled over the our tarp tent.  We had only set it up once before in the safety of our front yard… but that time was in the dark too… In fact, it dawned on us that we had never seen the tent setup in the daylight… Weird.  No dinner cuz we weren’t particularly hungry and we didn’t want to deal with the stove in the dark.

We tried to set up next to Sword Lake cuz that’s the first lake we came to… but all the sites we could find were taken… Hmmmm… more people here than I expected.  I was turned onto these lakes by my very own Dr. William Mears… only the best doctor in the world… He backpacks too and knows all these cool places to go.   He only goes to places that aren’t frequented often by others.  He’s the one who turned us onto Hyatt Lake… One of last year’s Emigrant Wilderness Area trips… That was amazing… not easy to get to but once we were there, it was heaven (see earlier blog post).  At Hyatt Lake, we actually had our own beach all to ourselves… and didn’t see anyone at the lake during our stay.  Was just amazing… So I was a little surprised to see people here at Sword Lake.  But people there were and we still had to find a place to plop down for the night… Finding nothing at Sword Lake, we continued on to Lost Lake and and came up with a place right away.  Rule of thumb is that you camp no closer than 100 feet from the water.  But there’s so damn many lakes there that this wasn’t easy… and… sigh… we didn’t succeed… However the next morning we found that with few exceptions, no one else had been successful either… sigh… at least we tried…

After a very pleasant night, the sun came up and we emerged from our tent to see where we were….

Breakfast time… we hauled out the stoveS… yes… plural… I brought both the new alcohol stove (that I recently purchased from Trail Designs) and our butane canister stove… Decided I didn’t want to mess with the alcohol stove just yet… Our desire for coffee was feeling fairly urgent.  So set up the butane canister stove.

Canister stoves are awesome… you just turn it on and light it… so easy… and powerful.  It heats a liter and a half of water up to boiling in like five minutes.  The only problem is that the fuel is so heavy… the full canisters weigh 13.35 oz.  And the empty canisters weigh 6.35 oz… That means that three empty canisters weigh over a pound!  Alcohol is much lighter… but it’s way less powerful and using the stove takes a touch more finesse and patience… worth it though for the weight savings.   I love using the butane… but for longer trips, the canister weight is adds up.  Donna and I came up with a policy for deciding which stove to take… on weekend trips, we’ll take the butane … and on longer hiking trips, we’ll use the alcohol stove.  End of discussion.  I like both stove systems so was happy with the policy.

OH!!!  Another thing I was trying for the second time on this trip…. using trekking poles as I hiked.  I used them once before when we climbed Shasta.  I’ve always been anti-trekking pole… They seem so goofy and unnecessary.  But have run into SO many backpackers who swear by them.  Well… being an absolute sucker for outdoor gear, I  bought myself a set… some nice ones in fact.  And now I was using em… And I guess I’m not gonna lie… Turns out that I like them… kind of embarrassed about it though… especially after all my anti-trekking pole diatribes… I hope I don’t run into those people again.  It’s so embarrassing being me sometimes.  I think I should do an entire post on trekking poles… or maybe not… to non-backpackers, it’s likely to be a bit annoying.  They’re good for me though cuz from all those years (decades) of swimming, I’ve got some fairly well-developed triceps to pole with… so they help my legs on the climbs… and there’s more stability on the descents… of course they’re also great for scratching back itches and swatting branches… AND… I even started doing trekking pole tricks as I hiked… however this is something that should maybe be reserved for when I’m mostly by myself.  There seems to be a risk of impaling others as I swing my poles around… at least that’s what I’m told.

Back to our trip though… Today (Saturday) Donna and I originally had planned to climb up on the Dardanelles… However after seeing where we were camped, we decided that there was no way that Jack and Kalika would be able to find us… So we decided to hike back out to the trailhead instead to intercept them as they hiked in.  As we hiked out, we encountered a number of folks hiking in and they reassured us that they had seen a couple sleeping in a Ford Ranger.  As we climbed we got updates as to how they were progressing… they were sleeping… then someone else said they were awake and sitting up in the back of the pickup… then someone else said they were walking around getting ready to hike… etc.  Finally two women said they were right behind them.  Donna and I climbed up the trail until we came to a big rock where we sat and waited for them to come down the trail.  It was very pleasant sitting there giving hikers an excuse to stop and chat with us…  Donna was busily cataloging flowers to amuse herself… It was wildflower season so there were flowers everywhere, which of course was a source of tremendous delight for her.

Much too soon, there they were… I wasn’t done sitting on the rock yet… but now I had to get up and hike… sigh… All these energetic people.

We all hiked back down to the lake…

After we got back down to our camp, Jack and Kalika went about finding a place for their tent.  They settled in right next to the lake… When they were unpacked, tent up and established, we had lunch and went for a hike.

After our return from the hike around Lost Lake, we went for a swim to cool off.  The day had warmed up a bit… This was my first time back in the water after a couple years of being out of the pool.  Sigh… I got to see just how out of swimming shape I have become… Good Lord!  Yes it’s been a couple years but damn… I totally sucked.  I did wish that I had my goggles though.  Next time….

We lay around all afternoon… it was a lazy day… Then… dinner time… well dinner time for Donna and me… Jack and Kalika had fallen asleep in their tent and we didn’t want to disturb them.  BUT… I finally got to try my new alcohol stove… It was awesome.  I really like the engineering that went into the Trail Designs systems.  Raw engineering is a beautiful thing.  This will be our go to stove for long trips.  And just so I don’t forget… it’s 1/2 oz of alcohol to boil two cups of water in say six or seven minutes… maybe even less.  Yes… it takes more patience to cook with alcohol but it’s super light and that’s a major offset.  Enough about my stove issues… movin’ on…

As the sun began to set, a sleepy Jack and Kalika emerged from their tent and we set em up with dinner.  Then it was time to head for our tent.

I want to rave about the stars in the Sierra when it’s dark… they’re just dazzling… and the moon, Venus and Jupiter were lined up right next to each other in the twilight… it felt absolutely cosmic being out there in the twighlight.

Next morning, we broke down camp in about as leisurely a way as I think was possible.   Jack and Kalika were very late getting up but quickly caught up with us as we all packed up… And we broke camp all together and started the hike out.

For some reason, Kalika ended up in front… and not sure how or why, but she set a blistering pace… I was having a tough time keeping up… my little hiking poles were a clickin’ and a clackin’ at a feverish pace… Oy!  Sparks were flying and I was barely keeping up.  Finally everyone stopped for a break at a creek… and I kept going so I could hike at a little slower pace for a while… whew… a change is as good as a break… after that things settled down and we eventually all made it back to the car for the endless drive home.


It’s so weird how it doesn’t look very far on the map… but it’s just endless when you’re driving it.  How can that be?

Great trip… Donna and I wanna go back and climb The Dardanelles… maybe in the Fall if we can squeeze it in… This is a nice trip cuz it’s so easy to get into the area… less than three miles of hiking and you’re there… It’s a bit like the Saddlebag Lake trip near Tioga Pass.  There it’s only about two gorgeous, flatish, miles into the 20 Lakes Basin…  then you’re in heaven.  So that’s actually an easier trip… ‘cept for the drive.

Sigh… The End of the Prism

Brief history of the Prism…

It started out as my (Larry’s) commuter car after the 5 speed black Prism that I had before was crushed between two SUVs on the morning commute to Cupertino… can’t remember when that happened.  But it was tragic because not only did the black Prism serve me well but it also was a 5 speed… which are a dying breed.

Brief history on Prisms… They were the same car as a Toyota Corolla, made right here in the Bay Area over at the now defunct NUUMI plant with its incredibly high quality standards and execution.  The plant is now the home of the Tesla but that’s another story.  The Prism was a shockingly economical and a quality vehicle just like the Corolla.   However for some reason the Blue Book value of the Prism was over $1000 less than the same year and features Corolla… Well knowing all this, I just had to buy another Prism.  Unfortunately, they stopped making 5 speeds and they had become kind of rare, so I had to settle for an automatic… Oh well, it was just a commuter car…

This Prism and I commuted over the hill for years… But then an opportune time came for me to upgrade to my dream car… a 5 speed, late-model, low miles, Honda Civic became available and I jumped at it.  And so the Prism was passed on to Spencer.

Sigh… not gonna lie, that turned out to be the beginning of the end for the Prism.

Spencer had three accidents in the Prism.  The first in a parking lot on a rainy day, the next when he rear ended someone on Highway 17 and finally when he rear ended someone else in heavy traffic on Highway 1.  The shop was able to fix the parking lot incident.  We actually did a home repair on the second incident.  But this last one was the final straw.  We just couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again…

The last drive down Whispering Pines… sigh…