Shooting Ansel Adams Wilderness

ansel adams wilderness; california; sierra nevada I believe this is Rodgers Peak. Please leave a comment if I

I believe this is Rodgers Peak. Please leave a comment if I’m wrong.

A campfire helped us (Justin, Dave, Zack, Jason, and me) stave the frigid night air while we ate, drank, and talked at the Reversed Creek Campground. Putting off retiring to our tents as long as we could finally gave in near 3 am. What we were trying to avoid was the following 6 hours of cold. The temperature dropped below freezing and I had only brought my 35 degree bag. My toes were stiff and chills woke me up throughout the night. I’ve said this before, and I must say it again, the summer camping season in the Sierra is over.

ansel adams wilderness; california; sierra nevada Carson Peak is your first view as you climb from the trailhead.

Carson Peak is your first view as you climb from the trailhead.

We started our hike into the Ansel Adams Wilderness at the Rush Creek Trailhead after 11. The weather was perfect. The skies clear. The temperature just right for a 3,000 foot, 6 mile climb ending at Summit Lake. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, but the trek was strenuous. It was well worth it though. Along the way we passed an abandoned rail track and its dilapidated cart. We climbed above Agnew lake and Gem Lake watching as Carson Peak became shorter and shorter. Through Spooky Meadow we passed granite cliffs outlined with snow.

ansel adams wilderness; california; panoramic; people; sierra nevada A panormiac view of the Sierra Nevada, viewed from above Gem Lake.

A panormiac view of the Sierra Nevada, viewed from above Gem Lake.

Though we planned to stop at Carson Lakes, upon reaching the top of our climb along a ridge, we were taken by the view and decided to eat lunch. The panorama was breathtaking; littered with peaks including the 13k foot Mount Ritter and Lyell and extending into Yosemite National Park (Happy Birthday to you!).

After lunch we marched right past Carson Lakes and stopped by Summit Lake, which we hoped was outside the burn-ban boundary (the map was not very clear). The fire would be essential that night. An invisible bubble encircled the burning wood after night fell. Inside of it, we were warm. Outside, shivering. Once again we put off going to sleep as long as possible, sipping on whiskey and discussing software, philosophy, religion, and anything else that might come to mind.

Inside my bivy I was surprisingly warm though this may have been because I wore all my layers, including the rain shell, and shoved a rock from the fire ring into my breast pocket. I had a comfortable night’s sleep.

ansel adams wilderness; california; lake; sierra nevada Summit Lake, our home for the night.

Summit Lake, our home for the night.

ansel adams wilderness; california; sierra nevada The Gem Lake Dam is a working hydroelectric facility.

The Gem Lake Dam is a working hydroelectric facility.

In the morning/early afternoon we made quick work of the hike back down to the trailhead and headed into June Lake for dinner. I must say our experience with the town was a bit odd. The streets were empty and most of the businesses were either closed or had no customers. We decided on a pizza place. The food was good, but the selection of bottled beers was a bit weak. We crossed the street to the espresso shop. Opening the door we thought we had just entered a private residence and two barking dogs charged at us, running out the door and across the street. “Shit! What do we do?”

We decided to go talk to the proprietor of the pizza place, but there was no need. He was running towards the house. It was his place as well. I ordered a latte and as the pizza guy brought it out I pulled out my card to pay. “Oh you know what, the machine isn’t working, it’s on me. Now I’ve gotta get back to the pizza place. Got one in the oven. You didn’t want anything else, did you?” Justin informed him that we would want 3 Americanos as well. “Alright, I’ll be right back.” He made the round trip before we even had a proper laugh and served up the Americanos, accepting cash, and disappearing again to tend to the pizza.Mono Basin National Recreation Area

From there we headed towards nearby Mono Lake to view the South Tufa Formation. The unique geologic formations, once formed underwater, but currently exposed due to water-hungry L.A. are worth viewing. The dramatic afternoon sky served as a perfect background for the castle-like towers.

As we drove back to the Bay Area, the last stop for Zack and me was Sonora Pass. Here we took in one of the best sunsets I have ever observed.

Though the nights were cold and we didn’t cover much distance, the weekend was a great success. I witnessed so much beauty that my brain is still processing it all. Best of all, there was almost nobody on the trail. After the first mile, there were no hikers and we came across only a couple of backpackers, though I expect that this area is much more bustling with visitors during the summer season.

For more national forest adventures, visit our U.S. Forest Service Agency Guide.

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