Kaiser Wilderness Day Hike

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Full photo album -> HERE

The Kaiser Wilderness is just north of Huntington Lake. I had been into the wilderness before, but not more than a 1/4 mile or less. This time my plan was to hike about 9 miles round trip. Thus the day hike began.

The day hike started at Potter Pass Cutoff Trailhead. I was told the trail from Kaiser Pass into this area was pretty much an uphill climb. River came along with me and she was thrilled to be back on the trail again. The creek rushed by and the bugs were not around. A perfect day to be outdoors.

The trail had a small incline and gradually increased as we hiked along. River ran up and back and side to side for about 15 minutes. It took her a bit to calm down and then she stuck to the trail the whole time.

Wildflowers were out in various places. You could see the Indian Paintbrush and then round a corner to find some purple Lupine. Once we came to the first and only creek crossing, which is about half way up the 2 mile hike to Potter Pass, then more wildflowers were out. Unfortunately that was not the only thing out.

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Mosquitoes swarmed the small meadow. The vegetation was moist from the morning dew. The sun rays were warming the area enough a few bees came into the area. Both River and I moved through as quick as we could. Snapping a photo meant being swarmed by a cloud of them that would end up following us up almost to the pass.

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From the meadow up the climb was steady. I took a few breaks just to cool down. I was not physically tired, but overheating. I unbuttoned my shirt and tried to stop for as long as I could. Again those mosquitoes were following us. Thankfully as we neared the top and the trees receeded away, a breeze started pushing them away. I would then find a tree, cool down, and make a much easier climb up to the top.

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Looking back where we had hiked from you could see China Peak Ski Resort and some blue skies. The top was close by now too. With each step the breeze became stronger, further spurring us both on…well probably me more than River haha.

The pass was wide and sandy. A sign was installed there informing everyone from this point forward, they would be entering into the Kaiser Wilderness. I grabbed a selfie, drank some water, and admired the views of the high sierra in the distance. After a minute or two, it was time to descend into the wilderness and reach the Lower Twin Lake.

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On the way down a good size meadow could easily be seen. The trail went around to the west of it and passed by a spring. I always have enjoyed seeing water start off as a trickle from the source. Anyway, heading down the trail I went out to the meadow to grab a photo. It was worth the view and once again the mosquitoes were thankful.

Being that it was downhill now for a time, we gained speed and kept the mosquitoes working hard following us. As we proceeded down a nice surprise was to my right. There was snow in August at 9,000 feet. I smiled as we continued walking by, swatting the remaining and determined mosquitoes that hovered over me. We crossed another creek, which was the same one I saw as a trickle of water earlier, and came to a small opening full of purple Lupines. This seemed to be a common theme and was always refreshing. the aroma some of the flowers had were strong and pungent. Others were sweet and just right.

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Once past the lupine, the trail descended down some a rocky steep section, then met up with another trail. The signs were held up by a tree limb and we turned to Twin Lakes. However, shortly after it was time for our first snack.

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There was a nice rock to sit on for a snack and drink of water. Looking back up the trail I grabbed a photo of the area. There was a marble outcrop of rock all around. The mosquitoes had finally left us and we could enjoy the food in piece. River was happy to not have to be diving or walking through vegetation to get the mosquitoes off too. We were soon on our way.

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As we walked on, more great views of the Kaiser Wilderness presented themselves. To the north an even larger meadow could be seen. Marble rock was scattered on the landscape. Aspen trees quaked in the breeze. The sky was a deep blue. Another great photo moment. Soon we arrived at the lower of the two Twin Lakes.

The water was like glass. The air still. I was enjoying the moment when River started getting thirsty. She went to the edge and started adding ripples. Quickly I grabbed my camera and took a photo. Once that was done, I would come back to check out the water on the return hike out. This is when, once again, the mosquitoes greeted both of us with swarms of sound. River didn’t last much longer than I and off we went.

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It was about a 5 minute walk and we were at the upper Twin Lake. This one was a lot bigger. User created trails were made and followed the perimeter of the lake. Not a cloud in the sky and once again the water was like glass. Made for a great photo. However, this was not the goal for the day and we pressed onward. I would check out the water on the return trip.

We pass some signs showing us where to go. Our destination was George Lake, which was the next lake we visited before heading out. Just past the signs, up on a knoll with some large boulders, River and I took a snack break. I ate my trail mix and jerky while she had her dog food. While waiting I noticed a cloud moving in, it was rather dark and knowing what that could mean I picked up the pace a bit.

The trail made its way around the northern side of the lake and headed west. There was a lot less mosquitoes now, which made since. Being more exposed to the sun was keeping them down. A slight breeze kept flowing in to keep us cool. It was at this point we our first hiker. He was doing some solo fly fishing and enjoying himself. He mentioned George Lake should be great. After wishing each other well, up the trail River and I went.

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The trail headed through another riparian area. Water seeped out the rocks every now and then. Small muddy areas were crossed and the sound of a creek was nearby. This must have been the outlet to George Lake. It was flowing really well too. It was not long and we cross over the creek and I started looking through the tree to see George Lake.

It was a beautiful sight. The clouds were moving in, but it let pockets of light shine on the peak still covered in some snow. The lake was a mirror and the bugs were not really there at all. Here we tested the water and ate lunch. The view was spectacular. The best of the three lakes we seen that morning.

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The clouds were becoming numerous and darker. Knowing we had to climb down and then back up to Potter Pass, we made our way back down the trail. It was on the way back down from George Lake that you could really see all the clouds forming.

It definitely was a faster pace now. The clouds were getting darker and some of the mosquitoes were trying to keep up with us. The trail was just as easy to find and follow.

It was probably 25 minutes and we arrived back at Upper Twin Lake. I walked down to get the water sample and relaxed a little bit. It takes a few minutes for the whole procedure so a small break was always nice. River jumped in the water, likely due to mosquitoes eating at her, and proceeded to stay close to me. In fact, I was on a rock sampling and, being soaked, decided pressing on my back was a good idea. Granted it was nice a cool, but she was bringing in all the mosquitoes. Thankfully this was short lived as the measurements were done. It was time to progress down the trail to Lower Twin Lake.

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We stayed on the system trail this time as we passed by Upper Twin Lake. When we first arrived earlier that morning we followed a user created trail near the shoreline. The system trail would take us through a small patch of aspen trees. Also we flew by a small pond of water just prior to arriving to Lower Twin Lake. With such a water year it was no surprised this are was still full of water.

Our last lake stop had arrived. I went on the western side of the lake looking for a way to get further out into the water. Plus the breeze was blowing on this side, which helped keep the mosquitoes down. They were horrible here. River looked like a Dalmatian or something with all the block “spots” on her while she whimpered for me to hurry up. My hand was a huge target, but thankfully it didn’t take long. I think River thought otherwise.

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The water sampling was complete and it was time to just get out of the wilderness. It was overcast now and the clouds were starting to get darker. We hurried along and I was hungry for food. We couldn’t stop though for a time as the mosquitoes were wanting lunch.

Remember the first stop by all the marble rocks? This was my initial goal for stopping, but now the mosquitoes must have received word we were going to stop there. We crossed the creek, climbed up a short steep rocky part, and headed towards Potter Pass. Along the way, I noticed the mosquitoes had left and took advantage calm. I told River to follow me and we sat down to enjoy some more food. I needed energy and she was hoping I would share.

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We sat there for a pleasant 15 minutes. It was a good break and perfect for letting the food digest a bit. Soon we were making our way up to the pass. River led the way and kept looking back to make sure things were going okay for me. I looked up at her at one point and said, “I am pacing myself. Trying caring all this gear.” She turned her head and continued marching uphill.

We made it up to the boundary and Potters Pass. The breeze was strong again, which was a nice cooling down time. I had River pose by the wilderness sign. Then a drip of water hit my knee. Then it hit my hand. The clouds were trying to get the water out, so down the hill we went. It was hear we heard about 8 people coming up the trail on the other side the drainage. They were nice and loud, but seemed to be having a good time.

At this point it was all downhill now, which to some may be a good thing. After about 15 minutes, I was ready for uphill. I do not like all the pressure it puts on the knees and joints. Plus I find myself going slower so I don’t wear my body down.

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The steep section is really from the pass and down just past the first creek crossing. It is still downhill, don’t get me wrong, but at a much gentler grade. A lot easier to maintain or be a near a full stride. At the creek crossing we met a couple heading into the lakes for a few days. I told them to have a great time and continued onward.

It wasn’t long and we could hear the creek flowing near the trail again. The water raging on as it did that morning when we first started. I always enjoy hearing the sound of a stream and this was certainly welcomed.

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Eventually seeing the stream off to my left, I knew the end was near. It would be time to head back down the mountain. I was sure River would sleep well, which was true. She looked happy to be able to lay down and rest. Her underbelly was red with mosquito bites, so I am sure was really happy to have that part over with too. All in all a good day, even with the mosquitoes enjoying some fresh meat haha.

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