Earlier in June, and just like last year, I organized a trip to the Ansel Adams Wilderness. While I usually prefer to hike alone, I really enjoyed taking a group of people and introducing them to one of my favorite places in the world.
We were 5 hikers in last year’s trip. This year, the number ballooned to 12, including 4 returnees from last year. I originally requested 8 permits, then 10, and finally 12, as more and more people took interest. With such a large group, I decided to hike the same route as last year and stick with what had worked previously.
With 3 people doing a backpacking camping for the first time, most of the work I had to do as the organizer were done prior to the trip, making sure everybody packed what’s needed, and nothing more, especially when it came to food and toiletries that had be stored in bear canisters. Organizing rides and carpools and different pick up points and time for each person was also time consuming.
Once on the road, things worked out relatively smoothly. We arrived around 12:30pm at Mammoth Lakes, where we ate lunch and picked up our permits and bear canisters. The lady helping me with the permits at the Welcome Center was shocked to see that the group size was 12. She said the usual group size is 2.
We got to the trail head at Agnew Meadow at 3pm and, just like last year, our plan was to camp somewhere after Shadow Lake.
After dealing with the switchbacks just before Shadow Lake, we stopped at the lake’s outlet. People are creatures of habit. When we stopped, I predicted that Raul would drop his backpack, walk to the water stream, and wash his face. And he did just that, exactly like last year.
We hiked past Shadow Lake and the site we camped last year. Camping is prohibited here so we kept going with the idea of camping at Gladys Lake. As the sun was going down, I realized that we were not going to make it before dark. I didn’t really want to hike and set up camp in the dark with such a large group. We turned around and looked for a camping spot outside of the prohibited area, but we couldn’t find any. We had no choice other than camping at the same spot as last year. I felt bad camping in a area we were not supposed to, but with such a large group and darkness setting in, we didn’t have much of a choice.
One thing different than last year was the unbelievable amount of mosquitoes everywhere. Applying 98% DEET didn’t really help much. After cooking dinner, I spent almost 1 1/2 hour trying to fit all the food and toiletries into 5 bear canisters. Despite telling the group repeatedly to pack a very minimal amount of toiletries, and food that don’t take up space, I found items like deodorant, large containers of sunscreen, canned food, etc. We had to resort to hanging food off a tree. Another violation of the rules.
We had a relaxing morning the next day. Back on the trail, we were broken up into different groups so each person could hike at their own pace. We all stopped at Garnet Lake for lunch.
After a long lunch break, some of us stopped at my favorite spot for some pictures.
We continued onto Thousand Island Lake, the highlight of the trip. We set up camp and had plenty of time left to enjoy this amazing place. Just a little west from the spot we camped at was this small sandy beach. Even thought the water was cold, some of us couldn’t resist getting into the water.
We all rushed into our tents after dinner, escaping the mosquito invasion.
A few of us got up early the next morning to enjoy the sunrise. There were so many bugs that most of the pictures I took had a one of two of mosquitoes in them.
We took Pacific Crest Trail back to the Agnew Meadow trail head. On the way there, we run into a good number of people hiking the entire PCT all the way up to Canada. I thought since it was already late June that they must have been a little behind schedule.
This was my first time carrying a DSLR camera on a weekend hike. The strap was really killing my neck and shoulders after 2 days, so I put my camera in my backpack and barely got it out to shot during the last day. This makes me wonder how practical it would be to bring this camera in future long hikes, or the round the world trip. Once I got to experience the awesomeness of DSLRs, it’s really hard to go back to compact cameras, but what good is it to bring a great camera if it’s so uncomfortable that it’ll just stay in my backpack most of the time?
In the end, everybody finished the hike without problems and all had a great time. To me, a group hike like this is a totally different experience than a solo hike. I can’t say that I like one more than the other. It gives me great satisfaction to introduce people to all these beautiful landscapes and to the joy that is hiking and backpacking in the wilderness. At the same time, I constantly have to make sure that everybody is doing OK. When I hike solo, I’m able to immerse more in the moment and the place. I worry less, can be alone with my own thoughts, and have more time for introspection. I think a mixture of group and solo hikes would be a good balance for the future.