Thursday, May 24, 2012

Baker Lake non-loop

We were going to do a loop hike in Great Basin National Park: up Baker Creek to Baker Lake, over the divide to Johnson Lake and then down Johnson Creek and across to the Baker Creek trailhead. As it turned out, May 24 was too early in the season, even in a low-snow year.

The Baker Creek trailhead is at 8000', at the end of a well-maintained gravel road. We saw a couple other cars at the trailhead, but never saw anyone else while on the trail. On the way to the lake, we hiked past one area with some very impressive avalanche damage, lots of large (12" +) trees littered like matchsticks at the bottom of a large bowl.
Baker Lake is a typical pretty mountain cirque lake...
The maps we had showed different routes for the trail between Baker Lake and Johnson Lake. Some showed the trail directly at Baker Lake, others showed it about 1/2 mile down below the lake. We didn't see a trail junction on the hike in; after less than a minute of exploring at Baker Lake, we found the well-cairned route to Johnson Lake.
The cairns were very large, usually 2 feet tall, and spaced very closely, rarely more than 30 yards apart. It was obvious, though, that the route had been laid out later in the summer after all the snowmelt was gone...
The small pond was easy to bypass. The route led up to the divide between Baker Creek and Johnson Creek, elevation 11300 or so. The views were impressive.

From the divide, we could look over and see Johnson Lake just below us. However, there was a snowfield on that side of the divide that would be more accurately described as the remains of a huge cornice, with a near vertical face dropping into a very very steep bowl. There was one small snow-free section, Jill thought it looked passable but I thought it too steep for my comfort level. So instead of a 13 mile loop, we did a 12 mile out-and-back. What is the opposite of a loop? At least we did get to see Johnson Lake...

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