Originally I just wrote this for myself but thought I may as well share it with the world. Hyperlinks lead to photos!
I picked up my uncle Patrick at the house on south Vista Bonita Monday at 5:00 am. We drove to Sanger where we stopped and had breakfast at the Rusty Plow. The Rusty Plow has a dining room which we ate in and a lunch counter which has a huge horse-drawn rusty plow hanging above it. As we drove through the foothills on our approach to the mountains we encountered thick smoke from a wildfire. By the time we reached Shaver Lake the smoke had thinned appreciably. We made it up to Edison Lake a little after noon. We picked out a campsite, # 15, that the previous tenants had just left. The fire pit still had hot embers and a couple of pieces of half burnt wood that later had been completely burned. We slowly set up camp but mostly just sat around for the rest of the day. There was one really fat squirrel that we gave some peanuts to. She must have been pregnant because she waddled like a duck. We met David Gibson (campground host) and Doug Gibson (David's nephew, thirteen years old).
The next day Patrick and I launched the canoe and set out down the lake. It was a fine warm day but the air was very hazy due to the wildfire. Tuesday, this day, was the poorest visibility I have ever seen at Edison Lake. We paddled along the north shore of the lake stopping at a couple of unoccupied campsites for rests. When we approached the end of the lake we paddled to another unoccupied campsite on the south side of Mono Creek in a stand of small trees next to a stand of aspen in a rather marshy area full of flowers. We had packed our day packs and boots in water bags so we took them out, put them on and after securing the canoe started out hiking to the top of an unnamed knoll at the end of the lake. We picked our way up through a maze of granite bedrock shelves interspersed with pine trees, thorn tangles and small meadows. We reached the bottom of a 150 foot sheer granite cliff which we had seen from the lake and worked away around the bottom to the top of a ridge that led to the top of the knoll. We did not quite reach the top but came within a hundred feet of the top according to my altimeter. We sat down on the edge of the lip of the cliff and looking out over the lake ate our lunch. We wanted to go to the top but it was getting late in the day and we could see white caps down on the lake as the wind had picked up so decided it was time to start back.
At the lake we packed up and launched the canoe. The waves were coming in at 2 feet high but there was a rock ledge that broke them as we started out. When we neared the end of the rock ledge the waves hit us with full force and I had to go down on my knees to keep the canoe from rolling over. I had to paddle hard to keep the bow of the canoe into the wind. We decided to stick with the south shore as the lake was so rough and I wanted to stay close to shore in the event we capsized. We could have paddled over to the mouth of Mono Creek and gone along the north shore but the waves reflecting off the rocks were 3 feet high by the mouth of the creek and besides I had never paddled around the south shore. It had taken us about 2 hours to paddle the 7 miles along the north shore with a half hour rest but fighting the wind and going along the south shore which was 10 miles took us 4 hours with only one 20 minute rest. We scouted for campsites on the south shore but found only one inferior site as the mountain came right down into the lake unlike the north shore which had shelves and less of a grade change.
Although this part of the trip was a real struggle we were rewarded as we saw a Golden Eagle catch a fish in his/her talons and fly in a big loop back to an old stump of a tree. The tree was a half mile away but when we got about 200 feet away the eagle took off again still carrying the fish. The fish was probably about eight inches long and the eagle had a wing span of about 3-1/2 to 4 feet. Seeing the eagle was the highlight of the day; quite a thrill bringing real joy to my heart.
We talked to David Gibson some more later that evening. Doug had mentioned that he sure would like to go canoeing the previous day so I offered them the use of the canoe for the next couple of days since we would be gone backpacking anyway. David told us the story of five men and five boys with ten ice chests full of food, soda, etc. They had not listened to David's advice about locking up and covering the ice chests. The cinnamon bear, the same one that ran off with our dishwashing detergent when we were camping there 3 years ago, and her two cubs had a huge feast. They found those ice chests and devoured nearly all the food leaving only scraps scattered all over the place. The men tried to scare the bears off by banging pots and pans, yelling, etc. but were unable to get them to leave. The man that refused to believe that the bears were a threat told David that just as the sky was starting to light up the cinnamon bear popped the top of the last Pepsi and guzzled it.
Early the next morning we got up, ate a light breakfast, hefted our backpacks and started up the mountain after battening down the camp. I locked all our food in the back of the truck in the camper shell, covered it and then sprinkled crushed Jalapeno peppers around the truck. I packed my pack too heavy and so did Patrick. As well we were still tired from the all day canoe ride the day before. The trail ran up through the forest and had a fairly steep grade rising a thousand feet in the first couple of miles. It took us nearly until noon to reach the bottom of Graveyard Meadows where we met back up with Cold Creek which we had crossed at the beginning of the trail. We where at 8800 feet at this point and there were still quite a few Shasta daises, lupine and other flowers blooming under the forest canopy. We stopped and ate lunch resting on a couple of fallen logs. Cold Creek meandered along next to our resting place.
After lunch we once again hefted our packs and started out through Graveyard Meadow. They don't want people walking on it and yet they allow cattle to run on it. The cattle had churned up the meadow to the point that there was no level footing. We struggled a mile through the meadow until we reached the end. The meadow was beautiful and very interesting. Patrick and I both agreed that the damage the cattle did to the meadow would have made John Muir roll over in his grave. One of the main things that John Muir wanted to save was the meadows that were being ruined by grazing when he first started exploring the High Sierras. It is very ironic that the meadow we had just walked through in the John Muir Wilderness was being destroyed by the very thing that Muir wanted excluded from the High Sierras.
We wanted to hike to the trail junction where the Graveyard Lakes trail met the Goodale Pass trail so we continued on. To reach this point we had to gain another 400 feet in elevation within about a mile. We reached an area where the trail left Cold Creek, which it had been closely following, and veered up another canyon where an avalanche had knocked down 50 or so trees piling them in a heap. It appeared we had at least another 50 or so feet to gain in a short distance and we were exhausted so we stopped to rest. While I was looking at the map and taking a reading on my altimeter Patrick went exploring in the boulders up above us. Upon his return he informed me that he had come upon a campsite about 50 feet from the trail. We both walked back up to the site. A fire ring was built behind a large granite boulder and there were two spots for our tents both protected by large granite boulders. As we were exhausted and as it was getting late we agreed that this would make a fine place to camp.
I went down to the stream, filled my sun shower, sat it in the sun and pitched camp. I needed to fill my water bucket so that we could filter some drinking water as we had used up our supply so I took the bucket and headed down to the stream. As I came down the hill, rather noisily, I startled a 6 point buck that was drinking from the creek. He was fast and strong!
I woke up in the night, got up for a few minutes and was delighted to see the Milky Way framed by the large pine trees surrounding our camp.
We rose at dawn and had a hearty breakfast. We started up the trail. We had not gone more than a quarter of a mile when we came upon the junction of the trails. My altimeter had been off by about 100 feet. We had actually camped in the area we had intended without knowing it. We started up the trail to Graveyard Lakes. We had not gone more than 200 yards when we happened upon a man and woman in their thirties. The man wore a jacket with an emblem that read "Cal Poly Sailing Team". We stopped and chatted for a few minutes. They had come over Silver and then Goodale Pass.
We crossed Upper Graveyard Meadow and continued up the trail.
The trail immediately started up the side of the mountain following an unnamed creek from Graveyard Lakes. Within the next half a mile we climbed switchbacks that increased our elevation to 10,000 feet. As we climbed we climbed from summer into spring. The flowers bloomed in profusion covering the flats. We looked out as we climbed and could see for miles to the peaks in the distance. Finally the ground leveled out and we walked out into a meadow. A hundred yards from the edge of the mountain we came upon a beautiful lake. The first of the Graveyard Lakes series of lakes. The Graveyard Lakes series of lakes has 5 major lakes and 9 minor lakes all of which run into one of the major lakes, the one we were standing at looking out across.
Patrick and I sat down to rest a spell. I took a panorama series of shots of the lake. It was still early, not even 10:00, so after a brief rest we decided to continue on hoping to spy the rest of the lakes. This mornings climb had been much easier than the day before as we had left our camp set up down below and were only carrying light day packs.
We skirted the edge of the lake coming up towards the end which was tulle filled gradually turning into meadow. At the end of the meadow a fractured granite cliff arose. The fractures in the granite were unlike any I had ever seen occurring in regular intervals and giving the cliff the appearance of being built out of regularly shaped blocks. We made our way across the meadow to a low point in the cliff to a steep trail leading up to the next glacial shelf.
Reaching the top of the cliff we walked across a saddle and came upon the second of the Graveyard Lakes. At this level we saw many different flowers, growing in full sun, lining the banks of the lake. As we walked along the banks of this lake we began to be overcome by a most magical feeling. Directly across the lake Graveyard Peak rose over 11,000 feet. The whole mountain side was fractured and huge square and rectangular boulders with sharp edges were piled in a vast heap against the side of the mountain. The lake lapped gently against this bleak and barren pile of rock. Looking toward the north we saw pine trees which as we had climbed to ever higher elevations had continued to diminish in size. We continued on around the lake and were stunned with joy to find another large lake separated by 12 feet of elevation and 20 feet of distance. I truly knew what they meant when they said "Get high on Mountains" . Both Patrick and I were overcome with the unbelievable beauty of these two lakes. I had a rush of euphoria unlike any I had ever had in my life. Laid out before me was beauty beyond anything I ever could have imagined. God's hand was so obvious, the insignificance of man so clear and the pure joy of being alive for the moment that it took my breath away.
After taking in the scene we continued on up the trail. We walked through a moss covered meadow which a small brook trickled through. On either side of the brook stood miniature pine trees. This area had the feeling of a bonsai Japanese garden. If the gardener could have achieved perfection this is what he would have designed. We had a steep climb ahead of us and gained another 200 feet of elevation. Gaining the high ground we came out across a saddle to find the largest of the Graveyard Lakes.
We walked to a stand of beaten and gnarled pines were we dropped our day packs and sat down for a rest in the shade. We were still feeling exhilarated so after a brief rest we decided to continue. The stand of trees we had rested in were the last stand. We had gained enough elevation to be above the timber line. From then on we only saw two single juniper trees that were no more than 15 feet tall. They had been broken off at the top of the root crown so they were more like bushes with several trunks reaching skyward.
We saw several more small lakes. The most beautiful was a long narrow lake which had the remnants of a two year snow pack 20 feet deep along one shore. We decided to eat lunch so we sat under the highest juniper at about 10300 feet. After lunch we took a swim in a small lake. As the lake was small it had been warmed by the sun and was comfortable to swim in. After our swim we climbed a knoll, to an elevation of 10500, from which all the Graveyard Lakes could be seen. On the trail back to base camp we scouted out several camping spots finding several suitable for camping.
The next morning we got up before dawn and packed up our gear. We quickly returned to Graveyard Meadows. On the map was a 4 wheel drive trail so we decided to follow the old trail to see if any of it was passable by vehicle. The trail followed Cold Creek most of the way winding through the pine forest and crossing several meadows. This trail was less steep than the trail we had followed up but turned out to be longer. We met a couple on the trail with twins, a boy and a girl. They were hiking to Devil's Bathtub which was about 4 miles from the trail head. Someday I want to hike up there.
We got back to our base camp around noon. It rained that afternoon so we didn't do too much else that day. The next morning, Saturday, we got up and after straightening camp went down to Doris Lake. We brought Doug Gibson with us. I had a nice swim and washed my hair.
Sunday we explored the near shore for campsites and spent most of the day lolling around a blazing campfire on the peninsula where Marilin, Andy, Ryan and I had beached in the storm the year before.
We drove home on Monday. We ended up riding an extra 2 hours as a teenage boy had started a fire near Lake Castaic and the Grapevine was closed. We had to drive to Lancaster, then Palmdale, then over the Angeles Forest Highway. When we got to Glendora we saw smoke from another fire up San Gabriel Canyon. Several hundred acres were burnt between Morris dam and San Gabriel dam on the right side of the road.
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Copyright © Lawrence Turner 1999