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Leavitt Meadows to Virginia Lakes

Day 8 of 8

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Sunday, August 24th
Summit Lake to Virginia Lakes
5.7 miles
1190 vertical feet (ascent)
1564 vertical feet (descent)
4:11


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GPX File

Today would be our last day on the trail, and it would be relatively easy. So we "slept in" until 7:15am, which is about when the sun started shining into the tent making it hard to stay inside.

We left camp at 9:52am. The other 3 backpackers were still there, though they would catch up to us soon. We hiked along the rest of the lake, noting that the terrain does get flatter, so there are better choices for campsites toward the east end of the lake.

The trail crosses the creek, although it's a bit confusing because there was a use trail to the side and it wasn't clear which to follow. Eventually we did cross the creek (twice), and reached the final trail intersection. To the left is a trail to Hoover Lakes. We took the right fork and started climbing. Today we had to do about 1000 feet of climbing, with minimal food. In fact we stopped about halfway up and ate the last of our food (a handful of nuts and one bar), save for some Gatorade powder.

Crossing the creek

Hoover Lakes

Hoover Lakes

We trudged upwards, gaining better and better views of Summit Lake and Hoover Lakes behind us. High above us we could see a patch of snow still clinging to the mountainside, the only snow we'd see on the entire trip.

Looking back at Summit Lake

Only snow seen on the trip

The other three hikers passed us on the climb. We switchbacked up an imposing talus slope, then rounded the corner and climbed some more. There were a lot of false summits along the way (you can't see the summit until the very last push to the top). But soon enough we reached the top, at an elevation over 11,000 feet. There was talus everywhere here. We consumed the last of the Gatorade while peering over the other side, looking down at Cooney Lake and Frog Lake below. We still couldn't see the parking lot, but we knew it wasn't far.

Creek

Looking back toward Summit Lake

Talus slope

Looking back toward Summit Lake

Switchbacks we climbed through the talus

While we were resting, we spotted a pika! I knew they must live in environments like this, but I had never seen a pika in the Sierra (we'd seen them in Canada). I scurried around, trying to take a picture, but it was mostly hidden in the bushes. Still, it was exciting to finally see one. I do find it somewhat amazing that we didn't see a single marmot on this trip; I think they live more in the southern Sierra.

Pika

Pika

Pond, Frog Lake, and Cooney Lake

We left the top a little past noon, starting a long steep descent. The descent isn't nearly as long as the descent from Bishop Pass, though (the one that finished our last backpacking trip). We hiked past all the little lakes, passing lots of day hikers coming up.

Steep descent from the pass

Frog Lake

Girl fishing in Cooney Lake

Cooney Lake

Cooney Lake

Blue Lake

Blue Lake

Near the end, I made the mistake of letting our youngest son lead us. He managed to get us on a road that would lead us toward the Trumbull Lake campground (which was past the parking lot). Before I realized it, we were already a bit off track. We cut across over a small ridge and reached the main road, then hiked back up the road a minute or two to reach the parking lot.

And just like that, we were done. It was a fun trip and hard to believe it was over. Amazingly, despite having spent 8 days out there, the kids that morning had said the trip was so short. I think that's a good sign that they're ready for the JMT next year.

We cleaned up a bit, then started the drive back home. We got stuck behind a convoy of military vehicles on Highway 108. I thought they would turn into the Mountain Warfare Training Center that's located there, but in fact they lugged along for several miles up to some massive training operation further up the mountain. We finally passed the convoy there, then headed into Sonora for a well-deserved meal.


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