Marie Lakes

Parker Creek to Marie Lakes
(16.5 miles, +3,500/-3,500 feet).

Today was two truly spectacular hikes that sandwiched a relatively miserable one.  I guess it’s not a coincidence that my emotional energy mirrored the topographical profile of today’s trip….

We awoke energized and ready to tackle the switchbacks headed up Parker Peak.

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First light on Parker Peak
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We’re ready!
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The sun peeks out over Parker Creek
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This would have been a good campsite, too!

The climb wasn’t bad at all.  It was nice and cool, and we took short breaks every other switchback to catch our breath.  And the views were definitely inspirational.

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View back towards Parker Pass
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Mono Lake
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View towards Koip Peak Pass
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Tenacious wildflowers
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Tenacious wildflowers

Above the switchbacks, the trail flattened out, winding its way up to the pass.

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Last bit of trail up to Koip Peak Pass
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That’s a lot of weathering!

We took a nice long break at the top.

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Hey, we could get used to this
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View west from Koip Peak Pass
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View east from Koip Peak Pass
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Alger Lakes from Koip Peak Pass

We then headed down to Alger Lakes.  The trail was mostly clear, but there were a couple of minor snow fields to contend with.

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More wildflowers
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BarnFinder picks his way through the suncups
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Lake 10917
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Making our way down

As we neared , I wanted to get a closer look at Lake 10917, so I told MixMaster and BarnFinder I would meet them down at Alger Lakes.  On the way I saw a bunny.

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Bunny between stone and bush
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Lake 10917
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Alger Lakes
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Wildflowers

After my brief solo excursion, I found BarnFinder and MixMaster again and we continued down the trail.

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Trail near Alger Lakes
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MixMaster blazes a trail cross country

Past Alger Lakes we started a descent to Gem Lake that was truly awful.  I was bitten twice by horseflies, and the trail was full of horseshit, attracting a variety of other insects.  I was cursing horses the whole way down the trail.  Why don’t horse riders clean up after their animals?  I have to dig a freaking half foot hole every time I want to poop, but apparently they are exempt.

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Dry, dusty, buggy trail down to Gem Lake
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Trail to Gem Lake

When we finally got through the madness and down to Gem Lake, we were relieved to find a spot on the lakeshore that was windy enough to keep the bugs at bay.

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Gem Lake

We also used the break to eat some lunch and swim.

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BarnFinder catches some waves
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MixMaster curses the cold water

After lunch we continued up the buggy Rush Creek trail towards Waugh Lake.  Someone had left trail art that seemed appropriate for JimmyJam.

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For JimmyJam?
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Rush Creek trail to Waugh Lake
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Rush Creek

Eventually we made it to Waugh Lake, which was really weird because it is man-made.  There is a dam at the eastern end (not shown) and the trunks of trees that died when it was made are still visible near the shore.  So strange.

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Strange Waugh Lake

We found a place near Waugh Lake with a breeze and took a break from the bugs.

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Packs make good pillows
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Do we really have to go back into the bugs?

We pressed on towards the JMT/PCT, crossing some streams along the way.

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Hey, this is fun!
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BarnFinder stays dry

Finally, we made it to the PCT.  Sadly, it was the buggiest of all our hiking for the day.

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The buggy PCT

At least the trail was in great shape.  We called it the “Rolls Royce” of trails!

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A Rolls Royce staircase on the PCT

In less than a mile, we turned off the PCT to Marie Lakes.

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Almost there!

The climb up got us out of the bugs, and it was really pretty.

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Trail to Marie Lakes
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Rush Creek lake basin
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Climbing above the Rush Creek lake basin
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Just a little bit of snow to cross
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Still climbing

Finally, around 5:30pm we made it to Marie Lakes.

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First glimpse of Marie Lakes

We quickly set up camp and then I went to explore.

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Campsite
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Marie Lakes panorama
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Sooty Grouse
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Can you tell I love this place?
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Snow still feeds the lake

None of us were too hungry for dinner, but we ate what we could.  A marmot approached while we were eating.

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I know these guys are bad news, attracted to our food and any equipment with salt on it, so I threw a rock at it.  But I missed.  MixMaster picked up a rock and threw it short of the marmot, but it bounced and caromed right into his cheek.  I thought he’d be gone in a flash, but he budged not at all!  What a tough little bastard.  I got up to scare him off and he finally sauntered off.

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Sunset on Marie Lakes

After dinner we all got in our tents pretty early.  It was a big day (some hikers we met expressed surprise when we told them how far we were going) and we were ready for some shut eye.

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