I've been to the Upper and Lower Ice Lake
and nearby Grant-Swamp Pass several times each since 2006. I've never
seen any of them with this much snow before.
I was able to explore the Lower Ice Lake Basin from one end to the
other. It was impossible, however, to even begin the ascent from the
lower basin to
the upper ones today. Nor did I attempt to go all the way to Grant-Swamp
Pass; I stopped about half a mile short for safety reasons.
Absolutely not. This hike was a rousing success because I had fun and
was rewarded with some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever
After I turned around in the Lower Ice Lake Basin and was heading
back to the trail up to Grant-Swamp Pass, I met a retired couple who are
volunteering with the U.S. Forest Service this summer. The man was
having a good time but all the woman could talk about was her
disappointment that she couldn't get up to the upper basin today.
I suppose I should have been a little more diplomatic but at least I
didn't tell her what I really thought about her whining.
Here she was in one of the most beautiful places on the planet and
she seemed incapable of appreciating it. Get over it, lady;
you are going to be here all summer and you'll have more opportunities
to see the upper basins in a few weeks. Can't you just enjoy the present
I wasn't completely able to totally conceal my surprise at her attitude but I
didn't say any of that, just thought it.
What I did say was that yes, it'll be fantastic when more wildflowers
are blooming down here and the snow melts up there -- but it sure
is beautiful today, isn't it, with the sun glistening on the snow and
the waterfalls the largest they'll be all year?
There is so much snowmelt coming down the mountains that I saw
waterfalls today that simply weren't visible other times I've been up
If Jim had been with me he probably would have been rolling his eyes
and calling me Little Susie Sunshine. Despite my cynicism about some
things (like the economy and the way this country is headed), I generally view
circumstances both in and out of my control as "glass half full" and not
"glass half empty."
I'm an optimist. I like to find the silver lining in the clouds of
life. And man, did I have a great time playing in the mountains today
-- not despite the snow, but because of it.
I went nuts taking photos today. When I got done I guessed that I
took about 300 pictures in five hours.
I did some serious editing, whittling that number down to 325 much
smaller pictures to reduce the risk that my ten-year-old PhotoShop software program
would crash. I take the largest size photos my 10-megapixel camera will
produce, in case I want to crop out a detail in the
distance (my measly zoom produces fuzzy pictures without a tripod).
Later I downsize most of the photos I keep from 28+ megapixels to 3-5
megapixels to use less
space on my internal and external hard drives.
Pretty white flowers on the bank of a small stream
at about 10,500 feet elevation
No, I won't bore you with all 325 pictures I saved. But I'm going to include
a good representation here. That means several pages in this entry so
the pages load faster for folks with slower connections.
THE HIKE: ICE LAKE TRAILHEAD TO THE LOWER ICE
Cody and I started up the Ice Lake trailhead at 8:30 AM. It was totally
sunny and 50
F. Puffy white clouds began forming to the west over the Ice Lake Basins
about 10:30 but we didn't get any rain there or where we are camped in
the canyon below.
It was perfect weather for an awesome hike, as you'll see in the
Here's a map of the location:
Number 1 is the trailhead at South Mineral CG about four miles back
South Mineral Creek Rd. (FSR 585). I followed the trails out-and back
that I marked in yellow; they are in a squiggly Y-shape, with
several shorter out-and-back spurs to see some waterfalls and an old
mine site up close.
Number 2 is the trail through the Lower Ice Lake Basin. See all those
elevation lines close together to the left of the #2? That's the
continuation of the trail to the upper basin, which I couldn't access
Number 3 is the trail going up to Grant-Swamp Pass. The Hardrock course
is marked in blue (I took this map section from a large map that shows
the entire HRH course). I followed the trail up to within half a mile of
I went from early summer greenery at the trailhead
to a winter wonderland above 12,000 feet.
Do you see Clear Lake in the upper right of the map? The red and white
line (FSR 815) is the road I hiked up and back a
couple days ago. There are good views of that mountain and
road in some of the pictures in this entry. You can't see Clear Lake
from the Ice Lake basins or Grant-Swamp Pass, though. It's in a
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
As I expected, the
creeks and waterfalls were fantastic today with all the snow melt. They are
higher than Iíve ever seen here at the end of June.
flows in the trail approaching the crossing
Creek but not as much as a few days ago.
Some of the trails
are creeks, and there are waterfalls where Iíve never seen them
My feet stayed pretty wet today. That's never been a problem for me
because my trail shoes drain quickly.
on Clear Creek that I had to ford; this creek comes down from Clear Lake.
I wondered what Clear Creek would be like half a mile into the trek
but it was fine.
I just crossed where I always cross, right through the water. There is
no bridge here. I was a
little concerned that the water might be higher/rougher on the way back with todayís
snow melt, but I couldn't tell any difference. The biggest, fastest
creek I encountered Ė and chose NOT to cross Ė was at the end of the
lower Ice Lake Basin. More about that later.
I crossed Clear Creek at the arrow; it was mid-calf deep and
about 15 feet wide.
Continuing the climb up the Ice lake Trail
The snow was beautiful, too Ė and, like some waterfalls, in places Iíve
never seen it in late June.
I encountered several small snowdrifts across the trail beginning at
10,800 feet, which is before I reached the part of the Ice Lake Trail
that the Hardrock course follows for about half a mile:
Up and over
This drift is softer.
Cody had a blast in all the soft snow today! Ya know, so did I.
WHAT'S IN BLOOM?
The flowers are beautiful, too, and almost as prolific as usual under about
11,000 feet Ė dandelions galore (in all their stages),
yellow daisy-like flowers, yellow buttercups, and other yellow flowers,
little red/yellow columbines (no big blue columbines yet, though),
red and orange Indian paintbrush, shrubs with reddish flowers, and
several kinds of white flowers.
I have no clue what
these flowers are until they open up more fully:
Above 11,000 feet in
the Lower Ice Lake Basin I saw yellow mountain avens,
marsh marigolds, and the pretty purple Parry's primrose that grows with
them in high, wet places:
There are also scads of skunk cabbages coming up in the meadows in the
lower basin but they
donít flower until later in July:
Above and below: skunk cabbage (taller green
plants), white marsh marigolds, yellow mountain avens
Plants start sprouting as soon as the snow melts. There were lots of
brown spots where the snow has just melted, yet little green shoots are
already popping up:
I've seen marsh marigold flowers sticking up through the snow and even
blooming under icy water in Clear Lake! It's a tougher plant than it
APPROACHING THE LOWER BASIN . . .
"Conglomerate" rocks on the Ice
Lake Trail above the intersection
with the Hardrock course
Indian paintbrush and some other flowers 1/4 mile
before the lower basin
Snow covers part of the north side of Fuller Peak;
Ice Lake Creek
flows through the canyon between here and there.
Continued on the
next page: exploring the Lower Ice Lake
Basin, with splendid views of the upper basins
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil