George Lake

Backpacking to George Lake—May, 2009

This was the final backpacking trip of the Sierra Club backpacking class that Lori and I are taking. Again, our fearless leaders did not disappoint in their planning: this trip to George Lake in the Kaiser Wilderness was chock full of weather and adventure.

After enjoying the captions below, you can view larger versions of the photos by clicking on them. You can see even larger versions of the photos by viewing the slideshow in full screen (F11). You can also view the photos on a map, or download the GPS tracks for the hike in, or for the day hike and hike out on the “layover day.”

The following hikers have provided additional photos:

The Hike In (Friday, 2009-05-29)

Thursday morning. Lori works while I fill up the gas tank and rent a bear canister at REI. After lunch we made the 4 hour 15 minute drive (no traffic) to Lakeshore Resort where we spent the night to acclimate and not drink any alcohol with dinner in the resort's restaurant (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

We all met for breakfast in the restaurant in the morning, and by 9 we had broken up into two groups and met at our respective trailheads. We had a comfortable climb to Potter Pass where we took a short break. Once again, the rain began to fall upon us and brought back memories of the Castle Rock trip.

On the way to Upper Twin Lake we had another mapping lesson (in the rain). We had lunch once we arrived at the lake and then hit the trail again for the last mile up to George Lake where we made camp, had a bear-bagging lesson, made dinner, and crashed.

Eventually, the clouds went away and I was treated to the rich expanse of the Milky Way during a nocturnal obligation.

Bear-Bagging 101 (Friday, 2009-05-29)

Steve Stearns gave us a great demonstration of bear bagging using techniques I had not seen before. The last time I hung food against bears was in the 70s! The following notes are courtesy of Lori Heyman.

Day Hike to Walling Lake (Saturday, 2009-05-30)

It seemed like a fine day. Dan had rescued his rope that had gotten stuck in the tree the previous evening. There were generous splotches of blue sky. Breakfast was tasty.

Maybe it was Steve falling down and breaking an unbreakable Nalgene bottle that should have told us that the day was to take a dramatic turn.

We innocently packed our lunches for a day hike and hit the road. Trail. Very soon, we met the other group and mingled for a moment before climbing the use trail up to Walling Lake where we had lunch.

Off in the distance, the thunder rolled across the mountains. We reviewed the places to be if there was lightning nearby. And where not to be. We didn't want to be on top of a nearby exposed knob, but rather at the foot of the mountain under some low trees by the lake. We also remembered from our class that hail usually preceded lightning, that the lightning could strike over 10 miles from the thunderhead, and that the sound of thunder took approximately 5 seconds to travel one mile.

Then it began to hail.

Then I saw a couple of flashes of lightning hit a nearby mountain. The thunder arrived less than a second later. We moved to the preferable spot on the other side of the lake.


However, Lori had been going to the bathroom. On that aforementioned knob. And she hadn't returned yet.

And we were really worried.

So Steve and I embarked on a search and rescue mission for Lori. We waited until the hail stopped and the thunder moved away before engaging in a military move up the knob, crouching and darting. But Lori could not be found. The other Steve later quoted from Monty Python: Lori is playing, How Not to Be Seen.

Eventually, the folks on the other side of the lake spotted Lori who had run straight down to the water's edge under some low trees and crouched in a defensive tuck after expediting her business. And all was well.

We decided to get off the mountain while the thunderheads were in the area. Unfortunately, Mike and Jen had just put together their fishing rods and had to take them apart again.

We had left Dan, Carrie, and PJ fishing at the Upper Twin Lake so we returned to pick them up. They had been catching and releasing trout all day! Mike and Jen and Anne returned to our camp at George Lake, while Steve, Steve, Lori, and I went down to visit the other camp.

Genesis of a Forest Fire (Saturday, 2009-05-30)

We descended down to the other group's campsite. As we did, Jo Ann and Carlos came the other way looking for us. Apparently, lightning had hit a nearby tree and it was burning.

We arrived and saw that the lightning had blown the top off of a large tree which was now burning on the forest floor. I ran in and pulled some burning branches away to reduce the fuel. As I did so, the burning tree above crackled and popped and sent down large, burning embers (the word “burning” is repeated for emphasis). As I scurried hastily away, it was clear that we weren't going to put this out.

Remarkably, someone was able to get a cell phone connection. Jo Ann walked to the top of a nearby hill and reported the fire (with my GPS, I was able to provide coordinates— N 37° 17.856' W 119° 09.196'). Upon her return, she remarked that she had seen a couple of other fires burning elsewhere.

To the visible relief of most of the students, the leaders decided that we should pack it up and hike out. The other Steve had taken off earlier to give the news to the rest of our group. Steve, Lori, and I then hiked over a mile back to our camp.

So much for a relaxed layover day. After a full day of hiking, we were just beginning the evacuation portion of our story.

And yet again, Mike and Jen had just put together their fishing rods and had to take them apart when Steve delivered the news. It was just not to be.

We packed quickly and hit the trail. Most of us were pretty pooped, but we soldiered on. We even caught up to the other group on Potter Pass even though they had over an hour head start. Once we hit the pass, it was all downhill and we quickly completed the hike using the last remaining daylight.

We changed and had dinner at the Lakeshore Resort Restaurant. Some folks stayed there overnight. Some—like us—had the energy to drive home.

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