8/27/18 The big day, as we head out on the Cottonwood Lakes trail and transition from car camping to legit backpacking. We would camp for the night at a gorgeous spot between Lakes 4 and 5.
1 Donuts, breakfast of champions! Then we packed-up and hit the trail.
2 Spirits were high as we got ready to head out on the Cottonwood Lakes trail. Aidan's pack ended-up weighing-in at about 8lbs, and I ended-up at around 40lbs. A little more than I would normally carry, but kids aren't supposed to carry more than 20% of their bodyweight, so that didn't give Aidan much leeway!
3 Aidan quickly fell in love with creek crossing, and there were plenty of chances to practice.
4 No matter how many squirrels we saw, Aidan was equally fascinated every time.
5 Aidan's first meadow view. Fortunately the meadows were still quite green in late August even in this dry year.
6 Entering the John Muir Wilderness. Aidan got a quick lesson about the importance of John Muir!
7 Another chance for some balance practice.
8 And more lush meadows.
9 First view of Mt. Langley in the distance, one of the iconic California 14'ers. Our destination for the night would be at the base of that peak. It still seemed so far away.
10 As we were sitting having a snack break, along comes my friend George and his wife Jodi! What an incredibly random encounter! While I know they like to backpack the Sierras this time of year, what are the odds of seeing them on this mountain, on this trail, at this exact moment in time?!
11 Taking a quick break at the top of a long climb from 10,400' up to over 11,000'. Aidan powered through the climb no problem. We decided not to take the offshoot here to Muir Lake and instead pressed on to Lakes 4 & 5.
12 Aidan motoring along as we approach Lake 2.
13 Cirque Peak looming over Lake 2.
14 Mt. Langley is starting to look close, and the terrain is definitely starting to have the classic feel of the Sierras.
15 An unnamed lake on the way to Lake 3 with Mt. Langley in the background. Yes, that's what the color of the water really looked like. Unquestionably the most indigo water I've ever seen, almost purple.
16 Leaving the purple lake.
17 We made it to Lake 3. Aidan takes a break as he looks at the last ridge we have to climb to make it to Lakes 4 and 5 for the night.
18 At the North end of Lake 3 ready to make our final ascent of the day.
19 Aidan surveying Lake 3 as we climb the switchbacks.
20 Last look at Lake 3 before we head over the ridge.
21 We arrive at Lakes 4 & 5 and take our packs off to scout for a campsite. Aidan immediately has his eyes on the patch of snow on the other side of the lake. He's never been in snow, so we decide that's first thing on the agenda for tomorrow morning!
22 Taking in Lake 4. The water is pretty choppy as the wind starts to kick up. We're both ready to setup camp and eat after 6 miles and almost 1,200' of gain for the day.
23 There were tons of marmots up at the lakes. As well as these guys that looked like some sort of cross between a marmot and a squirrel.
24 A look at Lake 5 from the spot where we filtered water for the night.
25 We setup camp right between Lakes 4 & 5. The spot was in a nice wind break from the strong, cold breeze that had started to whip up.
26 The Northern corner of Lake 5 from our tent. After the last couple hikers passed by, we would have all of Lakes 4 & 5 to ourselves for the entire night. Unbelievable it's still possible in California to be in such a beautiful spot, during peak season, on a beautiful day, and have complete solitude.
27 Dinner table at 11,186'. Ready to eat some delicious Chili Mac.
28 An evening shot at Lake 4. As soon as the sun dipped below the ridge, the temperature dropped fast. Down into the high 40s now.
29 Moonrise from the tent. Aidan fell asleep before we even had a chance to play chess or checkers. I stared at the stars until they were faded out by the incredibly bright moon. We easily could have hiked without a headlamp that night.