August 23 to 27th – Little Lakes Valley Backpack
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23, 2017 –  Car camping at the East Fork (California) Campground (for one night) and  hiking the trail toward Rock Creek Lake (4.4 miles with 508’ of elevation gain/loss) – – –
When we arrived at the East Fork Campground (8,915’) we set up camp in campsites #108 and #110 (spacious adjacent campsites among trees, near the creek and across the campground “driveway” from the campground host; the nearby bathrooms had sinks, mirrors, flush toilets, and toilet paper (and were clean).
THURSDAY, AUGUST 24, 2017 –  Backpack (3.3 miles with 738’ of elevation gain) into the John Muir Wilderness to our base camp (~10,820’) near Chickenfoot Lake (10,789’),  set up camp, and  hike to Gem Lakes (10,900’-10,925’) – – –
 We drove to the Mosquito Flat trailhead (10,200’) at the south (upper) end of Rock Creek Road, strapped on our overstuffed backpacks, had a group photo taken, and began lumbering up the trail into the John Muir Wilderness and Little Lakes Valley. Immediately the beautiful scenery caught our attention; Rock Creek was rushing downstream with white water, wildflowers crowded the sides of the trail, the sky was blue, and tall mountains loomed ahead. After rising for a while the trail passed Mack Lake (10,374’) and then descended to Marsh Lake (10,429’) crossing two photo-opportunity bridges as it did so (we began taking even more photos). Continuing upstream we passed several pretty lakes (all but one of them on the east side of the trail); there were rushing streams and lots of blooming wildflowers of many species, particularly eye-catching were lupine, fireweed, columbine, and Indian paintbrush. As we neared our destination the trail rose a bit more steeply until we reached the signed junction with the Chickenfoot Lake sign (on the left/east side of the trail which was clearly an old mining road as we approached that point). Happily we turned left/east and walked the relatively short distance to where we hoped to establish our base camp. We were in luck, no one had occupied the site. Gratefully we removed our backpacks and selected specific spots to set up our tents.
 We set up our tents, air mattresses, and sleeping bags, rested, ate lunch, and purified water from a nearby stream.
 Next we headed to Gem Lakes by returning to the main trail and continuing up the old mining road toward (but not to) Morgan Pass. Upon reaching its junction with the delightful spur trail leading to the two Gem Lakes, we turned right and followed it to Gem Lake #1 where we enjoyed the beautiful scenery; there were still patches of snow on the nearby mountains and the pretty lake faithfully reflected them. A while later we made our way over to Gem Lake #2 where we enjoyed the solitude (no other hikers were there). Eventually we made our way back to our base camp via a “use” trail that provided a significant short cut and prepared and ate our dinners. It should be noted that unlike most years there were still mosquitos around annoying/biting us. We quickly applied insect repellent which quelled the onslaught. NOTE: Most of us used Repel’s plant-based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent (with no deet); it is reviewed in the September, 2017 issue of Consumer Reports and received the 3rd highest rating among 25 products for its effectiveness and was the only product to receive the highest rating for its ability to resist damage to materials.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 25, 2017 –  Ruby Lake (9.8 miles with 1,448’ of elevation gain/loss and  Mono Pass (~15 miles with over 2,000’ of elevation gain/loss) – – –
All members of our party hiked together as far as the junction of the Mono Pass Trail with the spur trail leading to Ruby Lake; then half of the group continued on up to/through Mono Pass (12,040’) where they enjoyed the vistas to the west (including Pioneer Basin). The other half of our party hiked over to beautiful Ruby Lake and enjoyed a lengthy (and shady) respite close to the lake before returning to camp. The beautiful scenery continued to consist of towering snow-dotted mountains, beautiful lakes, rushing water in streams, and stunning displays of wildflowers.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 26, 2017 –  Hidden Lakes (6.5 miles with 875’ of elevation gain/loss) and  A search for an old mining operation – – –
One group leisurely explored the following lakes before going cross-country to explore the Hidden Lakes:  Long Lake (10,560’),  Box Lake (10,468’), and  Heart Lake (10,425’); the cross-country exploration began by hiking up over a wooded ridge separating the Hidden Lakes from the lakes along Rock Creek after which they visited several pretty lakes/streams unseen by vast majority of visitors to the area. They were pleasantly surprised by discovering over 100 mushrooms of various types in a small lightly wooded area. The other group hiked over Morgan Pass (11,155’) and then on down to Upper (10,934’) and Lower (10,723’) Morgan Lakes before going cross-country (up) to an all-but-abandoned and razed mining site. Reportedly Upper Morgan Lake is fairly desolate, but Lower Morgan Lake is pretty.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 27, 2017 – Break Camp, backpack out, and return home – – –
We left this particularly beautiful section of the always spectacular Sierra Nevada with some regret, but with anticipation of reuniting with loved ones, hot showers, real food, and beds with firm mattresses!
August 19th – Mt. Pinos to Sheep Camp
19 hikers carpooled to the Chula Vista parking lot (favored by stargazers) about two miles from the summit of Mt. Pinos (8,847‘) in the Los Padres National Forest. The hike began under a clear blue sky on a pleasantly cool morning by following a dirt road through a lovely aromatic pine forest to the Tumamait-Mt. Pinos Trail (21W03) trailhead at the Condor Observation Point where the views to the north, south and west were somewhat obscured by smog.
August 12th – Serrano Canyon Loop
16 hikers carpooled to the day-hiker’s parking lot at the Big Sycamore Canyon Campground on Pacific Coast Highway in Point Mugu State Park on a foggy morning near the ocean. Our hike began by walking through the campground and then hiking 1.1 miles north on the dirt Sycamore Canyon Fire Road which we shared with bicyclists and mosquitos (fortunately we had some insect repellent which was quickly applied).
August 5th – Newton Canyon and the Backbone Trail
Eleven hikers, met at the Donut Delite parking lot and carpooled to the Newton Canyon Trailhead. The Newton Canyon trail follows a segment of the Backbone Trail known for its extensive riparian canopy. It is the shade, provided by this canopy, that makes this hike a good choice in the hot Summer months.