PCT thru-hikers walking the Benson Lake beach, seeking a relaxing zero-day campsite

 

The 2013 & 2014 Benson Lake Circuits


The so-called Benson Lake Circuits can be done using various trailheads and routes. Probably the most used trailhead is Robinson Creek near Twin Lakes [Mono Village Resort]. Other choices are Virginia Lakes [Virginia Lakes Resort] and further afield, Leavitt Meadows on Highway 108.

In early June, 2014, in the company of my young friend, Johannes, we departed from the classic route to avoid late snow on the northern slopes between Burro and Mule Passes. To achieve this, we used the Bear Valley Trail south from the PCT in Kerrick Canyon, then connected with the Pleasant Valley trail around to Rogers Canyon, then joined the PCT again near Smedberg Lake. In the event, we did encounter steep snow sections on the trail to Peeler Lake and on the climbs into and out of Bear Valley.

However, our biggest challenge was crossing Piute Creek in Pleasant Valley. The Creek was running high and fast, leaving us no option but to swim with floated packs across the deluge. Not an easy task and somewhat perilous with falls above and cascades below ... but we did it, and survived! The climb up Rogers Canyon to the PCT was pleasant, but the steep descent down to Benson Lake was difficult because of snow patches.

  • Peter and Johannes at the Mono Village Resort, near Twin Lakes - June 2, 2014. Peter and Johannes at the Mono Village Resort, near Twin Lakes - June 2, 2014.
  • Barney Lake, looking up the line of the Robinson Creek Trail. Barney Lake, looking up the line of the Robinson Creek Trail.
  • First night out and Johannes hat crown has been chewed out by a nocturnal rodent. First night out and Johannes hat crown has been chewed out by a nocturnal rodent.
  • The deep snow hole Peter stepped into and Johannes pulled him from. The deep snow hole Peter stepped into and Johannes pulled him from.
  • Off trail scrambling to avoid the steep snow along the trail to Peeler Lake. Off trail scrambling to avoid the steep snow along the trail to Peeler Lake.
  • The last snow obstacle before reaching Peeler Lake. The last snow obstacle before reaching Peeler Lake.
  • Johannes wading Rancheria Creek at the southern end of Kerrick Meadow Johannes wading Rancheria Creek at the southern end of Kerrick Meadow
  • Peter wading Rancheria Creek at the southern end of Kerrick Meadow Peter wading Rancheria Creek at the southern end of Kerrick Meadow
  • Johannes resting along the PCT section from Kerrick Meadow to the Bear Valley Trail. Johannes resting along the PCT section from Kerrick Meadow to the Bear Valley Trail.
  • The largest lake in Bear Valley, reached after a steep snow climb from the PCT junction. The largest lake in Bear Valley, reached after a steep snow climb from the PCT junction.
  • A hollowed out Red Fir [Widow Maker] with branches still inside the empty trunk. A hollowed out Red Fir [Widow Maker] with branches still inside the empty trunk.
  • Peter at the junction of the Bear Valley and Pleasant Valley trails. Peter at the junction of the Bear Valley and Pleasant Valley trails.
  • Looking south into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River from the Pleasant Valley trail. Looking south into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River from the Pleasant Valley trail.
  • The falls on Piute Creek in Pleasant Valley ... a difficult trail crossing! The falls on Piute Creek in Pleasant Valley ... a difficult trail crossing!
  • Drying out after swimming the Piute Creek crossing below the falls. Drying out after swimming the Piute Creek crossing below the falls.
  • Johannes in his favorite tent [The One] in Rogers Meadow. Johannes in his favorite tent [The One] in Rogers Meadow.
  • Our morning bear [cub] in Rogers Meadow ... but where's the mother? Our morning bear [cub] in Rogers Meadow ... but where's the mother?
  • Johannes snacking near the flooded meadows near Rogers Lake. Johannes snacking near the flooded meadows near Rogers Lake.
  • Our campsite on the PCT, at the lake south of Seavey Pass [we'd bypassed Benson Lake] Our campsite on the PCT, at the lake south of Seavey Pass [we'd bypassed Benson Lake]
  • Fellow hikers [two Israeli couples], met at the southern end of Kerrick Meadow Fellow hikers [two Israeli couples], met at the southern end of Kerrick Meadow
  • Peter crossing the rather treacherous section of snow along the Peeler Lake trail. Peter crossing the rather treacherous section of snow along the Peeler Lake trail.
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  • On the trail to Peeler Lake in July 2013. On the trail to Peeler Lake in July 2013.
  • The large rock pond on Seavey Pass, as seen from the PCT. The large rock pond on Seavey Pass, as seen from the PCT.
  • The magnificent long beach on the northeast shore of Benson Lake. The magnificent long beach on the northeast shore of Benson Lake.
  • My camp on Benson Lake beach front, with an onshore breeze to keep the mosquitos away. My camp on Benson Lake beach front, with an onshore breeze to keep the mosquitos away.
  • The granite walled Smedberg Lake along the PCT and below Volunteer Peak. The granite walled Smedberg Lake along the PCT and below Volunteer Peak.
  • Hiking up Matterhorn Canyon from the PCT trail junction to Burro Pass. Hiking up Matterhorn Canyon from the PCT trail junction to Burro Pass.
  • The 12,000' Whorl Mountain seen from Matterhorn Canyon The 12,000' Whorl Mountain seen from Matterhorn Canyon
  • 12,300' Matterhorn Peak seen from Matterhorn Canyon, near Burro Pass. 12,300' Matterhorn Peak seen from Matterhorn Canyon, near Burro Pass.
  • Looking up at Sawtooth Ridge from Burro Pass. Looking up at Sawtooth Ridge from Burro Pass.
  • Following the trail between Burro and Mule Passes. Following the trail between Burro and Mule Passes.
  • The Finger Peaks to the south of the Sawtooth Ridge. The Finger Peaks to the south of the Sawtooth Ridge.
  • The western side of Mule Pass. The western side of Mule Pass.
  • Crown Lake, on the trail between Mule Pass and the Robinson Creek Trail. Crown Lake, on the trail between Mule Pass and the Robinson Creek Trail.
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We decided to bypass Benson Lake, and instead climbed up to camp at a small beautiful lake below Seavey Pass. Our last day had us up Kerrick Meadow [no snow], past Peeler Lake and down to a campsite on Robinson Creek. This challenging eight day trip was certainly a departure from the classic circuit that I'd done solo in July of 2013.

Then, I'd started at Twin Lakes, hiked up Robinson Creek Trail to Peeler Lake, then down Kerrick Meadow to the PCT, headed south over Seavey Pass to camp on the beach at Benson Lake. The third day had me over Benson Pass into Matterhorn Canyon, setting up camp at the PCT trail junction. The fourth day was over Burro Pass and down to Slide Canyon, with the final day over Mule Pass and all the way down to Twin Lakes.

 

©2014 Peter Tremayne, Reno NV

 

 

 

 

 

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