It was a cloudy Labor Day and Silver Lake Campground was full. We didn’t want to join the crowd to go sightseeing. After discussing about alternative places to go, I decided to hike in the mountains nearby. Silver Lake Trailhead is right across the street. The trail stretches along Sierra Mountains towards Ansel Adams Wilderness Area.
I have never hiked in the mountains by myself and the longing to see Ansel Adams Wilderness made me want to go. Yes, the mountains are calling. We rode our bikes to the trailhead this morning and saw lots of vehicles on the parking lot, we figured there might be lots of hikers out there and I wouldn’t be alone. There are two trails: Rush Creek Trail and Parker Bench. From the Internet, it seems that Rush Creek Trail to Agnew Lake is shorter with less elevation gain. So I packed my backpack with water, clothes, food, bandages, a Swiss army knife, matches, cell phone, a cell phone power pack, and cameras. The final touch was a bear bell on my backpack. I put on my good hiking boots, wore a hat, held walking sticks, grabbed a bottle of opened coconut water from the refrigerator, and set out to the trailhead at 1:40 p.m.
The map at the trailhead showed that the trail to Agnew Lake is 2.1 miles. The trail passed the back of the RV park and a little creek, then it passed the aspen grove behind Carson Camp. Some aspens by the trail were carved with names and hearts. Soon I came up to a point where I could see Silver Lake from above. I was glad that the sun was not too hot because it was cloudy. The trail was easy so far covered with dirt and small pebbles. Climbed up a little higher, our campground appeared in the valley. The trail became rough with big sharp stones. I sent iMessages to Stephen and told him where I was. He texted back and said he saw me through the binoculars.
There were horse or mule poop on the trail. I wondered if the horse ride offered by the ranch across the street takes this trail. A couple carrying nothing passed me swiftly. There were some hikers coming back. I asked a couple how the hike was. The man said, “The first lake was not much, but the second lake was beautiful.” I thanked him and thought I could probably make to the first lake.
It was a beautiful vista seeing from above. Silver Lake laid placid among Sierra Mountains. Adjacent to the lake was a maze like lush green meadow. Houses were hidden in the woods on the hillside. The community is nestled among mountains. Giant rocks sat on the hillside. The imposing Carson Peak was closer. A young man wearing a hat and a pair of sunglasses was on his way back. I said hi to him.
He stopped and asked, “Do you have extra water?”
I handed over the coconut water to him and said, “You can have it. There isn’t much left though.” He finished it up right away. He must be very thirsty.
Three girls were passing me.
I asked the last girl who held a camera in her hand, “Where are you heading?”
“The girls said climbing up those stairs. So we are taking our time.” She replied.
Not until now did I notice the stairs on the hillside far away. I still had a long way to go.
After a while, a team of mules and horses appeared on the turn of the trail coming back. Two cowboys wearing hats were on horses. The three girls moved over to the side of the trail and let the team pass. The crispy sound of foot steps of horses and mules broke the silence of the trail. Dirt were kicked up behind the animals.
“Hi!” I greeted the first cowboy.
“How are you?” He replied.
“Good. How are you?” I replied.
“Pretty good.” He said as he was passing by.
The mules were carrying bags of cargo. I looked at each of them hoping to see the mules I touched the other day. The team passed me in no time. It was like the scene in the wild west movies. I was thrilled to see it with my own eyes.
I resumed my hike. There were landslide of rocks laying on the hillside. The trail became rough and steeper. An old Jeffery pine grew on the big rocks with a giant boulder sitting by the trail. I put down my backpack and sat on the rocks enjoying the view. The white Horsetail Waterfall fell along the crevices below Carson Peak. The granite towers of Carson Peak appeared grandeur when the sun shone on them. A couple with heavy backpack was returning. I asked the guy about their hike. He told me the lakes in the wilderness were beautiful. They spent four days out there. I congratulated him. “I can’t wait for a beer!” He said enthusiastically.
The trail became narrow and was on the steep slope after that. Tumbled reddish rocks laid along the slope by the trail. I held my walking sticks tightly and walked carefully. Then I came to the cable tramway – the “stairs” referred by the girl. A warning sign stated that stay away from the tramway. So I crossed the tramway and pressed on. The narrow and rough trail led to a steep cliff. The trail made a turn around the cliff. Then I came to the scariest section of the trail. The narrow trail was right by the cliff covered with loose gravels. I told myself not to look down and walked as close to the inner side of the trail as possible. I thought how mules could walk on this narrow path safely. It must be even scarier sitting on top of a horse when walking on this trail.
I asked a guy on his way back about how far to the top. He told me it was about half a mile to the first lake. That encouraged me. The trail took me across the pass. Then I passed the tramway again. After a while, a small creek appeared on the hillside below. It might be the upstream of the waterfall. I came to the side of the Carson Peak. The trail turned west towards Ansel Adams Wilderness Area. I was surprised to see a building and power towers in between the mountains. Two workers were walking by the tramway. I had no idea what these were. A short hike up west brought me to an old tree with a sign marked Agnew Lake. Yeah! I made it to Agnew Lake. Having climbed over 1,300 feet, I was at an elevation of 8,508 feet.
I finally saw the lake. The three girls were resting by the trail eating apples. I was tired and the wind was picking up and it was a bit chilly. So I also put down my backpack and put on more clothes and ate some food. Then I walked up the trail to take some photos of the lake. There was a tall dam on the north side of the lake. The dam appeared to composed of half columns. Apparently, Agnew Lake was a dammed up lake. The real wilderness might be behind the dam. But it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I promised to get back at 5. I saw two backpackers walking back. So I hurried to get my stuff by the trail and started to return. I didn’t want to be left alone in the mountains. The three girls have headed back. I texted Stephen that I was on my way back. I didn’t know how long it would take me.
Going downhill was faster than going up. But I was cautious when walking on the narrow sections in case of slipping over. My bear bell rang along the way and it became louder. I saw those three girls were below me on the hill. They might hear my bell and know my position. That made me feel safe because I was not alone with two hikers behind me and three ahead of me. Two elder ladies with heavy backpacks appeared at the turn of the trail hiking into the mountains. They said they wouldn’t hike too far tonight. I hoped they had a safe trip. They stopped and chatted with the young couple behind me. I kept going and hoping that I could make it home at about 5 in the afternoon. I hurt my left ankle a little bit on the rough trail. Luckily, it was not bad but it did slow me down a little.
My cell phone was running low on battery with only 12% power left. Soon it dropped to 10%. I didn’t want to stop and kept moving and took the power pack out to charge the cell phone. When the Aspen grove appeared, I knew I was close to the end of the trail. I took out the cell phone but only to find that its power dropped to 2%. Apparently it was not charged. I turned off iPhone and walked fast towards our campground. I made it home at 5:15! Stephen was so glad to see me. The evening campfire healed my ankle. I felt that as if the stars in the sky also were cheering for me.