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2008: Bear Dam–Lake Italy–Edison Reservoir

August 31, 2008

Trip Report for Bear Dam–Vee Lake–Lake Italy–Edison Reservoir Loop (40 miles)


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Day 1: Bear Dam Trail Head to campsite along Bear Creek: 5 miles, (on trail)
Day 2: Bear Creek to Vee Lake: 10 miles (part trail, part cross country)
Day 3: Vee Lake to Lake Italy: 4 miles (cross country)
Day 4: Lake Italy to Lower Mills Lake: 6 miles (cross country)
Day 5: Lower Mills to Lake Edison: 15 miles (begin with use trail–then to trail)


Day 1: Bear Dam Trail Head to campsite along Bear Creek (5 miles, trail)

Profile day 1

7,000′ – 8,100′

Shahe, Kevin, Nick

Shahe, Kevin, Nick

Bear Creek trailhead: The trailhead for this hike is on the way to Lake Edison, at a dirt road for the Bear Creek Diversion Dam (with 4 wheel truck one can drive to the dam). We got to the trailhead about mid day, and hiked in about 5 miles along Bear Creek, a easy steady climb of 1,000′ from 7,100′ to 8,100′. We found a beautiful spot, though the mosquitoes were pretty bad.

Tent at Beak Creek

Tent site along Bear Creek

Day 2: Bear Creek to Vee Lake (10 miles, part trail, part cross country)

Profile day 2

8,100′ – 11,200′

Bear Creek

Nick along Bear Creek

We hiked up the rest of the way to meet the John Muir Trail (JMT). The mosquitoes were horrendous on the leg up to the JMT. The original idea was to take the trail straight up to lake Italy, but we realized that it would be more interesting to go up around to it, and that we had the time. So after heading south on the JMT, instead of turning off to go up the Hilgard Branch to Lake Italy, we went further south and headed east on the East Fork trial to the Seven Gable Lakes, though the trail petered out somewhere along the way. We stayed to the west of the first lake, though we might have been better off crossing the outlet and going to the east of it, as getting around the western side of the lake was tricky. As we approached Stubb Lake we headed east and then north to ascend to Vee Lake with some boulder hopping.

tent at vee lake

Tent at Vee Lake

We camped at the western tip of Vee Lake. It was a long hard day but it was lovely spot and reasonable hiking all the way.

Day 3: Vee Lake to Lake Italy (4 miles, cross country)

Profile day 3

11,200′ – 12,200′ – 11,200′

Shahe and Nick at one of the Bear Lakes

From Vee Lake we headed NNE staying to the south-east of Little Bear and Big Beak Lakes, up to Black Bear Lake, then North up and past the east side of White Bear Lake to the pass. Thus far the hiking was fairly easy.

Nick at another of the Bear Lakes

From there we headed into the bowl of the inlet to Jumbo Lake skirting the eastern slop of it to find the unmarked trail that leads from Italy Pass to Lake Italy, staying well above Jumble Lake. This is a little less pleasant as it is scree and sandy in the bowl until you find the use trail. We camped just east of the inlet to Lake Italy at some rock outcropping, in this barren landscape. It can get fairly windy at Lake Italy (which however is good for mosquito control).

Kevin Fishing at Lake Italy

Day 4: Lake Italy to Lower Mills Lake (6 miles, cross-country)

Profile day 4

11,200′ – 12,300′ – 10,900′

Nick and Shahe on the snow

Getting around Lake Italy can be a little tricky depending on the snow conditions—we had some snow slopes to cross. While the topo shows a trail heading west out of Lake Italy, there really isn’t one, or at most it is a use trail.

Nick and Kevin diving

After a dip,  we headed east around the tip of the outlet, and then all the way around the northern side as well along Toe Lake and then heading north up the drainage to Gabbot Pass.

Shahe and Nick above Gabbot Pass

We took a little side trip to get to the top of Mt. Gabb, but ran out of time (and nerves), before getting there. We then headed down to Upper Mills Creek Lake, staying to the east of the lakes, and finding a sketchy use trail as we got down to Lower Mills Creek Lake. We got in late, nearing sunset, though part of that was due to our detour to scale Mt. Gabb.

Tent site

We camped at the northern end near the outlet where there are several good camping spots.

Day 5
We took a rest day at Lower Mills, a lovely spot with trees and places to day hike as well as good fishing.

View of the lake

We hiked around and fished. Relaxed.

Fish for dinner

Day 6: Lower Mills to Lake Edison (15 miles, part cross-country, mostly trail)

Profile day 5

10,900′ – 7,600′

The beginning drops you steeply down Mills Creek, with a sometimes use-trail to follow until you finally find an actual trail.

Nick under the falls

Nick under the falls

We found a beautiful falls to shower under on the way down. That took us to Mono Creek Trail where we headed west to the Edison Reservoir. We should have waited for the ferry but instead hiked it—not worth it!

Shahe and Kevin fording

We had originally planned on taking the JMT back to the Bear Creek Trail (instead of exiting at Edison) and camp at Quail Meadow, but decided we just wanted to get out instead of spending an extra day in woodsy mosquito hiking. We lucked out when we finally got to the road at about 5:00 and 15 miles of hiking, and got a ride in a pickup back to our car. We took advantage of the hot springs on the way out. (If your timing is good and it is running, there is a ferry across Lake Edison–worth the expense in my opinion.)

To see the full set of pictures from this hike you can link here to my Flickr album

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