On our second day in Mammoth backcountry, we hiked past alpine waterfalls, through river crossings, and snow to the spectacular views at Garnet Lake. We encountered a few backpackers along the way who camped around the lake and continued to see even fewer mosquitoes as we continued to climb in altitude.
We sat atop the rocks for a lunch break, taking in the 360 views around us. A little closer to the lake, we saw some people swimming in the smaller pool shown above.
Winds were relatively calm, allowing us a glimpse of the near mirror reflection of the mountains in the water. There were trails on either side, leading towards more views of the lake.
It was really the trek back that made for a good story (after the fact). We decided to see if we could find a quicker way back without crossing the river again and in hopes of avoiding the hordes of mosquitoes lurking in the woods waiting for us. We climbed the rocks along the waterfall, following the river all the way down.
Golden hour was just about to begin, casting the surroundings in soft pastels. This is where we stopped taking photos, hurrying back to camp. While we got down from the rocks, we proceeded back onto the trail back towards where we came from. At the river's edge where we had previously crossed, we found a trail that continued rather than required us to cross over. And that's where things got interesting.
After hiking in several miles, it started getting darker and we began looking for a safe area to cross back over to the other side, but the currents were too strong. So we continued on. And discovered our trail had turned into more of a game trail. We saw signs of bears in the area with scratches along the tree trunks and it was getting dark. That's when we saw the fresh bear prints and the poo.
Checking our directions and GPS, we saw what looked like a very shallow river crossing that would lead us back onto the original trail. What we didn't realize was we would cross about five more times over narrow logs. And that we were in a swamp covered in high grass. And that with every step we took, dozens more mosquitoes appeared from the grass we walked upon. During my last water crossing, I remember making a conscious decision - to fall over or ignore the dozens of mosquitoes flying at my face. I decided to ignore the mosquitoes for the very first time in my life. I'll never forget that moment.
In a meditated frenzy, we safely raced through the swamp as a group. That we were relieved to find ourselves back on the trail was a relief words could not describe. We pulled out our flashlight and trekked the final stretch back to camp where I laughed out loud, finally letting my adrenaline die. We built a large camp fire and enjoyed a hearty dinner under the stars, reliving out our adventure and chuckling that in our attempt to avoid more mosquitoes and river crossings, we ended up with more mosquitoes than ever and multiple crossings. What we can say is that we all came out mentally stronger. I don't think a single, lone mosquito will ever really bother us as much anymore.
Hope you enjoyed following our adventure!