Gibbs Lake, High Sierra


Sep 30, 2014
A trip report of our recent trip to Gibbs Lake.

DAY ONE: With the smoke issues very much still up in the air (sorry!) but with the summer coming to a close, we decided to take a quick trip up to Gibbs Lake (east side, on the slopes of Mt. Gibbs—the boundary of Yosemite) for a few days of fishing, hiking, and poking around.

The trailhead was easy enough to find—it’s the first right hand turn after Lee Vining if you are heading south on 395. But the road was a bit rough in places, and we’d been warned about that. After a couple miles, there was a stretch we didn’t like very much, so we parked the car and hiked the last mile to the trailhead itself.

From there the trail heads straight up the side of the mountain as an old logging or mining road. And since this is the East Side, straight up means really very steep. But after a mile or so, that eases off to merely steep, and there are even sections of gentle climbing along the side of gurgling Gibbs Creek. A lovely part of the trail. We ate lunch once we hit this part of the trail, and we at Gibbs lake an hour later…plenty of time to take a nice nap, enjoy the views, and do a little fishing for rainbows and goldens.

For a first day, this was short but tough, and with a chill wind blowing (there were red flag warnings for the evening) we called it an early night.

DAY TWO: Nothing to do today. We took our time for a leisurely circumnavigation of the lake, which took about an hour and gave us some nice views of Mt. Dana to the north and Gibbs to the south.

After that we decided that we would explore a route up to Kidney Lake, 1000 feet higher, and eventually managed to get there. The use trail is not obvious, and we made a huge mistake by trying to gently contour above the south side of the creek once we got to the small meadow half-way up the climb. That led us into a nightmare of talus. M pretty much decided she wasn’t going on, until I found an easier route up the last section.

On the way down, we found a much easier route, keeping north of the creek on the way down to the meadow, then crossing it to the south side for the lower part of the hike. Don’t try this hike if you are not comfortable with off-trail travel, but it isn’t dangerous—particularly if you know when to say you’ve had enough!

That afternoon was very quiet. We were the only ones at the lake for all three days, and loved the solitude. Smoke issues were really not a concern except for about fifteen minutes on the first night, when a cloud of smoke blew over. But it quickly disappeared, and we had generally blue skies for the rest of the time. I fished a bit more, and caught a truly wonderful 15-inch golden, sight fishing to cruisers that were clearly visible in the crystalline water. After an easy afternoon lolling about, we had another early dinner and quiet evening at the lake.

And just as we were calling it a day, we stopped for a minute to enjoy the lake view---that’s when a yellowjacket stung me in the hand. As you may remember, I am allergic to bee stings, and yellowjackets seem to have a similar effect. I had my epipen with me, but managed to take both Benadryl and Zyrtek…and hope for the best overnight. My hand swelled up considerably, but nothing more. It made for a nervous night.

DAY THREE: Up quite early today for some reason, and we hiked down to the trailhead along the burbling sounds of Gibbs Creek. Passing three cars (and a total of four people) on the way out. Clearly, we were leaving before the crowds arrived. My hand was still swollen from the sting, but we were feeling relieved that it was nothing more. We stopped in for a sandwich at the Lee Vining Mobile Station, then drove back over Sonora Pass to picnic near Kennedy Meadows…on our way back to the cabin. It was a short three days, but it certainly got us out into some delicious country, and allowed us to forget the rest of the world for a few days.

The photo blog of the trip is here:
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