Benson Pass and lake, June 25

Day 65

Start – Mile 958, 7:15 am

End – Benson Lake, Mile 973, 5 pm

Miles – 15

My intentionally slow sojourn through Yosemite continues. This morning I got up after my annoying campmates has left, but not before overhearing some more comments that had me shuddering in my tent.

While the major Sierra passes are in the rear view at this point, Yosemite does have a few additional ones to conquer before I’m done with this park. Today I had to go over Benson Pass, and then I wanted to check out a couple lakes that I heard were nice places for breaks.

Benson was a substantially easier climb than the previous major passes, not that any climb is really easy. But it was only a couple miles to the top and I got there around 11:30. The interesting thing about Benson was not the view, which was ok, but rather the fact that the landscape changed about half a mile from the top and all the sudden it looked like I was walking through a desert with pine trees.

The ground was dry and mainly brown dirt, the trees were spaced out, and only one small shallow creek meandered through the area. Such a strange setting after the previous passes all having a fairly similar alpine look to them.

I stopped at the top for a snack but was quickly swarmed by the ever present mosquitoes. Man I hate these things. So I didn’t linger on but decided to go a couple more miles down to Smedberg Lake which was supposed to be a good place for a break so I figured I’d have lunch there.

Along the way I kept seeing people taking breaks with their tents set up to avoid the mosquitoes and when I got to the lake I realized I was going to have to as well. I’ve never set my tent up in the middle of the day before, but the bugs were so thick I wouldn’t have been able to eat without doing so.

So I found a shaded spot and set up and quickly threw my gear inside and climbed in but it was no use – the mosquitoes made it inside as well. I spent the first 15 minutes killing the ones that were inside with me, which were at least 20.

After that I was able to eat and relax a bit but after lunch I wore my headnet all afternoon.

I next decided to check out Benson Lake, the riviera of the Sierra, with its sandy beach and apparently lower mosquito population. I hiked down to a spur trail that led half a mile to the lake and this time it lived up to the billing.

Beautiful sandy beach, shallow shoreline which makes for warmer water, and enough of a breeze to keep the bugs at bay. I jumped in and rinsed off since it was once again a hot afternoon, and then noticed some other folks drying their clothes.

Here’s where I admit that my clothes haven’t been washed since I was in Bishop probably close to two weeks ago. If I got back on trail I’d be going up the next pass tonight, so I decided to save that for tomorrow and rinsed my hiking clothes in the lake. It’s not much but it will get some of the dirt and sweat off of them.

Now I’m camped on a sandy beach of all places, which I didn’t expect to have the chance to do at all on this trip.

Tomorrow I’ll go over the second to last pass in the park, and probably fight off mosquitoes while doing it. Should be to Sonora by Thursday.

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