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I started alone at the Dana Meadows trailhead (elevation 9600'), toward Mono Pass. I wanted to take the spur to Parker Pass, and hopefully over Koip Peak Pass, thus making a two-day trip out of the dayhike Kim and I took. This necessitated my taking the spur trail to Parker Pass, and anyone who has ever tried to find it from the Mono Pass trail knows how poorly marked it is. Actually, "poorly marked" implies that there actually are some markings, but in reality there are no official markings! Anyway, if you want to go to Parker Pass, go past the log cabin skeleton on the right side of the trail, maybe 1/2 mile. Before you reach Mono Pass, just after breaking out of the dense forest, look for a couple small cairns on the right side of the trail. If you can't find it, just head for the east-west ridge coming off of Mt. Lewis and walk along the spine of the ridge. The trail to Parker Pass is pretty conspicuous as it crosses the ridge, and if you go too high you'll see the trail as it crosses the meadow leading up to Parker Pass.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I missed the spur to Parker Pass, and never found the trail. This was my first solo backpacking trip, and reality didn't waste much time hammering home a couple common sense rules of backpacking: 1) always bring a compass, and 2) if you're lost, better to get high than low.
I roughly paralleled Parker Pass Creek Valley, and here was my big mistake: I looked to the right and saw Spillway Lake but thought it was Parker Pass Lake. Not until I humped up 500+' of Kuna Crest did I see Helen Lake and realize that I was screwed. So I camped near the shore of Helen Lake, which was nice, but illegal, as they've outlawed all camping in the headwaters of the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne, since (sounds like lame reasoning to me) Tuolumne Meadows' potable water is drawn from this stream. I brought my fly rod, but was too exhausted to fish. I spotted decent-sized trout in the stream flowing from Helen Lake; probably brookies. I guess there were planted in Helen Lake, because I don't believe fish can migrate upstream into Helen Lake.
The morning hike along Parker Pass Creek, then back to the car, was quick
and pleasant, with some nice upstream views of where I'd been earlier.
Department of Geophysics