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Dardanelles Lake - My first overnighter


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Made it!! Looking back there are definitely some things I would do differently but all in all, a rousing success.

I suppose next time I wouldn't wait until the night before to pack. It was amazing how quickly it fills up with stuff. I put the pack on at 10 p.m. and staggered down the hallway to the scale. 34 pounds for one night! Too late to make any substantial changes. Onward!

My two friends (who have not been overnight either) and I departed at 7am, arriving at the trailhead parking lot at 8:45. Lots of excitement to get moving and some nerves too. Could we do this?

We chose Dardanelles Lake off Luther Pass (Hwy 89) in the Sierras because we were familiar with the hike already, so we knew it was do-able. Not too long or too steep, with a water source and really, really pretty.

The first .5 mile is a switchback climb; rocky steps that eventually opens out onto Big Meadow. There is a little foot bridge that crosses a creek. There is generally a fairly steady supply of water here.

After crossing Big Meadow, we steadily climbed through the forest commenting on all the downed trees we saw. Reaching the top, the trail switchbacks down a bit and then the trail splits - staying straight ahead takes you to Round Lake and making the left takes you to Dardanelles. Count your steps because it is only about 450 paces down the trail until another left (unmarked for some reason) leads you over three creek crossings to Dardanelles. If you miss this turn off, you end up in Christmas Valley and back in civilization.

Once we reached our destination, we set up our campsite and attempted the PCT method of hanging the bear bag. Not sure if hanging was necessary because we also had our food in the odor proof bags, but we weren't about to take chances and end up with no food for the trip. After three tries, success. We ended up just tying off the bags to another tree because all the twigs we saw on the ground were so dry and brittle, they didn't hold up on the clove hitch. (The same clove hitch of which I had a diagram in my pocket to refer to and a working model using a pencil and short length of rope in my pack.)


The next time we come up here we'll camp out on the rock as the morning view with the sun coming up is spectacular.

Some things I would do differently next time is pack a lighter sleeping pad - my Nemo Astro is large and heavy. I would also bring a zip lock bag to capture water for my Sawyer Squeeze (very hard to fill when submerged in a lake).












Edited by TollerMom
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Looks like a great outing.

You can have people encourage you to lighten your load, but until you get out and do a few overnighters, it's hard to put a finger on some of those things that you really don't need to bring along. And as you backpack more, you may replace some necessary items with a different brand or manufacturer that are better suited to backpacking instead of camping. The best teacher for me has always been experience.

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It looks like you had a fantastic 1st overnight!

I especially appreciate that you were not afraid to make mistakes, or admit a lack of advanced abilities. That's the way we all probably learned, and heck I'm more than willing to say I'm still learning! On my first overnight my pack was probably close to 50 lbs, I was clueless. I remember we were exhausted and I had no idea how to put up the tent. But we still had a great time, and improved our skills as time went on. Having fun is the important thing.

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I also learned post-hike that it is a giant no-no to take out some of your ten essential in order to save weight. Bring the signal mirror, even if you know where you are going. On a lighter note...and I mean that literally, when I took my heavy pack off and strapped on a very small fanny pack to carry some water shoes, snack, camera and water to explore the area, I felt like I was experiencing anti-gravity. My arms were all akimbo and I felt like I was floating. Loved the feeling. Even my regular day hike camelback that I carry around everywhere weighs in at 16 pounds on any given day.

Our hike in and out, plus a side trip the next day to Round Lake was about 9.5 miles.

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Thanks. It's always a learning experience. After a trip I always ask myself did I use xxx piece of gear this time? And if not it makes think if I really need it. I agree on the 10 essentials & emergency gear they stay.

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  • Premium Member
Aaron Zagrodnick

Great report! When in bear country I use the odor-proof bags as well, but definitely use hanging or an Ursack as my primary means of defense... The odor-proof bags are really just a supplement or bonus in my mind. Glad that the trip seems to have worked out really well, can't wait for round 2!

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