This month, I put together a trip I have dreamed about ever since I camped at Thousand Island Lake on a JMT section hike in 2007. Here's a composite picture of the lake from that trip:

click on the picture for the full-size view

I built a kayak from a Folbot kit when I was a teenager and had lots of fun using it. Then ten years ago, I bought a foldable version from the same company, the two-seater Greenland II. I don't use it much, but it sure expands the options on trips.

So early this spring, a friend was asking about a backpacking trip to Thousand Island Lake, so I called the Reds Meadow Pack Station. They assured me they could pack my boat in a bag to Thousand Island Lake, so I signed on. I wanted to take my wife and daughter in, too, but they couldn't hike the ten miles, so we reserved three horses as well.

So August rolled in, and off we went. We spent two nights in Mammoth to acclimate, then showed up at the Agnew Meadows pack station with what seemed like a huge amount of gear. The packers had four mules ready to go, but one got the day off. All the gear -- three kayaks, two bear-proof pack boxes, and camping gear for seven fit onto three mules!

Here's 20-year-old Rick, with the longer boat bags.

It took several hours to get the mules loaded and the horses lined up. We got a late start, but the trail was beautiful -- more flowers than I'd seen on any other trail. We took the "High Trail" into Thousand Island Lake.

Fred and the mules

Water break -- Charlee did well riding all the way. It took four hours.

Once we arrived at the lake, there was much work setting up our camp and building the kayaks. Here's my reward...

Charlee and I enjoyed a quiet paddle each evening, exploring islands and the view.

On the second day, the three of us paddled out, along with Jenny in a single-seat kayak, going to the west end of the lake.

Here's Marek and David. David joined the trip when I posted plans on the Folbot forum. That's Banner Peak in the background. Three of us climbed it on the third day.

Here's a view of Thousand Island Lake from the summit of Banner Peak.

On the morning of the fourth day, I went out for a paddle to take pictures.

View from the tent

Group picture

The altitude and sun exposure was the roughest part of the trip. It took two nights at Mammoth, and two more at the lake before I felt completely normal. Marek had to bail on the Banner peak climb half way up due to AMS -- he had less than 60 hours at altitude, and it wasn't enough. We didn't cover every inch of my daughter's exposed skin, so she got some burn, and we should have taken sunglasses for her. Her eyes were ok, but bloodshot after we returned. My wife had swollen hands and feet after returning home! Oh, and riding a horse... for this backpacker, it isn't much fun. On the way out, I opted to lead my horse for a quarter of the distance. Turns out I could walk at the same speed as the horses; but eating their dust wasn't much fun. Better than screaming feet and knees, though. :-)

This trip was truly a memorable experience, well worth the planning and expense. The good times, the fun with friends, paddling on one of the prettiest places in the Sierra... What a trip!

All my pictures are here: Thousand Island Lake Kayaking trip 2011

The Folbot Forum trip planning and two reports are here: Calif, Sierra - Thousand Island Lake