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Orchid Lake is located off the John Muir Trail between Edison and Florence Lakes. Although the lake itself is with a mile of the John Muir Trail, there is no trail penetrating this area leaving it unvisited by many hikers passing nearby.

In the summer of 2014, I made a three night backpacking trip with the goal of exploring Orchid Lake. This trip bagan at 4am with a 5hr drive to reach Florence Lake on the western side of the Sierra. A short wait followed by a quick ferry ride and I was left lifting my pack onto my shoulders and placing my brain on hiking autopilot. The hike towards Muir Trail Ranch was easy - a nice walk through forest mixed with meadows as the trail criss crossed the road to Muir Trail Ranch. I stopped for lunch at Senger Creek near the Muir Trail Ranch, after which I started the climb up towards Seldon Pass - the first mile or so a brutally steep section. Thankfully, the trail flattens out but the long and hot switchbacks reminded me I had just come from sea level. Passing a few groups of hikers coming down, I finally reached Senger Creek for a much needed water break.

Even though the trail leveled off, every step began to seem that much harder than the previous. But as I got closer to Sally Keys Lakes my energy seemed to improve. My goal for today was to at least reach Sally Keys Lakes, however with daylight and energy left I passed the lakes quickly and began the ascent towards Seldon Pass. By 6pm I was at the top of the pass, and a short time later found myself setting up camp down along the shores of Marie Lake. As I ate an early dinner the clouds began to move in, later providing a beautiful canvas for the sunset to paint.

I was awake early the following morning, taking exploratory walks around Marie Lake. But eager to get to my destination I was packed up and on the trail by 8, surprised to see no one along the way. Reaching Rosemarie Meadow I began my off-trail excursion, finding a snow survey cabin along the way towards two ponds buried in the forest. Reaching the ponds, the mosquitos came at me with a vengeance. Just as I felt the familiar tingling sting on my right ankle, I swiped the area with my hand, leaving behind a few blood stains in the process. These were - quite possibly - the worst mosquito swarms I've ever encountered, having me route-finding as fast and safe as I possibly could to get to better ground.

Reaching Orchid Creek the mosquitos varied from worse to extreme, driving me to hike faster despite my lack of breath and need to navigate without a trail. I finally reached Orchid Lake late morning as the clouds in the sky began to build. Sprinkles kept me close to camp fearing a storm would soon unleash. I explored the lake, seeing no footprints other than my own. Finally the weather began to clear late in the afternoon, and I took a short dayhike over to Apollo Lake.

Back to camp for dinner - a dinner with some additional nutrients thanks to the mosquitos flying into my food - the sky was building again, and by sunset was nearly completely overcast. The clouds got brighter, but just as quickly it ominously darkened. About ready to give up, the sun suddenly burst through the clouds, lighting up the mountains an intense red. The light moved from the mountains into the sky, painting the clouds colors one often only dreams of.

It rained on and off that night, and as I awoke the following morning the sky was a dull gray. The wind was perfectly calm however, leaving a flawless reflection across Orchid Lake broken here and there by the occasional rising fish. It was hard to pack up and leave, but I had a schedule to keep. The hike down to the John Muir Trail was much easier than coming in, and I reached the trail in an hour or two. I explored the lakes along the way, and by the time I reached Marie Lake the wind had picked up and it had started getting cold. I enjoyed my time along this part of the trail, enjoying an extra long lunch at Marie Lake, resting a bit long at Seldon Pass, and fishing for a while at Heart Lake. The weather finally looked too threatening to continue being lazy, and by the time I had camp set up at Sally Keys Lakes it began to poor for about an hour.

The following day I awoke to clear skies, hiking out slowly at first to enjoy the morning sun casting shadows through the forest. My pace picked up as I neared the switchbacks above Muir Trail Ranch, and I hiked much of the remaining miles on autopilot, reaching Flourence Lake in time for the 1pm ferry, leaving me time to soak my sore feet.