Saddlebag Lake is just outside Yosemite in the Hoover Wilderness and is a favorite among hikers. It is also a backdoor cross-country entrance into the park by way of McCabe Lakes. The region behind and including Saddlebag Lake is known as the 20 Lakes Basin. The loop can be hiked in a day and the lakes are stocked with trout. When California trout imagine a heavenly afterlife, they probably picture a place a lot like the Twenty Lakes Basin in the High Sierra. In the quiet here above Yosemite National Park, countless sparkling streams skip past wildflower meadows and hidden canyons to gather in dozens of jewel-colored lakes. With the abundance of 20 lakes within a day-hike range, the region is a summer paradise for anglers and hikers. Located in the Hoover Wilderness area of Inyo National Forest, north of Tioga Pass, the Twenty Lakes Basin doesn't get the same crowds as Yosemite. The main trail head for the basin is at the north end of Saddlebag Lake. At 10,066 feet, this is the gateway to a landscape of postcard views, dramatic granite peaks, clear streams, and small glaciers. Though the whitebark pines and junipers are a little scrubby at this elevation, one finds Sierra daisy and alpine goldenrod in the meadows. Anglers boast of catching (and carefully releasing) more than 40 trout-including brook and rainbow-in a single day in the basin. The 4 1/4-Mile trail passes Lake Helen as well as jagged Z Lake and four-pronged Shamrock Lake. We kayaked 3 miles round trip to the north end of the lake and began our hike. It was a post card trip of idyllic views. We covered about 400 vertical feet and covered all types of terrain from rocky scree to boulders to picturesque meadows colored by Jack Frost. We spent the entire day mesmerized by the views which unfolded at every turn. Even the drive in to the area was a spectacular event. We had an early dinner at Whoa Nelly Deli-a two star Mobil Gas Station restaurant! How unusual-buffalo meatloaf, grilled salmon salad-it was delicious!

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