Just four and a half hours north of Los Angeles, lies the Big Pine Creek campground and trailhead. A perfect starting point for your weekend backpacking trips or day hiking if you're camping. I absolutely love the Eastern Sierra Nevada range, Inyo National Forest in particular and Big Pine Creek is one of my favorite spots therein. Highlights include the seven lakes, and my current favorite mountain peak Temple Crag. You'll notice multiple photographs of it as you peruse the images below, and that's after I culled many of them during selection. Photos don't do it justice, a more majestic peak I've yet to find.
The Journey Begins
We left late Thursday night after everyone had gotten off work, gathered their gear and rendezvoused at my house. I may have made the mistake of looking up the weather report for the town of Big Pine, not the campsite and mountainous area, which lead me to tell my compatriots that the forecast was a high of 80 and a low of 50. As dawn broke on the Sierra range, and the snow capped peaks revealed themselves, much doubt was thrown upon my forecast. I had come prepared for colder weather, my friends did not. A quick stop at the local Target in Bishop before picking up our permits and all was well. Something I really like about Inyo National Forest is that 40% of the daily trail permits are reserved for walk-ins. That means if you show up at the ranger station when it opens at 8am you are guaranteed to be able to get a permit. This makes spur of the moment trips insanely easy.
The road up to the campground climbs rather steeply from the valley floor to an altitude of 7,600ft. It is rather bleak, I remember wondering if I had chosen a good site for our hike. The campground itself is pleasant enough, a wooded area alongside a good sized creek. But as you begin your hike along the trail, you quickly leave the woods behind and enter a rather desolate stretch of trail. The portion of the trail before First Lake is dry, unshaded, and steep. Doubts still lingered as I wound my way up the final set of switchbacks beside Second Falls, cresting the hill however, removed all doubt. From there on it's all magical. Wooded sections of pine forest run alongside the creek in this valley made by two stunning mountain ranges. The valley is home to the Seven Lakes each providing you with a stunning vista better than the last. You pass the lakes in numerical order so upon reaching Second Lake and finding the perfect campsite we decided to make it our basecamp. The dogs approved of this decision. After setting up camp, and relieved of the weight of our packs we explored the area till sunset, then turned in for the night.
Sunrise on the Sierra
After Soaking in the mornings grandeur, and yelling at a certain white dog who decided running around on a frozen lake was a good time, we set off for the day with the goal of advancing as far up the trail as possible.
We started to hit snow after we reached Fourth Lake, by the time we neared Fifth Lake snow was above our knees and the going was slow. But we Pressed onwards, eventually reaching Fifth Lake and a final elevation of 10,787 feet. We sat, took pictures, and watched the sun set on a winter wonderland of natural beauty. It was a bitter sweet moment knowing this was the farthest out we'd get to go, and the following day would find us back home in the city. Reluctantly, we pried ourselves away from this wondrous place and head back down the trail. The magic of the views made anew under the golden glow of the setting sun. We made it back to camp just after dark, had dinner and turned in. The next day we sat and took in the sunrise for the final time, packed up, and headed down the mountain. The drive back home was made all the more sad by the constant stream of incridible, snow capped mountains beckoining us to come explore.