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Big Pine Lakes 2006 – Day 6

***Saturday, August 12, 2006

Once again I got up early on this, our final trail day, and spent an hour or so photographing the view from the nearby bench.

DawnPalisadesFourthLake2006|08|12: Dawn light. Palisades Ridge and Big Pine Creek Lake #4. Sierra Nevada Range, California. August 12, 2006. © "g dan mitchell".    keywords: dawn light palisades ridge big pine creek lake #4 mount sill north palisade mount bayley sierra nevada color photography backpacking

Dawn on Palisade Glacier and Lake Four. August 12, 2006. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

TempleCrag4thLakeSunrise2006|08|12: Sunrise, Temple Crag and Fourth Lake. Sierra Nevada Range, California. August 12, 2006. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.    keywords: sunrise dawn temple crag fourth lake sierra nevada california color photograph

Dawn, Temple Crag and Lake Four. August 12, 2006. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

The rest of the crew was stirring a bit earlier today – partly due to the natural change to an earlier wake up time after a few days on the trail and partly due to a desire to get on the trail early for the hike back down to the trailhead. Before long everyone was up and packing.

I was packed first, so I set off before everyone else. I was planning on problems with my toe, and I didn’t want to push it to keep up with the others, nor did I want to make them wait a couple hours at the trailhead while I hobbled downhill.

Things went pretty well at first. I kept my hiking speed down and tried to avoid the natural swinging downhill gait that I’m used to, instead opting for a sort of slow, plodding approach that would save my toe.

I hiked alone as far as the forest service cabin where we ate lunch on the first day. By this point the toe was starting to swell and hurt fairly badly, so I took a short break and put my foot up. Unfortunately, when I started hiking again the toe was worse rather than better. (Sometimes I find that it is better to just keep going rather than stop and let swelling begin.) Before too long about half the party caught me and passed by.

I continued along, eventually reaching the downhill section above the old unused road. At this point I knew I was going to make it, though there had been a few moments when I had wondered. I kept going – at my quite slow pace – and arrived at the parking lot ahead of four or five remaining group members. The people who had arrived before me were getting impatient, so they took off for Bishop and pastry, gelato, and other goodies at Schaats. Once the next wave arrived, we headed on down in time to join them for a pizza lunch.

We had been planning on staying overnight at Mammoth and enjoying our traditional post-hike Mexican dinner at Roberto’s, but the consensus seemed to be that we were out soon enough that we might as well start home. So we hit the road and headed back to the Bay Area with only one brief stop at the Tioga Mini Mart for snacks.

A photo note: The Big Pine Creek area is stunning and I was well-equipped for photography on this trip, carrying a Canon DSLR, a couple Canon “L” zoom lenses, tripod, and assorted other goodies. However, there are two factors that made for somewhat challenging shooting on this trip. First, being on the east side of the Sierra crest and in a somewhat deep and narrow canyon the morning light was somewhat limited and the evening light was very difficult. Secondly, we were cursed (remember, this is a photographer writing… ;-) by a full week of beautiful, cloudless weather. I much prefer slightly nasty, scary, and impressive thunderstorm weather for the dramatic skies!



August 19, 2006 Posted by | Commentary | Comments Off on Big Pine Lakes 2006 – Day 6

Big Pine Lakes 2006 – Day 5

***Friday, August 11, 2006

Another layover day! (I’ve only been on one other trip where we spent so much time in one place – some years ago we spent about this much time in the Cottonwood Lakes area as we investigated some high ridges and climbed Mt. Langley.)

Rising early again, this time I wandered about 100 feet to a bench overlooking Lake Four to shoot some early morning photographs of the lake and the ridge near the Palisade Glacier.

The main group’s plan for the day was to climb up to Palisade Glacier. I can’t say much about that since I did not join them – I was pretty certain (and I know now that I was correct) that my injured toe would not hold up to extensive cross-country hiking or the big downhill back to camp. One of the others may describe their day here or elsewhere; I’ll provide a link.

I choose to take an easy hike up to Lake Six and Lake Seven instead. This route (at least the version I chose) started up the same trail I had follwed the previous day to Summit Lake, but shortly branched off to the left and climbed into a small, narrow valley containing a tarn. I spent some time there photographing the rocks and the tarn and then headed on up the trail.

The trail passed through several interesting features. To ther right there was a long lateral moraine following along the base of the high rocky ridge above. The trail kept off of the rockier portions of the moraine, but I thought about investigating it on the way back.

Every so often the trail would drop into a small depression that seemed to have no real drainage. The first one did hold a small creek, but the second did not – even though it looked like water must drain into it since all of the surrounding terrain was higher. After climbing out of this and up over a small ridge, the trail began a short, steep descent to a bench above Lake Six.

I paused here for awhile, to snack and then to start photographing some of the amazing wildflower display near this lake and along the valley leading up to Lake Seven. I must have timed this just right since the wildflowers were as extensive as anything I’ve seen in the Sierra. Eventually I arrived an Lake Seven and passed around the right shore to a small rocky area where I settled in to spend an hour eating lunch, taking a few photos, watching birds, and generally taking in the feeling of being in this high, lonely place by myself.

I finally roused myself and began the walk back to Lake Six, this time trying to skirt the wettest and most floral sections. I spooked four deer grazing in the flower-filled meadow at one point and began to wonder if I had perhaps stumbled into a Disney animation…

I finally reached the area above Lake Six and searched around a bit for my trail before finding it and heading back up over the small ridge I had earlier descended. This time as I headed back down, I though to avoid descending into and climbing out of one of those small depressions by instead traversing the top of the lateral moraine to the left (this time) of the trail. In the end, I probably didn’t save myself much time since the going was quite a bit rougher than on the trail, but I did enjoy the change of pace.

I returned to camp in the mid-afternoon and again found myself with plenty of time for lazy reading in the tent. The others began to return about an hour later.

Once again… dinner… conversation… sunset… sleep.


August 19, 2006 Posted by | Commentary | Comments Off on Big Pine Lakes 2006 – Day 5

Big Pine Lakes 2006 – Day 4

***Thursday, August 10, 2006

Most were in no hurry to get started today, as it was a full layover day. However, I had heard yesterday that I might get good sunrise photos from Summit Lake, about 15 minutes up the trail. I got up around 5:30, grabbed a pack with my photo equipment, and headed up there.

I soon arrived and passed a small campsite occupied by still-sleeping backpackers, heading around the left side of the lake to a rocky area from which it appeared that I might look back at the ridge of Mt. Sill, Palisade Glacier, and North Palisade. I spent a good hour or so taking photos before heading back down to the campsite… where everyone else was still asleep.

MoonsetJigsawPass2006|08|10: Moon Setting Over Jigsaw Pass. Sierra Nevada Range. August 10, 2006. © Copyright "G Dan Mitchell". ("sales")    keywords: jigsaw pass moonset dawn lake forest summit lake sierra nevada range california black and white photograph

Moon Setting Over Jigsaw Pass. Summit Lake, Sierra Nevada. August 10, 2006. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

Given the general lack of excitement at camp, I crawled back into my tent and got another hour or two of sleep.

The plan for the day was to visit some of the upper lakes, particularly Lakes Six and Seven. Unfortunately, wanting to save my aching toe for the next day and the hike back down, I felt that it would be better to take a full rest day – so I lingered around the campsite, reading, cleaning, and generally being lazy. The rest of the group reported that there were extensive wildflower displays near Lake Seven, so I made plans to go there the next day, foot willing.


August 19, 2006 Posted by | Commentary | Comments Off on Big Pine Lakes 2006 – Day 4

Big Pine Lakes 2006 – Day 3

***Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Today was truly a lazy day – though not the most lazy day of the trip, as you will soon see. Our goal was Lake Four, and the hike was supposedly only one mile, though it probably totalled up to perhaps a mile and a half before we were finished.

We recrossed – not without difficulty – the inlet stream to Lake Two and climbed back up to the main trail before heading up-canyon past overhanging rocks and an impressive wildflower display. Before too long the trail wound around and passed above Lake Three. By how the views of Temple Crag, Mts. Sill and Bayley, the North Palisade, the Palisade Glacier and other alpine sights were becoming quite impressive.

After some additional travel through forest – always climbing steadily – we came to a trail junction and turned left to pass around the side of Lake Four. We traversed alongside the lake for a bit and then climbed up toward a rocky bench which we attained after crossing one final small creek.

As we arrived a pack train was just getting ready to leave – this explained the large group of people carrying only day packs that we had seen a bit earlier on the trail. Once the pack train departed, we had the extensive camp area to ourselves.

This spot apparently gets quite a bit of use. There was a sort of main path up the middle of the bench with rock-marked camp sites along both sides and others hidden a bit further off. We selected campsites – oddly enough, by age it seemed – and got ourselves settled in; the plan was to be here for the next three nights. There was even more time for laziness on this afternoon; once again many visited the lake for swim, others read or napped.

A spot at one end of the area became our impromptu meeting and meal spot where we all joined for dinner, after-dinner socializing and (later on the trip) breakfast. Sunset was impressive, though the sun dipped behind the high Sierra crest to our west more than an hour before actual sunset.


August 19, 2006 Posted by | Commentary | Comments Off on Big Pine Lakes 2006 – Day 3

Big Pine Lakes 2006 – Day 2

***Tuesday, August 8, 2006

We managed to get up at a reasonable hour, at least by normally relaxed Talusdancers standards. (We’ve been known to start hikes as late as noon.) The trailhead was about a mile back down the road, so we did a quick car shuttle to the parking lot there. A few minutes later we had loaded up packs, redistributed stuff to be left in cars, and assembled for a trailhead photo.

BigPineTrailheadPhoto2006|08|08: Trip participants, Big Pine Lakes 2006. August 8, 2006. © Copyright "G Dan Mitchell".

Group trailhead photo. Talusdancers 2006 Big Pine Lakes trip. August 8, 2006. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

The first part of the trail ascended steadily across a somewhat rocky, sage-covered south-facing slope. This could be quite hot in the wrong weather or later in the day, but we managed to get across it before the heat became a problem.

I was dealing with a bit of a foot problem. I had injured a toe a few days before the trip but chose not to go to the doctor because “they’d tell me I broke it and shouldn’t go on a pack trip,” which I did not want to hear. Stupid, yes, but plenty of backpackers can probably relate… ;-) In any case, I was reduced to a slow and careful hobble up this trail, but the foot seemed to more or less hold together. A few others had minor issues – a bit of ashthma here and mild altitude sickness there – but nothing major.

Soon the trail rounds a hillside and continues to head up-canyon above an old road bed. Apparently the trailhead used to be a bit higher, but after a bridge washed out it was not replaced, at least not with a structure that would permit vehicle traffic. It seems that the wilderness took back the first mile of this trail.

After climbing past a rocky section the trail eventually entered more forested terrain and, in places, almost flattened out. (This trail is more or less continuously uphill, though there didn’t seem to be any incredibly steep sections.) After awhile we stopped at a forest service cabin that one of our members claimed was once “Lon Cheney’s” (sp?) cabin. In any case, it was in a nice, cool, forested section where the trail flattened out and paused by a creek. We stopped there to eat.

My recollection of the next section of the trail is quite fuzzy, but eventually we reached and rounded Lake One of the seven numbered lakes on the Big Pine Creek drainage. Shortly after that we crossed a rocky bench and Lake Two came into view. We passed around the right side of this lake and just past the head of the lake, above a waterfall that feeds the lake, we crossed this creek and found a nice campsite with a view of the lake, the surrounding peaks, and with enough space for our rather large group. Tents were set up, bug goop applied, bodies washed, naps taken, and dinner eaten.


August 19, 2006 Posted by | Commentary | Comments Off on Big Pine Lakes 2006 – Day 2

Big Pine Lakes 2006 – Day 1

***Monday, August 7, 2006

This year’s Talusdancers pack trip was a departure from what we usually do. Last year’s trip covered a 14-day route on the John Muir Trail between the area around the Minarets and Bishop Pass. (I had to bail on day 4 due to illness, but I rejoined the group for the last couple days.) The year before that a small group did a 9-day trip between Bishop Pass and Kearsarge Pass, crossing some of the highest portions of the JMT including Mather, Pinchot, and Glen passes.

This year we took a real vacation. Our five-day trip included only about 13 miles of hiking, and we stayed in one spot for three nights!

For the Bay Area contingent, the trip began early in the morning on Monday, August 7 as the four of us assembled at Owen’s place in Concord, loading up my BigMobile for the trip over the Sierra via Tioga Pass. We stopped for lunch at Tioga Pass Resort before heading on into Owens Valley and then south to our rendezvous with the other 7 participants at the ranger station in Bishop.

After our usual hour or two of getting the wilderness permit, buying trailhead barbecue supplies at Vons, and the obligatory stop at Schaats bakery we headed south on 395 to the turn-off to the Big Pine Creek road, arriving at the campsite near the trailhead in time to grab three campsites and prepare our feast.

The trailhead barbecue is a tradition on these trips. Everyone supplies a part of the meal feast that we create at our trailhead campsite. This time we had a luxurious campsite that included the stone and concrete frame of an old cabin, equipped with a huge fireplace.


August 19, 2006 Posted by | Commentary | Comments Off on Big Pine Lakes 2006 – Day 1

Peninsula, Big Pine Creek Lake Four

LakeFourPeninsulaBW2006|08|09: Peninsula, Big Pine Creek Lake Four. Sierra Nevada. August 9, 2006. © Copyright "G Dan Mitchell".    keywords: peninsula big pine creek lake four #4 trees palisade glacier mount sill north palisade sill bayley sierra nevada california black and white photograph

Peninsula, Big Pine Creek Lake Four. Sierra Nevada. August 9, 2006. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.


August 19, 2006 Posted by | Sierra Nevada | Comments Off on Peninsula, Big Pine Creek Lake Four


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