Saturday, June 25, 2022

Bishop Pass, Inyo National Forest, CA

Hiked July 5, 2021. As with my previous post, this was from nearly a year ago. The day after I hiked to Upper Lamarck Lake, in fact.

I did this hike the first time back in grad school. I can't recall the exact year, but I'm thiking the early 1990s. Obviously I was younger, and in better shape. But I built up my endurance some last spring, and did a number of pretty serious hikes by the time I got to July. With the warmup of the previous day, I was pretty confident about being able to do this hike ,again.

The trail starts from South Lake, one of several "lakes" (actually reservoirs) above Bishop. AllTrails gives the distance as about ten miles and 2,300 feet of elevation gain. It's definitely a tough one.

As with all of these Bishop lakes, there are numerous hiking options from each lake. No wilderness permit is required for a dayhike.

Despite being early July, there wasn't a lot of remaining snow on the mountains, but the streams linking each sequence of the lakes in the canyon were still running nicely.

With the many options, one decision point for me was at the Chocolate Lake/Bull Lake turnoffs. About halfway to Bishop Pass, I had the option of bailing on my full distance and looping back around a series of lakes at lower altitude. But I felt strong at this point and decided to continue.

The lakes I passed were as picturesque as I remembered Some wildflowers along the lakes and creeks, but actually not as much as I thought I might see for being so early in the season.

Still, lots of green grass in the small meadows near the lakes.

The waters were clear, and I could see many fish in the small creeks and lake waters. Looked like brook trout, with the distinctive white fin edges.

The long final climb to the pass was long and hard. No shade as you climb above treeline, either.

I took plenty of pictures, both with my dslr and my phone. Made it easy to compare to my maps later to match up lakes with names.

The actual panorama from Bishop Pass was less expansive than I recalled. Not entirely shocking, as, despite being at nearly 12,000 feet, it's a pass, so naturally the mountains on either side rise much higher.

Continued shooting like crazy, and resting up a bit, rehydrating, before heading back down. While at the pass, I could see several hikers on either side of the pass.

One of the amazing things I learned from one of the hikers is that some locals make a day out of running between North Lake and South Lake, via a 50+ mile, roughly 10,000 verticle feet gain trail that links the two trais. That would explain that I saw a few women run past me on the way up, but did not get passed by the on the way back down. Oh, they could have gone to a different lake, of course, but they may have been making this crazy run, instead.

On the decent, I came across several pockets of what I assume to be desert bighorn bones. I presume a small herd got caught in a snowslide or something. There were quite a lot of bones in a pretty small area.

Passed the same lakes, creeks, and meadows in reverse order, all the way to the part above South Lake. At some point, I passed a family with kids, making their way back to their car. They were picnicing just above the lake. To me, this was "almost back," and I was feeling pretty happy, having passed the point of "Having fun" and reached the "Man, I'm beat, and can't wait to get to my car." But they had taken a much shorter walk, and were trying to coax their kids back and didn't feel at all like they were "nearly back." Funny difference in perspective, there, based on where we had started and where we had been, that day.

Monday, June 20, 2022

North Lake to Upper Lamarck Lake, Inyo National Forest, CA

Hiked July 4, 2021. Rapidly approaching the one year anniversary of a couple of hikes I took in the eastern Sierra, last year. Figured I better post them, soon. I don't think all the photos in chronological order, but they'll still give you a pretty good idea of what I saw.

Although I grew up in southern California and used to hike annually in the Sierra Nevada, I spent quite a bit of time away from "home," working in other states. In particular, the time I spent living in along Utah's Wasatch Front and in southern Nevada really shifted my recreational focus to points up I-15, and away from California. Also, it used to be those Utah and Nevada trips were to "empty" places, so much easier to go to on the spur of the moment. By contrast, even back in the 1980s, going to Yosemite was a crapshoot. Just easier for planning purposes to go northeast, rather than north.

About three or four years ago it occurred to me that that I hadn't been hiking in the eastern Sierra for years, and I should really go back. Couldn't always follow through on my desire to return, due to recent fire closures, which would completely shut down California national forests for most of the summer. Nuts!

At the same time, visits to Utah have become harder to pull off on the spur of the moment, due to growing popularity of those parks. In recent years, for example, Zion has substantially outdrawn the much larger (by area) Yosemite, and there are a lot fewer campsites in tiny Zion than there are in Yosemite and the surrounding Sierra Nevada.

At any rate, I got it in my head that I wanted to repeat an eastern Sierra hike from about thirty (!) years ago (probably my next blog). But that one's a tough one, so I wanted to give myself a day to acclimatize to the altitude.

So my first hike after driving up from the lowlands was this shorter hike, out of North Lake. North Lake is one of three major jumping-off points at the head of Bishop Canyon: South Lake, Lake Sabrina, or North Lake. To get to North Lake, you drove up Bishop Canyon towards Lake Sabrina, then turned off on a mostly-dirt road just before getting to Sabrina.

It's a pretty exposed drive, but easily doable with a Prius, so not rough. Winds quickly up to near North Lake. But you can't actually park at the end, because that's a campground. I discovered on this trip that the campground didn't fill, even on Fourth of July weekend. But I already had my room down in Bishop. Just filed the information away for future reference.

I parked about 3/4 of a mile from the end, at a widespot in the road, where other cars were parked. On my walk along that road, I noticed it was lined with aspen, and also filed away for future reference that this might be a really nice fall hike. In fact, I did return here in the fall, and the colors were spectacular.

I planned this trip just by looking at USFS publications and what not. They had a flyer like this, but with information about hiking distances, but I can't find it, any more.

Lots of green meadows and wildflowers as I made my way past North Lake. Nice leopard lily, I think.

That one was right on that first climb after the campground. Many more varieties of flowers on this hike. This was early season, after all.

The approaches to each of the Lamarck Lakes passed by their outlets, with cascading water and more water-loving plants. Meanwhile, with the steep climb, there were amazing views of the surrounding mountains too.

I think I lost the trail just before reaching Upper Lamarck, or maybe I just didn't care, at that point. I just wanted to get a good view of the lake before I turned around. So I wound up on a rock outcropping, with the lake to my front and left. It was a nice view, but it was clearly not the actual trail.

This picture here was my turnaround point.

I think the next two shots were well-back, on the return, while the last few were below lower Lamarck Lake. I spent quite a lot of time on the way up trying to get shots of the flowers with a watery backdrop.

AllTrails gives a distance of two miles each way for this hike, and 1,600 feet of altitude gain, but I'm pretty sure that assumes you start at the actual trailhead, which you can't do, unless you're camping in the North Lake campground. Add 1 to 2 miles roundtrip, depending on where you park, and a bit more altitude, also depending on where you park. It's a pretty good distance for a just-arrived hike, as it's at significant altitude. North Lake is at about 9,100 feet, and you go up, from there.

It was a good start to the trip. Just right for the time had. In fact, it was getting pretty dark by the time I got back to my car.

Very dark by the time I made the drive down. Fourth of July fireworks was going off down in Bishop.
No permit required for dayhikes. Obviously, hiking too much after dark is not necessarily a good idea, due to the presence of human-acclimatized bears. So, if you are hiking much after dark, try not to smell like food.