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Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Mammoth Lakes

23rd July 2010

Walking in the Land of Turquoise Lakes and Lush Pathways

    After the usual exotic breakfast, I had a chat with the guy from the next pitch while I was savouring my coffee. He too had done the Methuselah trail yesterday, and was off to tackle Patriarch Grove, another ancient forest some miles further on the White Mountain Road. I picked his brains about campsites on the eastern side of Yosemite. He informed me that only one was reservation only, the others were half reservations and half first-come-first-served. This was encouraging, and I would take my chances when I got there.
    I headed back down the long road to Big Pine, and called in at the launderette. Whilst washing and drying, I burned some CDs with recent photos, nipped across to the Post Office, and got them dispatched to the UK.
Cascading Waters
    After topping up with petrol, ice, milk and beef jerky, I headed up Big Pine Creek to the trailhead. I would be hiking in the John Muir Wilderness again. There were many trails and lakes up there in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada, one of which had a succession of seven lakes, aptly called the Seven Lakes. Reaching Lakes 1, 2 and 3 was considered a good day's hike, so that was my objective. I filled up my backpack with water, jerky, trail mix and an apple, and set off.
    It was a steady, relentless climb all the way. The terrain was open, arid country to begin with, but the trail soon converged with streams and the river. From then on the trail was shaded by trees, and often very lush with green vegetation. A new display of multicoloured flowers appeared round every bend.
    The sound of fast flowing water and waterfalls was constantly around me. The trail was home for thousands of chipmunks, scurrying about as soon as they caught sight of me. I even came across a snake on the trail. I had no idea what variety it was, but it slithered away as soon as it saw me, and it didn't rattle.
The Lushness on the Trail
A Wild Flower
Another Wild Flower
    I overtook a family going up the same trail. They had a 10 month old baby on the woman's back; it was his first hiking and camping trip. They were heading up to Lake 5 where they intended to camp out for the night. Later I passed another family who were heading down the trail. They too had a baby on the lady's back. Why were the females carrying the offspring?
    By coincidence, I met the guy I had overtaken yesterday on the Methuselah trail, the chap who was photographing every tree. He was coming down today's trail while I was still heading up. We recognised each other instantly. He had been as far as the first ridge to do some fishing. However, he hadn't taken his mosquito repellent with him, so he was beating a hasty retreat. Perhaps I would bump into him again tomorrow.
Big Pine Lake 1
Big Pine Lake 2
Big Pine Lake 3
    The incessant climb was a bit of a drag, but all of a sudden there was Lake 1, a gorgeous milky turquoise colour due to the glacial particles suspended in it. I didn't linger, I carried straight on to Lake 2. Again this was a lovely turquoise colour.
Sentinel Over the Lakes - Temple Crag
    A short more strenuous hike brought me up to Lake 3. This was an even milkier turquoise colour due to its closeness to the glacier. It had taken me 3 hours to make this climb up to 10,290'. I had a chat with a fellow who was setting up his fishing rod, and quietly cursing that his eyes were not as good as they used to be. He and his pal were camping up by the lake for the night, and were hoping to catch some Golden Trout for supper. He used to come up here quite a lot in his younger days, from San Bernardino, to rock climb the surrounding peaks. He pointed out a vertical crag opposite, Temple Crag, 12,000' plus, which would have been a nice challenge, but he was past it now. It turned out he was a year younger than me. He went off to join his friend, and I clambered along the rocks to find a place to chill out and cool my feet.
    I found some convenient rocks by the lake, sat down and took my shoes off. Then slowly I dipped my feet into the water. As expected it was icy cold, but that made it all the more refreshing. However, after 20 seconds my feet were becoming painfully cold, and after another 10 seconds I had to take them out.
    I sat by the lake, basking in the sun, listening to the never ending sound of cascading water, and the occasional human shout from somewhere high up in the mountains. The location was heavenly, indeed Eastern Sierra Nevada was a Mecca for hikers and fishermen.
    I stayed by the lake for an hour before making the long return back to the trailhead. I met the fisherman, who had been cursing threading a hook earlier, with his mate. Neither had caught a fish, and so they were about to cook some freeze-dried food for their supper. We wished each other a safe trip, and I was off.
    The journey back was uneventful, but it took me two hours. My first priority was finding somewhere to stay for the night, since dispersed camping didn't seem to be an option here. All the campsites near the trailhead were full, so I headed down to one I had seen on the outskirts of Big Pine. It had room, was cheap, and also had showers.
    I was tired and didn't want to cook, so I walked the quarter of a mile into town to see what I could find. The first restaurant I came across was Italian, and without further ado I walked in and ordered a meal. It was a family run business, and all the walls were covered with family photographs and letters. Central stage was a battered old piano, laden with musical scores, and the bookcase to one side of it was also crammed with more music. A battered old chap in shorts was playing a melody of tunes at the keys, occasionally hitting a bum note, and also occasionally realising a tune was beyond him and just stopping mid flow, but it lent atmosphere to the place.
    Big Pine on a Friday night had all the liveliness of a morgue. It was mainly a place that people passed through. I had met a lot of people who had passed by Butte, Montana, but I was the only one who had stopped off there. Perhaps the same would apply here, though thousands passed through to hike in the mountains here, and maybe some stayed in the motels.
    I paid the bill and walked back to the campsite. I was totally shattered. Before nodding off to sleep, my mind dwelt on a quote I had read today:-

    "I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in"

                        John Muir 1838-1914.
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Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Mammoth Lakes

Uploaded from Curry Village Lounge, Yosemite CA on 26/07/10 at 17:20

Last updated 27.7.2010