I’m in hate and love relationship with summer. Temperatures climbing over 100 degrees Fahrenheit binds me indoors at home. But same raising temperatures melts snow on higher elevations and opens up high country for backpacking. We had above average of snow accumulation in California last year. Many trails are still buried under snow and creeks and rivers are roaring with flood of water from snow melt. Conditions are getting better at high elevation day by day.
Last week I went on my first backpacking trip of the year (7/21/2017 thru 7/23/2017). I originally planned to hike up to Ediza Lake in Mammoth lakes area. Unfortunately due to road closures (road bed compromised due to soil erosion caused by snow melt), I had to drop that plan. Saket Jain and Ashish Shah joined me on this trip. We started from home at 10PM on Thursday after work and reached Bishop around 3AM. Slept few hours and reached ranger station in the morning to check out trail conditions and obtain permits. I was expecting usual long lines for back country permits. To my pleasant surprise, no line at all. I was suspicious about trail conditions in high country. We enquired about Sabrina lake basin conditions. Ranger told us that we may hit snow at 10500 ft. and above. He also urged to be very careful at creek/river crossings. Plenty of permits available (made me more worried than happy). We did not get very clear picture on trail condition, but decided to carry micro spikes (to get traction on snow) and pursue the trail with open mind. Decided to turn back, had we come across a river crossing or snow field that is impassable. Since we are starting on Friday, instead of two days, we have three days to finish the trail. My plan was to hike up to Hungry Packer Lake, which is located at 11000 ft., at foot hills of Picture Peak (unofficial peak name; according to USGS, its part of Mt. Haeckel).
We drove up to Sabrina Lake. We did not find any dedicated overnight parking. We parked roadside about a quarter mile from trail head. We started the hiking at 12PM.
Trail head is at 9070ft elevation. Trail was well shaded for some of the sections with of course lot of sections exposed to sun. Trail immediately started climbing up from Sabrina Lake. We hiked with very relaxed pace knowing that we have two days to hike up to hungry packers lake. After George lake trail junction, we came across our first creek crossing (out of 6) at a waterfall. Lake Sabrina has two major inlets. Drainage from George lake in the south and a confluence of drainages from Blue, Dingle Berry and Fish Gut lakes in the west. The one we came across was the drainage from George lake. We decided not to do boulder hoping with packs, but simply walk through it; did not want to risk 1000ft slide down to Sabrina lake.
We stopped for lunch around 3PM. Saket has been lugging puri with achar that his sister packed for him. It’s the best lunch I ever had on trail. Thanks for Saket and his sister. I still remember the store bought tortillas and mango pickle that I forced myself to eat on John Muir Trail couple of year back.
We reached Blue lake (at 10500ft.) around 5PM. We wanted to push forward to Dingle Berry Lake for the night. But Saket started to feel light headedness and head ache, typical high elevation symptoms. We had hardly any sleep last two nights and did not properly acclimatized. Going from sea level to over 10K ft. elevation without acclimatization definitely has repercussion. Our decision was clear. We stopped at Blue Lake for the night. We had plenty of time anyway to reach Hungry Packer Lake tomorrow. It was good decision. Blue lake was great place with beautiful views. It’s nestled below Mt. Thomson and Mt. Powel.
Here is our first day camp site.
Day 1 route.
We did not shoot sunset, but took some milky way pictures.
(Search for extraterrestrials …with flashlight 🙂 … thanks to Ashish for modeling )
Ashish doing Pranayama in the morning. Pranayama is yogic breathing exercise.
After we finished morning chores, we started on our way to Hungry Packer lake.
We started to see patches of snow starting from 10500ft., but we could easily bypass them. Micro spikes and gaiters that I was carrying were sheer waste of extra weight. Trees started to be thinning out, but continued to be dominated by what appears as White bark pine and Lodge pole pines.
Watermelon Snow …
We saw lot of watermelon snow. Red color in snow is caused by a kind of snow loving green algae that grows on snow as temperatures warm up. In addition to chlorophyll, they have red carotenoid pigment also.
Mosquitos were horrendous. We proved that there is nothing better than deet to fight mosquitos 🙂
At Dingle Berry Lake
We reached Moon light falls (11,000 ft.) by 3 o’clock. We immediately loved the basin and decided to camp there. My plan was to shot Moonlight Falls at sunrise with picture peak in background. So decided that’s right place to camp out.
Here is our camp site of day 2, at foot hills of Mt. Powel and Picture Peak (It’s not official name. As per USGS, its part of Mt. Haeckel).
We camped close to Sailor lakes. Here is our day-2 route.
Here are some pictures from that area
Next day, we started at 9:30 AM and returned to trail head by 4PM.
Enjoying my morning coffee and Kachori (an Indian spicy snack). We hiked about total 14.5 miles and elevations (effective) is about 2500ft. in three days. It allowed us to take many breaks and enjoy each location thoroughly.