When planning this trip I kept three things in mind for the first day: it’s a long drive to the trailhead from the Bay Area, I had to pick up my permit, and we’d be high for this trip. High in the altitude sense, of course. I’ve spent a lot of time above 10,000 feet this summer (including a summit of Mt Whitney), but you never want to push it on the first day.
The original plan for this trip would take us on a lollipop loop from North Lake (outside of Bishop), over Lamarck Col, into Darwin Canyon and Evolution Basin, then loop through McGee Canyon before heading back out via Lamarck Col. This is still a great itinerary, just not what we ended up doing. But I’ll save the details for the upcoming entries. The first day’s plan, due to the above three reasons, was a short 3-mile jaunt from the trailhead to Upper Lamarck Lake. And that’s the plan we stuck to. So far, so good.
Things didn’t start off smoothly due to the Big Meadow fire in Yosemite. 120 was closed so we weren’t able to make it to 395 that way. Instead we took 108. I actually prefer 108 in many ways, but it does add some time. Once we made it to the East side of the Sierra, had lunch, picked up our permits, bought my new pack, made it to the trailhead, and repacked all of my gear into the new pack, it was about 3:30. Oh, did I just say I bought a new pack? I committed a backpacking sin – I bought untested, brand new gear right before hitting the trail for a six day trip. Worse, it was the pack itself – a very important part of the kit! I know, you’re all shaking your heads and saying, “I thought she knew what she was doing…”
So this was a purchase I’ve been mulling over for some time, and the opportunity presented itself at Wilson’s East Side Sports in Bishop. They had the Osprey Exos 58 in my size, and after trying it on and confirming that it fit exactly like my other Osprey pack, I decided to pull the trigger. It’s bigger than my old Osprey Ariel, has a suspension system that fits and carries just as comfortably, and weighs under two pounds for the size small (half the weight of my Ariel). Best of all, my Bearikade actually fits in it with room to spare. Finding a lightweight pack that can carry a full bear canister comfortably is a difficult task – sure, they’ll fit in many packs, but they won’t feel good. I’ll gush more about this pack in a future blog entry, but to spare the suspense, it was a truly wonderful pack on the trail and I was very, very pleased with it.
Anyways, back to the trail. (I had to fill up this entry with something since we only hiked three miles this day). We started off under forming storms, but it was difficult to distinguish the difference between the smoke from the Yosemite and Southern California fires and the clouds. Climbing out of North lake was a pleasant and easy hike, and I decided I really liked this trail when it gave us early peeks into the high country. We also spotted some yellow in the aspens – fall will be here very soon. It wasn’t too long before we were at the Lower Lamarck Lake. Here we caught up with another hiker who was looking for a campsite. We crossed the outlet and continued to the Upper Lamarck Lake.
Apparently somewhere in here there is an equestrian trail that splits off to avoid the gnarly terrain, but we never found it and ended up hopping the boulders along the drainage in between the two lakes. It wasn’t a big deal, and before too long we found ourselves at Upper Lamarck Lake. I had some bad information about campsite locations, so we wandered aimlessly before coming back to the outlet creek to camp. After finding a delightful campsite we set up and fished the creek and lake for a while. On my first cast I pulled out a beautiful brook trout.
Back at camp, it started sprinkling just in time for dinner. We endured a small squall, and eventually retired to our tents, exausted from the long day of driving, purchasing gear, and hiking. We knew we had a big day in front of us the next day, but I tried not to think about it as I dozed off to the sound of rain on the tent.