Eastern Sierra: Pt 1

Since I don’t have another photo trip planned until around mid March, 2012, I thought I’d share a fairly recent trip into the Eastern Sierra with you.

This was to be a ten day, solo outing, based from Bishop, CA.

The plan was to leave San Diego about 2am and get to Bishop around 8am. Once in Bishop, I would pick up widerness passes, drop the truck off at Pine Creek Pack Station and get a ride back to North Lake trailhead campground.  I would spend two days at North Lake before beginning the 30 mile trek through the mountains, back to the truck.

The last time I tried this, in 2007, I cut the two day stay at North Lake out and ended up sick in the tent for five days, stuck at Lock Leven.  In hindsight; maybe driving overnight from sea level to 9200’, then donning a 65 lb pack and hiking to about 11,000’ all in the same day, with nothing but cheeseburgers and caffeine in my system wasn’t such a good idea… I mean, I was fine until I got camp set up that first day, and then I started looking at food… and that’s when it hit me. I wasn’t even able to look at food without throwing up, let alone keep anything down. This went on for five days! I was unable to move without being sick and I was starting to get pretty worried; I was set up in a place where anyone passing below me wouldn’t be able to see me directly. But on the morning of the sixth day, I woke up and I was hungry! I settled on chicken and rice and was feeling better by the time I finished. I sat for a few minutes, drinking some water and everything seemed okay. At this point, I packed up camp and headed for home…I’d have to finish this another time.

This latest trip was a success and I was lucky enough to see some amazing scenery!

Between now and my next photo outing, I’ll share the 10 day Sierra trip, broken into parts.

Hope you enjoy!

Eastern Sierra: Day 1 – North Lake

All I could think about was the mountains…I was stuck in traffic, on my way to work, as usual…but today was the day! It was going to be a long day, but I welcomed it.

After work, I drove home and inventoried the gear one more time before packing it up and loading the truck.  I didn’t eat very heavy; mainly fruit and trail mix and a lot of water. I didn’t want to get sick again this time.

Now all I had to do was wait for 2am – That would put me in Bishop at 8. Since I usually do these outings alone, I didn’t have to wait for anyone to show up, but the down side to solo excursions, is that you have to carry everything yourself. My friends think I’m crazy, going off into the wilderness, alone. I tell them, it’s my church and they are welcome along on the trek… but since Google, most have been able to figure out that ‘trek’ means really long walk…and all have declined so far.

I have been out on a couple trips with groups and have really enjoyed the experience, but there’s nothing like being out there alone. Just you… and the lakes, mountains, sun and stars…That’s what I was looking forward to.

I thought about this in daydreams until it was time to leave, then updated my FB status and hit the road.

There are a few benefits to leaving at 2am: no traffic; 80-85mph; cooler temps through the desert means no A/C.

The drive went without a hitch. I even remembered to stop and get some sunrise shots for my cousin Shawna.

While I was getting the sunrise shots in the middle of the Mojave Desert, three coyotes came to within about 20’ behind me. As I turned around, I saw them, and as I raised the camera, they were already running away.

I arrived in Bishop around 8:15am and headed to White Mountain Ranger Station to get my passes and post my itinerary. *screeching brakes noise* The ranger station couldn’t give out passes until 11am…they said there wouldn’t be an issue getting the passes; no reservations were needed, they just couldn’t issue them until 11.

So I grabbed a flier that listed some shuttle companies, and I was pretty hungry so I headed to a diner for an omelet and some fruit. After I ate, I headed to K Mart to walk around and see if I needed to buy anything impulsively…it turns out I did…There were some Velcro straps and clippie thingies that I couldn’t live without. I didn’t need them for this trip…I just thought they’d be cool to have…you know?

I’ve always loved the K Mart in Bishop. I’ve been coming here for over ten years and this is always one of my last stops before the wilderness. I love sitting in the parking lot, looking across at the mountains, knowing that I’m really here, again.

While I was waiting for 11am, I sat in K Mart parking lot and started contacting shuttle companies from the flier I got from the ranger station. The second or third company picked up and wanted $120 to drive me and my backpack from Pine Creek to North Lake…ouch!  He reminded me that business was slow and that they needed to get all that they could at the end of the season.  I could empathize, but $120 was more than I wanted to spend. I thought about it for a minute, and offered him $60.00. He said he would have his wife meet me at Pine Creek at 1pm. I was set!

I was in the ranger station at 11am and was out by 11:20. It was about 45 minutes to Pine Creek, and I was craving McDonald’s cheeseburgers. I stopped before I left Bishop and got a bag for the road…and for dinner.  I could justify this now because I couldn’t hold any more fluids and I would need all the carbs I could get from here on out.

I pulled into Pine Creek Pack Station and parked. The scenery was awesome. I got a few quick shots, and then I unloaded my pack one more time and re-inventoried everything.

I went over the checklist and made sure I had everything on it. When I got to, extra camera battery, I knew what I had forgotten at K Mart. It was too late – I would have to get 10 days out of a single camera battery. (I still had my cell phone…)

After a few more minutes, my ride pulled up and we were on our way to North Lake. Before I knew it, we were there and she was gone! It was just me and the backpack from here on out!

The campground wasn’t very crowded. It was Tuesday, and they were only open for another few days before closing for the season. I picked a camp site that was raised a little and had two small streams running on either side of it. It was away from the main body of sites and put me a little closer to the trail head. The site had a fire pit, picnic table, a bear box, and someone had gathered and bunched some pine needles together, which made for a great place to set up the tent.

After I got settled in, it was about 3pm. I started walking the dirt road that leads up to North Lake. The scenery was awesome which made for some great pictures, and I didn’t mind the walk at all.

I would walk down a quarter mile and then back up, and then down a half mile and back up. I did this repeatedly until well after dark. I was counting on this, along with all of the fluids to help me acclimatize to the drastic altitude change without getting sick.

I know it’s not the Himalaya, but going from sea level to 9200’ in a few hours, and then doing strenuous exercise, is pretty extreme for my body.

By about 11:00pm, I was out. I had been up for two full days with no sleep.

I’ll pick this up again at Day 2 – Grass Lake.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!


4 thoughts on “Eastern Sierra: Pt 1

  1. Now I know what not to do if I ever trek one day.. no overloading on fast food and caffeine and overnight drives!
    Sadly there’re no places like this from where I’m from. You’re so lucky! (: And thanks for all the posts – I read it backwards haha

    • Hi Zee,
      …sooo…this is where your post went!

      I remember seeing it, and then couldn’t find it again to comment.

      Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed it..and yes, the details from my previous attempt are a perfect example of how to wind up sick in the tent the whole trip. lol

      Glad this one was more successful, and I hope you get to experience a place like this very soon!

  2. Pingback: 清境農場和合歡山(3)—高山症和注意事項 | 馬可波娃邊走邊看

  3. I just realized I never read the beginning of your Eastern Sierra story. I’m so excited the story isn’t really over! I love that you refer to the outdoors as your church. I feel more spiritual outdoors than anywhere else. I’ve never been camping alone, but I think I would like it and I’m starting to feel it’s necessary. We are so bombarded everyday with so many things, it seems like it’s the only way to refill the well, so to speak. As always, your photos are beautiful. I’m so glad I have more Eastern Sierra to read!

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