Monday, August 31, 2009

Big Pine Creek

Big Pine is a little town on Highway 395 just south of Bishop. There is a BIG pine tree at the camp ground on the north end of town. And that tree might be Big Pine's claim for frame IF you don't leave the highway. IF you do leave the highway, to the east of Big Pine are the White Mountains with the Bristle Cone Pine forest and to the west is Big Pine Creek Recreation Area and Glacier Lodge.

Sharon and Evie headed south for home on Thursday morning; I also headed south but turned east out of Big Pine. The Glacier Lodge road runs eight miles from Big Pine to the site of Glacier Lodge which burned down several years ago. There's still a little store, a rustic rv park and the Big Pine campground.

I was meeting a friend at the Glacier Lodge campground. (Note to time stay in Big Pine campground!).

My site was about half way up the hill. Picnic table to the side. Electric hook-up that caused my surge guard to cut the power regularly....not too high, but too low. It paid for itself this trip! My view out the back doors of van.

After getting settled in I went for a walk to check out any adverse effects of 7500 foot elevation.
Previous days at Sabrina and in the White Mountains were clearly beneficial, I felt great. The trail head was a across the creek and around the corner. This is the bridge over Big Pine Creek into Glacier Lodge and campground.

Spring flowers are still blooming at this elevation.

So we made a easy hike, none of us were into climbing the 2000 feet to the first of a series of 7 lakes and then Palisade Glacier (southern most glacier in Sierra Nevada range).....just an easy fun day.......shortly after sunrise we were on the trail.

There are two choices......the South Fork of Big Pine Creek to Willow Lake or the North Fork Trail to the lake loop and the glacier. We picked the North Fork trail that passes the First through Seventh Lakes and eventually to the glacier at 14,000 feet.

The trail begins as a series of switch backs up a forested hill following Big Pine Creek. First Falls near the trail head.

We crossed the creek again and began a long climb up an exposed slope. Our trail is not the big one near the trees, but the second one up the hill.

Looking up to a forested cut in the mountain to Second Falls. The trail crosses over the granite about in the middle of the falls and then follows the creek for a beautiful meander through the woods.

Looking back at the exposed slope we climbed I liked how the trails intersected. Ours was the horizontal one. The other was almost straight up to eventually arrive at Miller Creek. Don't know how far!

The creeks in this area are more like rivers! Maybe 30-40 cubic feet per second.

Columbines and wild roses were happily blooming along this stretch.

Also these very tall purple flowers. My new field guide is out in the van. Will try to add a real name soon.

Pretty soon we were in an aspen grove. The endless variety of this area was fun and also interesting because we didn't know the trail.

The forest service trail guide mentioned Lon Chaney's cabin along the way. This was the only one we saw and it is currently a Wilderness Ranger outpost. By the way, we are hiking in the John Muir Wilderness. A big buck jumped out of the brush across the creek while we took a break here.

It was about 1 pm, we were thinking we were very close to First Lake so decided not to stop for lunch. That was a mistake as I will explain soon.

Lilies and swallowtail butterfly.

The sky is soooo blue in the high country.

We hiked on another hour or so, all up hill, all beautiful, surely First Lake was just ahead! So much for our leisurely walk. It's been several hours, a 2000 foot climb in maybe 4 miles. A glimpse of a hiker up ahead climbing yet another rise convinced us that it was time for a lunch break and to head back. We would save the lakes for another day when we actually intended to do that hike!

This is a shot of the switch backs below Second Falls. You can see a bit more of the trail in the lower right corner of picture.

The color of the snags against the blue sky was amazing.

Another gorgeous flower without a name. I bought the new Law's Field Guide in Bishop. It's really excellent if I would just use it!

On the way up the trail I didn't notice the straw flowers on this slope. They were in all shades of yellow, gold, orange, rust.

This is the South Fork canyon (you remember, we chose the North Fork).

Coming down was way faster than going up, less than two hours and we were within sight of camp. The old Glacier Lodge would have been set right in the center of this tiny clearing. My van is parked in the trees along the far edge. In the valley beyond is Big Pine and in the far distance are the White Mountains. This was a fantastic, spectacular, glorious hike, even if we didn't see the lakes! I love these mountains!


  1. The 395 corridor is a scenic and historic journey that I will always remember. Thanks for the memories.

    Considering this post on August 31st, it appears some of those wild flowers were late season bloomers. ;-)

  2. Beautiful shots! I just love that area, especially late September, early October. Are you sticking around?

  3. wandrin.....all the flowers are at 9000 plus I'm guessing some will still be blooming when snow flies!

    diana.....I'm here (on the west side) until mid-October...then in Austin for several months.

  4. Lovely country! That purple blossom might be a monkshood or a delphinium (both in the same family).


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