Thursday, July 12, 2018

Big Pine Lakes Backpacking

Big Pine.  Lone Pine.  Bishop.  These were just the funny little names of the quirky towns that we could always count on for food and gas while driving up the Highway 395 to Mammoth during snowboarding season.  I never would have imagined that these seemingly random places would end up becoming actual destinations for us.  It's true that there isn't really anything much to see or do in the towns themselves, but these towns serve as the gateways into endless options for adventure in the Eastern Sierra that we were totally oblivious to until this year.  Our first trip to Big Pine itself was last September, and we day-hiked to Big Pine Lakes on a whim by driving to the trailhead and doing an out-and-back hike on the North Fork trail.  We saw backpackers setting up their tents on the rocks above the gorgeous lakes, and I remember that we both were thinking, that could be us.

Little did I know that it really would be us.  This place is really popular (for obvious reasons), so we made sure to jump on it as soon as the reservation window opened.  By January, we had already locked in a mid-June weekend and we had most things that we needed in order to spend the night already, thanks to Wes's diligent research.  It was a much-anticipated backpacking trip, and it was awesome.  Of course, parts of it were less awesome, like pooping into a hole in the ground and getting swarmed by HOARDS of these crazy mosquitoes...and the combination of the two...but we would do it all again.  I think that the only thing we'd change is to pre-treat all of our stuff with mosquito repellent and get some stronger stuff... or avoid the season in general.  Wes must have had a hundred bites (if not more) all over his body.  Those dreaded bugs were able to push their stingers through our socks and long-sleeved shirts and even underneath the brim of our hats.  They were not only "ferocious," as the park ranger had put it, but absolutely merciless.  And they were completely unavoidable, despite covering up and bug spraying any exposed skin.

We intended to do lots of side-hikes to see more of the area since we had a full day to spare, but we ended up just being really laidback and hanging out a lot at Lake #2, which is where we chose to set up our tent.  This is undeniably the most beautiful lake out of the seven.  With such a prime camp spot, it would have been silly to not have taken full advantage!  We brought two cameras, our Sony RX1 and also our new Go Pro 6 on this trip and totally went crazy with the photos... we had forgotten how fun it was to have a Go Pro.

Eating the lightweight mountain meals that we brought with us was also a fun and exciting experience.  I'm not sure if other backpackers get as much of a kick out of their food as we do, but discovering the intricacies of rehydrating Backpackers' Pantry pad thai and the oddly satisfying taste and texture of freeze-dried Mexican chocolate ice cream were two of our favorite moments from this trip overall.  We had a lot of fun picking out these packaged lightweight dried foods at REI when they were on sale a while ago, so now was our chance to break them out.

In general, just being far away from all of the conveniences of the modern world was a wonderful way to recharge and reset.  We both had a few weeks of unpredictable and jam-packed work schedules, with Wes traveling out of state for two weeks back-to-back and me starting at a new school with a completely new caseload and picking up extra assignments every day at my second job at the skilled nursing facility.  It was great to have no email or calendar notifications, no alarms to set, and no definitive plans whatsoever.  No decisions needed to be made over what to eat or what chores/errands we could squeeze in, and no communication with anybody who was not present could possibly be had, since there was no reception.  The only things we needed to focus on were our basic needs: obtaining water, cooking our food, tending to our bodily functions, and avoiding bears.  We went to sleep after watching the sun set (at 9 PM or something!) and watched the stars come out through the transparent material of our tent ceiling.  For two mornings in a row, we woke up to Temple Crag looming over us in all of its glory.  It was worth it, swollen mosquito bites, grimy fingernails, sweaty armpits, and all.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Fourth of July Feasting and Hiking

Fourth of July - it was supposed to be a low-key Wednesday off this year, but as always, that is never the case with us.  We rarely have a low-key day, even weekdays after work have been packed with exciting things to do, like cooking extravagant dinners to reward ourselves for the long day's work.  So with an obligatory mid-week day off on the horizon, I was both anxious and excited that we had nothing planned, but then when I heard that my brother was going to be coming back to Southern California that day, it all changed.  I guess Wes could have guessed that it would be inevitable that we'd end up making big plans.  It's been a trend for us - we've never had a quiet Fourth of July.  I'm glad that this year was full of laughter, good food, and family time, even though it took some last-minute scrambling.  And after the party, we tried something new.  We headed up to Echo Mountain at sunset to join the hoards of locals who also were crazy enough to put in 5 miles of hiking on a national holiday.  The view was worth it and the people were fun!  We were really glad that we dragged our butts out to participate in this Pasadena tradition this year.