TR: Pine Creek Loop | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Pine Creek Loop

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

TR: Pine Creek Loop

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 28, 2014 9:49 am

Pine Creek Loop Sept 22- 27 2014

The purpose of this last high altitude trip of 2014 was to catch fish and get photographs; neither was very successful, but it was a great trip nevertheless. The memory card in my camera was nearly full and I had yet to backup, so I slipped in a new memory card with a big “16” on the label. It was a Cannon card, not some off brand. Since my current memory card as 16 GB, I stupidly assumed this other card was also “GB”. I took one photo at home to test it. After the third photo on my trip, it said “out of memory”. Turned out it was 16 MB, not GB. So for the rest of the trip, I would take a photo and then when I saw another better photo, I would delete a photo. In all I got four photos. What a way to learn a lesson!

Day 1. Sacramento to French Lake. I got up at 5AM and was on the road at 6AM taking the Mormon Emigrant Road to avoid the potential problems on Hwy 50 due to the King Fire. It still was smoky all the way to Bridgeport. I picked up my permit at the Mono Lake Visitor Center and parked at the Pine Creek Trailhead, getting on the trail at 11AM. My plan was to at least get to Pine Lake, farther if I had time. I was surprised at how quickly I got up the switchbacks to Pine Lake. There I stopped for lunch and to take photos, when to my surprise, I discovered that my memory card had only 16 MB capacity! One option was to return to my car and go to Bishop and buy another card. Given that I had a deadline due to a doctor’s appointment, that option would not only require humping up the 2,600 feet again, but would cut my trip short a day. I cannot describe how disappointed I was. Perhaps my frustration turned into energy because I continued up the trail quickly to the junction. It was late afternoon and I could either turn right and head to Granite Park, or turn left and head to Pine Creek Pass and do the trip the opposite direction. I was already tired, so the big easy trail to Pine Creek Pass won. I could camp at the lakes at the pass. Shadows grew longer as I climbed to the pass. I still had daylight, so I continued to French Lake, arriving at 5:30 with half an hour sun left. I quickly set up my tent and fished until I lost sunlight at 6:00. No luck and it got frigid when the sunlight ended. I put on everything I had and cooked dinner and got into my sleeping bag by 7:00. It was dark by 7:30 and I was beat. At least all that work kept my mind off the fact that I would get only four photos, the weather was perfect and the hike was very scenic from the first step out of the parking lot. I had hiked 7.6 miles, 4000 feet elevation gain, including a 5-hour drive. Having come from sea level to 11,300 feet in one day I did not sleep well. Within an hour the temperature dropped below dew point, and immediately my single wall tent was wet inside and out. By midnight, the dew turned to frost. I tossed and turned all night. A coyote howled. I met several backpackers on the switchbacks, but nobody above Pine Lake.

Day 2. French Lake to Royce Lakes. I awoke to early sunlight, having chosen my campsite specifically with this goal. I had planned to fish again but there was not a rise to be seen. So I packed up the fishing rod and got on my way, visiting most of the lakes on this bench above French Creek, planning to camp at Elba Lake. I saw small fish at Steelhead Lake, but decided not to fish, instead continuing to Star Lake where I put together the fishing rod and fished for about half an hour. The wind picked up rippling the water and making casting difficult, but it did give me time to really enjoy Star Lake which is very scenic. Then I moved to Puppet Lake walking along the north shoreline. I stashed my pack and went down to Paris Lake and fished, with no luck. Then back up to Puppet Lake to fish the west shoreline. When I did the High Route in 2010 I dropped directly from Puppet Lake, which was a bit difficult. This time I went over to the north side of Alsace Lake finding this route to Elba Lake much easier. At Elba Lake I was back in the trees, but the lake was shallow. I continued to Moon Lake which looked like it would be deeper and better fishing. Then it occurred to me that camping here would be in a bowl, being in both late afternoon and early morning shadows. As I headed towards L Lake I simply decided that I could make it to the small unnamed lake east of Royce Lakes where I would have more sunlight. In addition the weather report was for possible rain (snow) on Thursday, and I did not want to dally so I could get to Bear Basin before the potential storm. So I packed up the fishing rod and got moving! I arrived at this small lake (more of a pond) with enough daylight to cook dinner in sunlight. As much as the Royce Lakes would offer more scenic camping, they would be in shadows so I was happy at my little lake in the sunshine. The night was below freezing but it was dry and breezy so no frost. In fact my groundsheet did not even get damp. It was another long day, of about 8 miles, only about 1,800 feet elevation gain and lots of fishing stops. The weather was again perfect. I saw one fellow in the distance at Moon Lake.

Image

Day 3. Royce Lakes to White Bear Lake. I awoke to warm sunlight on my tent at 7AM! The sunlight was perfect for photos of the Royce Lakes. I took photos, deleting previous ones when I got a better one. The one I kept probably was not the best. There was a fair use-trail along the north side of Lake 11725. Getting to the pass at the northeast end of the next higher lake was more difficult with all the large talus. The drop down the north side was easier, as I stayed on sloping slabs and passed the unnamed lake on the east side. Later I would find out that the west side was actually easier. I intersected the Italy Pass Trail and stopped to take photos where the trail crosses the creek. I kept what I guessed was the best. I now had two photos. As I started up to Italy Pass I met an energetic fellow who was doing a day-climb of Mt Julius Cesar. It was 11AM. Fortunately he gave me an update on the weather forecast. Thursday was still to be windy but dry. A newly forecast bigger storm was coming in Saturday and Sunday. I felt a lot better heading over Italy Pass and Dancing Bear Pass knowing that I a few days before possible snow. I had been over Dancing Bear Pass twice trying to traverse high. This time I would bite the bullet and drop down to 11,900 feet above Jumble Lake. Although I had to regain the elevation the route was a lot easier. The snowfield on the pass was totally gone! I arrived at White Bear Lake at about 1:30 in high winds. I set up behind a rock at the pass to Black Bear Lake. Here I was out of the wind and would also get both late sun and early sun. Then I dropped to Black Bear Lake to fish. The wind only increased and my fly casting was pretty bad. I fished for over an hour and did not get a bite. But it was a nice way to enjoy the amazing scenery. Back up to camp I took a break and then fished all along the northwest shoreline of White Bear Lake, again with no luck. I peeked over the edge but decided I was too tired to drop to explore the lower lakes. Instead I jumped into White Bear Lake for a chilly bath! Back at camp I cooked dinner in the late sunshine. The wind really picked up at night. By midnight clouds rolled in. I had gone about 6.5 miles and 2000 feet gain- pretty much an easy day.

Image

Day 4. White Bear Lake to Granite Park. I had again picked a great camp for early morning sun. Problem was that there were enough clouds that the sunshine was come and go and the wind was fierce and frigid. It was well below freezing! I looked out the tent door at 6:30 concerned with the ominous clouds. I got up wearing everything I had with me and cooked breakfast in the shadows. It looked very threatening so I wanted to get out of there quickly. Unfortunately I could not wait around for the sun to light the lake so I could get a photo. I headed back over Dancing Bear Pass, the wind nearly knocking me down. I was relieved when I got over Italy Pass and could sit down for a break out of the wind. It only took an hour to get to Italy Pass. The clouds were amazing. They sped past going northeast but the wind at ground level was swirling in all directions. At the first lake there was even a water spout, like a small tornado. I decided not to fish here! Then I tried to go directly to the next lake, getting stuck in the moraine so returned to the trail taking the longer route to the next lake. I fished this lake for more than an hour between gusts of wind and managed to catch a big headed trout. I got several other bites but like all fishermen say, “the big one got away”. I cleaned my one fish and put it in a baggie full of water, and moved down to camp where the trail crosses the creek and cooked the fish for lunch. The weather remained quite unstable. I wondered if I should drop lower but decided to stay high and set up between a scrub tree and large rock for wind protection. It was 2PM and I gave myself an hour and half to day-hike to Chalfant Lakes. I purposely did not take the fishing rod, knowing that once I got to fishing turn-around times were always forgotten. Given the unstable weather I did not want to take any chances. It is a 500-foot drop to these lakes which sit in a beautiful hidden cirque. I walked around the upper large lake which was very shallow. I thought I saw tadpoles, but whatever these little things were darted into the water quickly and were immediately obscured by wind driven ripples. Back at camp the weather was holding so I took the fishing rod to third large lake in Granite Park and walked all the way around the lake fishing. I saw several fish but they showed no interest in my fly. They followed the fly and simply said no. I tried a different fly with the same results. Fly casting in the wind was interesting to say the least. I got back to camp at 5PM, cooked dinner in sunlight. Shadows fell early and it was frigid so I hopped in the bag by 6:30. It was cloudy at night but clear by the next morning. I saw nobody all day.

Day 5. Granite Park to Pine Lake. I watched the sun hit the top of surrounding peaks while snug inside my sleeping bag. As soon as the sun hit my tent, I put on all my clothes and went to the trail crossing. The shallow creek was frozen with nearly a quarter inch of ice. Small fish were swimming underneath! I took my last two photos. Then back up to my tent on the small knoll for breakfast. I debated whether to walk all the way out. I would wait and see what weather evolved. As I walked down the “trail” I was glad I did not have to follow this trail in snow. It is rough country and the trail is not easy to follow even in perfect weather. I stopped to check out the campsites at Honeymoon Lake where there were already several people camped. Then I dropped to Pine Lake running into several people hiking in to camp at Honeymoon Lake, a packer bringing supplies. People were also camped at Upper Pine Lake. Honestly, Pine Lake is more scenic and the fishing is better and I had it to myself. The weather was still great so I spent considerable time hunting for a campsite. I went back up to Upper Pine Lake to fish, catching two small fish, throwing back the “sardines”. It was again very windy and casting was a challenge. Then I dropped back to Pine Lake and fished the inlet. It was easy fishing but the fish were not large. I caught my limit- enough for dinner but what a chore to clean! Not sure the effort was worth it. Clouds began drifting in late afternoon. By midnight it was blowing and snowing! Thankfully only about a quarter inch of snow stuck.

Image

Image

Day 6. It was only a 2 hour hike down to my car. Clouds were swirling all over and snow was on the trail. The White Mountains looked to have more snow. Sonora Pass was closed. As I drove north it began to rain. It was actually snowing on Luther Pass. Driving was difficult as it rained hard all the way from Tahoe to Placerville.



User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2606
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Pine Creek Loop

Postby rlown » Sun Sep 28, 2014 10:14 am

A very nice report, WD. bummer about the memory card size. I generally carry 3 cards in my little camera case. You still got some nice pics. Just get rid of the smaller card and it'll never happen again :)

Weather didn't sound like fun.
User avatar
rlown
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 5328
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:00 pm
Location: Petaluma and Wilton, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Pine Creek Loop

Postby austex » Sun Sep 28, 2014 10:22 am

WD- Thanks for the TR and the limited pictures. Yes a disappointment but you can go another time as they say. It should be there next time. Well written as usual. I hope to have my Tr's up in a few weeks.
User avatar
austex
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 365
Joined: Mon May 21, 2012 11:51 am
Location: Austin, Texas
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Pine Creek Loop

Postby giantbrookie » Sun Sep 28, 2014 5:37 pm

Holy smokes I didn't even know they made 16 Mb cards. Don't know why they would.

Bummer about the photo situation as well as the uncooperative fish, but that is a very nice hiking loop and the photos you did take are gorgeous. I'm also glad you were a lot closer to the trailhead by the time the weather hit. From down in the low country (Fresno) things looked mighty fierce up there by Thursday. By Friday I was up along the Sonoma Coast doing field work and on my drive back to a good pub that afternoon evening I was treated to a pretty dramatic shower complete with flashes of lightning and a terrific rainbow.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2439
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Pine Creek Loop

Postby SSSdave » Sun Sep 28, 2014 5:43 pm

You're quite the black wood ant again haha. 16mb sdram haven't been manufactured for years so it should have looked old too. I always take several memory cards, way more than I need because the weight is insignificant and media occasionally gets corrupted in ways one can only recover images via special software running on a pc.

Probably quite a bit of snow up there now. Forecasters were wrong about how long the trough would remain in our region. Seen this all before and is one reason I often steer less experienced away from ambitious fall trips even if troughs are only supposed to drop as far south as Oregon. The atmosphere has a mind of its own.

Originally there were only supposed to be a few snow showers down to the Mammoth region Friday with modest snow showers further north that would readily eject east out of Nevada's Great Basin. Then by Wednesday they changed their tune saying it would work further south and linger into Saturday. In the SF Bay Area here in the South Bay was supposed to be just a few hundredths. But hey we got a third to half an inch and then the trough set up atop the Eastern Sierra and has stayed there. Pretty much doused the King Fire out. Even snowed down to lake level in Tahoe. Here's Squaw Valley Saturday:

Image
User avatar
SSSdave
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1965
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:18 pm
Location: Silicon Valley
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Pine Creek Loop

Postby ndwoods » Sun Sep 28, 2014 10:27 pm

Nice TR, thanks
User avatar
ndwoods
Founding Member
 
Posts: 236
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Experience: N/A


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bill Carson, Bing [Bot], Google Adsense [Bot], playero1 and 8 guests

cron