This is my first trip report on this site. All of the information I have found here is great, and I hope to add to the discussion.
This trip report is for the North Lake South Lake loop, offering a different perspective than the other recent trip report to the area. I did the loop on Tuesday, July 28th – Wednesday, July 29th. This trip was my third solo backpacking trip. I like to do longer, slower trips with my girlfriend or friends, but when I am by myself I like to push my limits. Heres some pictures from the trip for your viewing pleasure:http://imgur.com/gallery/rcJYr/new
I packed all of my gear on Sunday, July 26th. I would be starting the trip with a packweight of 23 lbs including 2 liters of water and 3 days of food. I brought an extra day of food in case I was not able to finish in two days. My plan was to camp at the North Lake Trailhead Monday night and be hiking by 5 AM Tuesday. I would hike 30 miles to Evolution Lake the first day, and 27 miles to my car at the South Lake trailhead on Wednesday. If I couldn't finish, I would camp in Dusy Basin and hike out Thursday.
Come Monday I drove out the Bishop, got a walk in permit and parked my car at the South Lake Trailhead by 2:00 PM. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking/hitching to South Lake. I got a ride for about 4 miles and walked the other 8 or so. I set up my camp at one of the walk-in sites that I had to pay $23 for. I would have walked in a little bit to get a backcountry camp site, but my permit did not start until the next day. Met a nice older man from Iowa who was going to do a section of the JMT from North Lake to Mammoth Lakes.
The next morning I was up at 4:00 AM and hiking by 4:30 AM. I hiked in the darkness until I was past my neighbors in the walk in sites, then turned on my headlamp. I've been up Piute Pass before, so hiking this part of the trail in the dark was no problem. I was over Piute Pass just after sunrise; it was beautiful! I spent the rest of the morning on my way to connect with the JMT. On the trail I saw fresh bear scat, a few deer, pack alpacas, and some amazing scenery. After crossing the bridge into Kings Canyon on the JMT, I started to run into a lot more people! They were mostly clustered in groups, and I would spend a mile or two alone before running into anyone, so it did not seem too crowded. My breaks consisted of chatting with different groups I was passing and pumping water. One great thing about this hike is that I rarely had to carry over 1 liter of water with me, but that meant I was stopping to filter more frequently. The hike was easy and enjoyable from the descent of Piute Pass all the way past Colby Meadows, right before the ascent to Evolution Lake. My confidence that I would complete this in two days was growing!
I had already hiked around 25 miles at this point, but I did not realize how tired my legs were until I hit the switchbacks to Evolution Lake. My pace dropped significantly, and I was starting to get passed by the JMT hikers! Oh well, it was not a race, so I kept trudging along. Along the way, I saw fawns playing in a distant field, but they were too distant to get a good picture with my phone. As I reached the north side of Evolution Lake, I decided I wanted to get over Muir Pass today! It was already 5:00 PM at that point and I was horribly tired, but I soldiered on.
Then I got to the south side of Evolution Lake, saw a good campsite away from everyone else, and plopped down. Muir Pass can wait; I'm having a beer.
A medium strength wind kept the bugs at bay and allowed me to watch the lake as the sun set, while enjoying some chili and a can of pale ale. At around 8 I crawled into bed and fell asleep pretty quickly, waking up around midnight. I generally sleep very lightly in the backcountry, so this was progress! Then I slept on and off until around 3:30, when I woke up and packed up my gear. I was on the trail by 4:00 AM and over Muir Pass before sunrise. What a view! I was greeted by many marmots and pika on the way down, which definitely lifted my spirits.
Later that morning in LeConte Canyon I heard some branches being snapped and saw multiple deer running in different directions. There was a bear in a bush, going to down on some berries or something, not 20 feet off the trail. Could not get a good picture, but hearing this bear's racket made me worry less about noises at night. I usually wake up to any little thing I hear, but I'm pretty sure I'll notice when its actually a bear.
After that I met some trail workers who were dynamiting a section of the trail to rebuild it. I heard the explosions when I was already 5 miles away on the switchbacks toward Dusy Basin! After the commotion, I got to focus on dragging my beaten legs up this mountainside. As long as I took it slow and steady, I knew I could finish that day. Once in Dusy Basin, I marveled at the views and had some nice conversations with fellow hikers. Met a couple parents with their son who had a base camp in Dusy basin, and I talked to a British man who just came off a long section of the High Sierra Route. We had a great conversation about gear, and I had a lot of questions about the HSR. At this point I was sure I would complete the trail today, so I pressed on.
Eventually I was up and over Bishop Pass, and the challenging part of the hike was complete! After that I was only around 6 or 7 miles from my car, pretty much all downhill. The region in between Bishop Pass and South Lake trailhead is amazing! I am looking forward to coming back here and just exploring all the lakes in the area, of which there are plenty. I finally got back to my car at around 5:00 PM, and was home by 11:00 PM that evening.
Some thoughts on this trip: 30 mile days sound so daunting at first, and they are. Multiple people I spoke with said, “you must be a fast hiker!” Not really. I just hiked all day long! 30 miles of hiking is only 2.3 MPH at 13 hours of hiking, with short, infrequent breaks. I definitely worked up to this in a number of different ways: training (duh), decreasing pack weight, and finding comfortable shoes. I spent most of this spring training for a day hike of Mt. Whitney this June, so I just kept up the momentum for these kind of trips later in the summer. I was only sore for 2 days after this trip, whereas after Mt. Whitney my legs hurt for like 4 days.
There were moments on this hike where I asked myself why I was doing it at all. I never really came up with a good answer, except for the challenge I gave myself. I felt like I did not get to know the area as much as someone who is spending 8 days on the same trail. I kind of floated through each section, checked it out and was on my way. It was awesome to see SO much in just two days, but looking back it was kind of a blur.
I'm going out to Mineral King with my girlfriend tomorrow, and were taking 6 days to hike 40 miles. I'm looking forward to that trip a lot more I think. Good company, easy hiking, and time to relax by a lake in the evening sounds great, and is a totally different way to experience the wilderness than this trip.
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!
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Man, what a hump! Thanks for the report!
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