Summary: An early season solo fishing trip modified on account of weather. Thoroughly enjoyable none the less. It may have been too stormy to fish, but my sprint exit in a snow storm made it truly memorable!
Sunday: Got an early start on Sunday and was able to enjoy the drive up from Simi Valley. Picked up the permit at White Mountain Ranger Station and enjoyed an early Dinner of Mexican food in a eerily quiet Bishop. Drove up South Lake Road to Willow Campground in order to get a little acclimated. Willow is at about 9200 feet, and I didn't think there was anything that high near Pine Creek trailhead. I nabbed the last campsite which was conveniently located next to the bathroom. Surprisingly it didn't smell too bad and I didn't get woken up by the door slamming.
Monday: Got up well after sunrise, and broke camp. Drove back down South Lake Road, and decided I would get a real breakfast and (more importantly) real coffee. Made the obligatory last call to the wife as I drove up to the trailhead.
The trailhead was surprisingly crowded considering how easy it was to nab a permit when my schedule moved up just a week ahead of time. Got my pack situated and was crossing the horse corral by 9:30. It was a bad day to get a late start, as it was already getting really warm.
The Pine Creek Trail ascends ~2400 feet with a fairly consistent pitch for 3.3 miles. After that the slope relaxes with some descending and level sections. It is about 4.25 miles from the TH to the first campsites on the West side of Lower Pine Lake. There is one spot to get water on the longest switchback at the 1.6 mile mark, but no other sources until the outlet of Lower Pine Lake.
I approached this climb with some trepidation. I was doing 2-3 hikes per week around Southern California before my first hike of the season to Lake Ediza in mid-June. I thought I was in decent shape, and I confirmed that on a similar climb up Mt Baden Power that climbs 2800 feet in 3.8 miles. In spite of that, Pine Creek is a long hot climb. It's saving grace is the great views on the climb which meant nice pictures while I (frequently) rested. In spite of that, there were some really unpleasant sections on the trail, especially the section that skirts under the cliff face and weaves through a talus field. It was a great feeling when I reached the section with a small descent and could tell I was near the elevation of the lake. Also a great spot to take a break and refuel.
Once I reached the lower lake, it is like you are in a different world. Whatever the reason (new scenery or lunch), I felt like a new man.
The trail takes you around the north side of the lake with new views to the south. I got a lot of shots of unknown (to me) peaks, but everything was very scenic. I continued around the west side of the lake and spotted several camp sites. I found a knoll just off the trail that gave good views. It was nice I took the time to look around, because I hurried past on the way out.
There was a short climb up to Upper Pine Lake, but UPL left me wanting. The trail was too far off the shore, and there was an absence of good views. The spot I planned to camp turned out to be a swamp, so I decided to make my way to Honeymoon Lake to make camp.
Did I mention that there were Mosquitos? The !@!^@$(*^@ Mosquitos. How could I almost forget those? It was still really warm and humid so I was wearing shorts, and I was being eaten alive. The section of the trail between UPL and Honeymoon Lake was unbearable. I was close to stopping, so I decided to tough it out. Bad idea. I ended up with so many bites upon bites, that I had welts.
Thankfully the distance was short, and I was choosing from among three really nice campsites at Honeymoon Lake. There are a lot of really nice campsites with nice views.
I saw several groups camping at Honeymoon Lake who passed me on the long climb. One guy pulled about six fish out of Honeymoon, and I debated fishing before I set up camp. As it turned out, that would have been my only chance to catch fish. I decided against it as it looked like rain was threatening, and I had lots to do.
I setup camp and started dinner, before it started raining. I was able to move my cook setup into my vestibule and cook while sitting in my tent. I got a lot of practice doing this over the next three days!
It poured for about 1.5 hours during and after dinner. It started again after dark, but I was too tired to care. The best way to sleep well is to be exhausted. Mission accomplished.