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TR Pine Creek/Bear Lakes Basin Lollipop Loop 8/10-8/14

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TR Pine Creek/Bear Lakes Basin Lollipop Loop 8/10-8/14

Postby bbayley80 » Fri Aug 19, 2016 12:36 pm

DAY ONE: Pine Creek TH to Granite Park

Leading into the trip this was the day that scared me the most. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my body coming from sea level, with a 42lb pack, minimal training and a dad/office body in tow. I really was happy-dare I say shocked with how well I was able to perform. It wasn’t until I was passing Honeymoon Lake- with about a mile and a half to go to camp-that the climb started to get to me. I rested above the lake and had a snack and soaked in the scenery for a good while until continuing on and slowly-but surely- made my destination for the night, the U shaped lake in lower Granite Park. I set about the business of building camp, pumping water, snacking, washing up and generally enjoying myself. I was reading my book as the sun was beginning to tuck away behind the peaks when a group of six rolled up to my small peninsula. It was nice to have the company as we chatted, shared desserts into the evening. We got to talking about their trip-they were doing part of Roper’s High Trail- and it turned out were relatives of Carol Ransford, the ‘Carol’ of Carol Col/Puppet Pass. They had gone over that the day before. What a small world. I climbed into my sleeping bag as the chill of night set in and slept pretty soundly..resting up for tomorrow!

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Golden Hour lights up my Granite Park home for night one.


DAY TWO: Granite Park to Bear Lakes Basin

The day started with a nice lazy breakfast, coffee and a little reading. I began to slowly pack up and ready myself for tackling two passes and a 13er! I set off up the well worn use trail into upper Granite Park and got my first sight of Italy Pass and Mt Julius Caesar. I was moving well as the sun recharged me-only the scenery seemed to slow me down-beautiful sights around every corner and atop every rise! I found myself at Italy Pass easy enough and was enjoying a rest and snack when I saw two hikers coming up from Granite Park-it was two members of the group from the night before. We set out together to tackle to straightforward SW ridge of Julius Caesar and soon found ourselves atop the peak gazing down into the Chalfant Lakes Basin, Granite Park and across to the imposing Bear Creek Spire. After a good break on the summit we said our farewells as I had some miles to cover still. Back at the pass I hoisted my pack once again and aimed myself towards Dancing Bear Pass. Reading on HST that the key was to stay high to lose as little elevation as possible I knew to stay above the small snowfields I ran into. After crossing through the heavily sun cupped final snowfield I reached the broad, sandy plateau of Dancing Bear Pass. I bumped into a group of three-with trail dog in tow- coming the opposite direction, another group of High Trailers. We chatted for a bit, sharing beta and the cool feeling of bumping into another human in such a remote area. Finally I descended into what was the main purpose of my trip-the Bear Lakes Basin. It did not disappoint! What a great setting. I made my camp along the outlet stream of Ursa Lake-with great views up and across to Feather Peak and pass, down to Big Bear Lake and across to Seven Gables. I rewarded the days effort with a swim, some fishing, snacks and my book. I enjoyed the solitude of this basin as I seemed to have it to myself for the evening.

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Self portrait on Italy Pass.

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Night two home. Big Bear Lake and Seven Gables making for a lovely view!


DAY THREE: Bear Lakes Basin to Merriam Lake

Another relaxed morning saw me enjoy my oatmeal and coffee lakeside before I slowly began to pack up and head towards the last challenge of the trip: Feather Pass. I made my way around both Ursa and Bearpaw Lakes and found myself at the sandy base of the pass. The ascent of the pass was surprisingly lush. Small pristine tarns and streams blaze the path for you as you pass up into the talus fields and slabs of the upper pass. I caught up to a pair of kickass older ladies who were resting and enjoying a break and we got to talking for a bit before all heading on towards the challenging upper stretch of the pass. The last 150’ or so present a fun and in spots difficult challenge. It was fun to draw your line at the bottom and see if it was the right way to go as you climbed. I reached the top quickly enough and had a nice break-passing on an attempt on Feather Peak, choosing to save my legs. Wisely it would turn out. Descending this pass surprisingly was the biggest physical challenge of the whole trip! The drop along streams and low cliffs to La Salle Lake took a toll on my knees! This terrain between Merriam and Feather pass is very interesting terraced-each level completely different than the previous. La Salle Lake is tucked into a rockbound granite bowl, where the next level down-a series of small lakes and tarns- is flat, sandy almost marshy in places. The last level holds Merriam Lake. As I came down the use trail along the inlet waterfall I spied the sandy beach that would give my knees a nice long break! Arriving at the lake I took advantage of being near tree line and tucked away into a sheltered, shady spot and setup camp quickly to run over to the beach. After a swim, some rehydrating I sat on the warm beach and soaked it all in! Merriam Lake was my favorite locale of the entire trip. After moving along the shore to a rocky peninsula I was sitting watching the sun start to go behind the peaks for the evening when I saw a pair of figures atop the inlet waterfall. I assumed it was the ladies-whom had mentioned they were aiming for Merriam themselves. However, it turned out to be the father and daughter I had seen on day one just above the mine, and earlier that same AM along Bearpaw Lake. They made their way down to the lake and I called out to them to say hi. They went about the business of finding a spot for the evening and after setting up dropped by and we got to chatting and made plans for some chocolate later in the evening. We ended up talking about our trips,: current, past ,future far into the night watching satelites zip through the sky.

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Feather Pass. Feather Peak standing guard.
Bear Lakes far below.

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La Salle Lake. this view hurt. quite the descent from the pass.

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The next level below La Salle. quite different. flat, sandy tarn strewn.

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Merriam Lake. my favorite on the trip! Sandy beach, cool clean water, idyllic setting, waterfall!? check.check.check.check.


DAY FOUR: Merriam Lake to Honeymoon Lake

After breakfast Frank and Audrey(father and daughter) bade my farewell as they headed down the use trail also aiming for Honeymoon Lake-we each said ‘See you there’ and I went about having a lazy breakfast and two cups of coffee before I too set out down the trail. A most welcome and surprising sight arrived shortly after leaving the lake-the area below the lake short of French Canyon was gorgeous! Small tarns and streams carved up this grassy bench as views opened up across to French Canyon and Mt Humphreys. A great start to the day! I saw my two fellow travelers working their way across this area and went about catching up. Funny thing is..we never did link up that morning. I made it down the steep use trail to the French Canyon junction without crossing paths with them. Thinking they must have powered down and remained in front of me I began the nice climb up the canyon on the first stretch of maintained trail id seen in two days. Although it must be said I was surprised by how clear the ‘off trail’ travel was in this region. Seems the ‘secret’ of Bear Lakes Basin is out? Being on trail was a nice break, and I quickly hiked along the gorgeous stream, took in the views of Four Gables and the outlet waterfalls of Royce Lakes soon finding myself at the junction for Pine Creek Pass-my last of four for the trip- I was tempted to take the detour to L Lake and the surrounding area but that would put another three miles onto what would already be a somewhat long day, I’ll save those for another time-perhaps over Carol Col from Humphreys Basin. Turned out I could have easily afforded the miles and time as I was up and over the pass and down to Honeymoon Lake by 2PM- I even had silly thoughts of hiking all the way out so as to rejoin my family sooner-that would have been a horrible idea. Honeymoon, a lake I blew right by on my way to Italy Pass on Day One blew me away! It was really quite nice. Lots of great sites-many illegally close to the lake however-I was able to secure one a proper distance from the lake with great views down to Pine Creek and up towards Pine Creek pass. After setting up shop I swam, fished a bunch(there was always a group of 10-12 pan sized trout cruising close to shore) enjoyed a cup of coffee and some of my book. I began to think of Frank and Audrey-wondering where they ended up; when around five they roll in! They went about looking for a spot, but since it was later in the afternoon and Honeymoon is a great spot for a first and or last night on many trips the lake was sleeping to capacity. They were able to fit in fairly close to my spot- which was welcome as Honeymoon is not really where you go for solitude anyways. We had a good night together, doing our own thing until sundown then chatting over tea and hot cocoa. Good company, and always cool to make friends in a place where it doesn’t seem too likely.

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view down to the bench below Merriam. really nice!

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Honeymoon Lake. another really nice lake- and a great way to spend my last evening on this great trip.


DAY FIVE Honeymoon Lake to Pine Creek TH

This was the only morning when I moved with a purpose the whole trip. I ate breakfast and packed up and hit the trail a little before 9-still kinda lazy ;)- and started the trek back to the car. Passing by the Pine Lakes, and popping out into the long, exposed, and hot section of trail the switches high above the old tungsten mine after a few short hours. I took my time on this section since my knees and downhill stretches down really agree with each other but quickly enough found myself cruising through the lower, forested section of trail that would soon lead to the pack station and my car. I went down to the creek to rinse off-by far the best bath ive ever had under a bridge! Now somewhat clean and in a fresh t shirt I bid farewell to the mountains and rolled into Bishop and after mandatory stops at both Mahogany Smoked Meats for jerky and Mountain Rambler Brewery for a pint and a burger I continued South to Long Beach. Another great trip in the books.

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cool stretch of trail along Pine Creek.


Special thanks to HST for such good beta on this trip-especially Calipidder, whose report put this area on my radar a few years ago.

Hope you enjoyed this report.



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bbayley80
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Re: TR Pine Creek/Bear Lakes Basin Lollipop Loop 8/10-8/14

Postby Hobbes » Fri Aug 19, 2016 1:19 pm

Always nice to a read a report from a positive, happy hiker.

You should come to next year's meet-up. It's a good mix of people who like both solitude as well as a little socializing in remote locations.
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Re: TR Pine Creek/Bear Lakes Basin Lollipop Loop 8/10-8/14

Postby rlown » Fri Aug 19, 2016 1:38 pm

It was nice to have the company as we chatted, shared desserts into the evening. We got to talking about their trip-they were doing part of Roper’s High Trail- and it turned out were relatives of Carol Ransford, the ‘Carol’ of Carol Col/Puppet Pass. They had gone over that the day before. What a small world.


Any backstory to why they named the col after her or if they found and reset the bronze memorial plaque? Pretty amazing you ran into them, though..
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Re: TR Pine Creek/Bear Lakes Basin Lollipop Loop 8/10-8/14

Postby rayfound » Fri Aug 19, 2016 2:44 pm

Wow Cool trip. Meriam lake has always called out to me a bit, but I've never made the effort to get in there. That beach makes it all the more intriguing!
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Re: TR Pine Creek/Bear Lakes Basin Lollipop Loop 8/10-8/14

Postby bbayley80 » Fri Aug 19, 2016 4:58 pm

Hobbes wrote:You should come to next year's meet-up. It's a good mix of people who like both solitude as well as a little socializing in remote locations.



thanks Hobbes! appreciate that.
absolutely! would love to hang with you dudes

rlown wrote:Any backstory to why they named the col after her or if they found and reset the bronze memorial plaque? Pretty amazing you ran into them, though..


Rlown.
yes.she led large groups out into the Sierra for many years favoring high, more remote areas/trails as opposed to the JMT type trails that tend to run through valleys and basins.
apparently there was first a register that was stolen, then the plaque-both of which were in place with blessings from all proper authorities- its such a bummer to me..like reading of Rogue and Alpine Mike finding original summit registers either missing and or replaced..really sucks.
it was a trip to meet them there seeing as they live in CO and were here spending time in the Sierra celebrating a birthday.

rayfound wrote:Wow Cool trip. Meriam lake has always called out to me a bit, but I've never made the effort to get in there. That beach makes it all the more intriguing!


thanks! i highly recommend it ;)
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Re: TR Pine Creek/Bear Lakes Basin Lollipop Loop 8/10-8/14

Postby rlown » Fri Aug 19, 2016 5:07 pm

the plaque was still there in 2010. Just wasn't mounted back. I found it on the ground, and sat it back up on a rock out of the wind/rocks, and I think it was moved by someone who reported another TR here. Didn't know there was a register. Not a fan of vandals.. the plaque was obviously pried off with an ice axe.. even found the rock is was attached to with epoxy.

Thanks for sharing...
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Re: TR Pine Creek/Bear Lakes Basin Lollipop Loop 8/10-8/14

Postby bandguy5686 » Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:38 am

Fantastic trip. Hope to run into you some day out there-a positive soul is a joy to meet!


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