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TR: Big Pine Lakes, Aug 2 to 5

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TR: Big Pine Lakes, Aug 2 to 5

Postby Stevehymon » Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:54 pm

This is well-trod ground obviously but thought I'd post a few notes for anyone looking for info about this popular area. We camped at Fourth Lake one night and Fifth Lake two nights. A few thoughts:

•Did I mention this area was popular? My Significant Other and I knew it going in, but figured we'd backpacked to other so-called popular areas before and avoided crowds. Not so much this time. The thing here is that there aren't many lakeside campsites - lakes tend to be well below the trail. The unfortunate result: People are either camping right next to the trail or -- and I kid you not -- ON TOP OF THE TRAIL. LITERALLY. There was a party at Fifth Lake that plunked three tents down on trail on south side of the outlet creek. There were other campsites nearby. I hope the Backpacking Gods delivers mild punishment upon them.

•My advice for anyone else who hasn't been up there: in summer, don't even think of trying to camp at first, second, third or fourth lakes if you want anything resembling solitude. Your best bet is either Sixth Lake, Summit Lake or as far west as you can get on Fifth. We chatted up a forest service ranger on our hike in and when asked best place to camp, he and his colleague basically said they wouldn't even bother camping at all in the basin.

•Whatever you do, don't camp on the big flat ledge on northside of Fourth Lake, the site of an early 20th century resort. A truckload of tents were parked there -- not a wilderness experience.

•Night-time temps were very mild owing to the monsoonal weather. High 40s maybe. Big and brief thunderstorm over our campsite at Fifth at sunset on Saturday night with some rain and distant lightning in early morning hours.

•Hardly any skeeters. I never took bug juice out of my pack.

•Flyfishing for smallish brook trout was good to excellent in North Fork of Big Pine Creek and the lakes. One lake fishes notably different than the others. :wink:

•We took the regular trail shown on the Tom Harrison maps to Sixth Lake. Eh. Looks to me like there must be better way up there from Fifth Lake either on (I'm guessing) existing use trail I didn't know about or fairly easy xx-country.

•Black Lake is much less scenic than the other lakes. Wouldn't bother camping there. Also, I'd avoid taking the trail uphill that links First Lake and Black Lake -- big sandy sunny slog, although views down to First and Second Lakes are good.

That's it. We still had a nice time and caught a lot of fish and got some decent photos. Great views on the trail up to Sam Mack Meadows -- if it's nice out, awesome place to lunch, although you'll certainly have company.

A few pics:


A big thunderhead that had developed over Owens Valley moved into the canyon on Thursday night, producing this great sunset at Fourth Lake.


I met a pro photographer at Fifth Lake who gave me some tips on star photography. Using a couple of rocks as a tripod and a remote shutter release, I got this photo of the Big Dipper over the ridge above Fifth Lake.


First and Second Lakes and Temple Crag as seen from trail linking First Lake and Black Lake.

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Re: TR: Big Pine Lakes, Aug 2 to 5

Postby maverick » Thu Aug 09, 2012 4:08 pm

Thanks for the TR and great pictures Steve. Really like the way you got the emerald
colors to show in the lakes under Temple Crag, and the great sunset photo at Fourth
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

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