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Category: Backpacking

Camping at Parsons Landing

Camping on Catalina Island

Catalina is just a short 26 miles across the sea from the Port of Los Angeles. Sally and I didn’t have enough days to hike the entire Trans Catalina Trail, so we settled on a long weekend of camping on Catalina Island.

Camping Reservations

Reservations for camping are a must. Depending on when you want to go reservations can book up months in advance. We chose to stay at Parsons Landing. I was able to make my reservations through Reserve America. There is a two-night minimum when you make reservations. If you are hiking the TCT it is possible to contact them and book the site for only one night. The fee to camp at Parsons Landing is per person not per a campsite. Our fee for two nights was $89.25. $20 per person per night and then a service fee.

Boat Reservations

We made reservations on Catalina Express out of San Pedro to Catalina. The price is $37.50 each way. We chose to leave on the 9:00 am boat and return on a 4:30 pm boat. Parking at the San Pedro dock costs $19.00 a day. Be sure and read the information for campers. Coast Guard regulations do not allow you to bring fuel on the boat.

The Boat Trip to the Island

We arrived at the Catalina Express office in San Pedro an hour early. Maybe because it was a rainy day there wasn’t a crowd and we were plenty early. At 8:40 we carried our backpacks over to the dock and the crew put them below the boat. I getting really seasick so I headed to the top of the boat and I chose to sit outside. It was cold, windy and it rained a little bit on the ride over. Avalon is the first stop and it takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to get there. Our boat only stayed in Avalon long enough to drop off and pick up passengers. After Avalon, we hugged the coast and it took us 30 minutes to get to Two Harbors.

Catalina Express Office in San Pedro.
Our boat looks so tiny compared to the big cruise ship.
Heading into the storm.
We almost froze to death sitting outside.

Two Harbors

We docked in Two Harbors a little late. The crew took our backpacks out of the boat and we carried them up the dock. The first stop is Two Harbors Visitor’s Office and it is right at the end of the pier. This is where you check-in for camping reservations. Your reservation is also your hiking permit.

Wood & Water

We had called ahead and preordered wood & water, so this is where we picked up our locker keys. The fee is $20 for one bundle of wood, a fire starter and 2.5 gallons of water. Thankfully they drive over to Parsons Landing once a day and leave the wood and water in a locker. We were staying 2 nights so we ordered 3 locker keys because we wanted the extra firewood. There is not a water source at Parsons Landing so you will only have the water you carry in or purchase in the lockers.


Our next stop West End Galley for some lunch. After we checked in with the Visitor’s Office it was still sprinkling luckily The West End Galley was open. They serve drinks and have a small menu. They seem to be open around the time the boats arrive and dock. We order coffee and lunch and sat inside and tried to unthaw from our boat trip.

The dock at Two Harbors.

Hiking to Parsons Landing

The hike from Two Harbors to Parsons Landing is about 7 1/2 miles. When we were done with lunch it had stopped raining and the sun was out. We set off on the trail around 12:30 p.m. The trail is basically a fire road, but it hugs the coast so you are in for million-dollar views most of the way. The water is so clear that we could see the bottom. We passed two Boy Scout camps and one private camp along the way.

Sally and I above Two Harbors.
A million-dollar view.

Parsons Landing

It took us about 3 1/2 hours to hike to Parsons Landing. We stopped a lot to take pictures and adjust our boots and backpacks. We didn’t weigh our packs this time, but I’m guessing they weighed about 30 pounds and this was our first time out with them this season. Somehow the first mile is always the hardest until I get used to carrying that heavy pack. The last mile of the trail was up and down hills so we were happy to finally see the sign and know we were almost to camp.

Almost to Parsons Landing

8 Beach Front Campsites

There are only 8 sites at Parsons Landing. Site one is the most secluded, but it is mostly rocks instead of sand. Camp site 8 is on the opposite end and gives you a little more privacy, but you still have an amazing view.

Site #1
Site #2
The view from site #8

Campsite #7

We had site number 7 and we liked it. There was room for two tents and someone had already made the windbreaks out of rocks. There is a fire pit with a windbreak, a picnic table, and a critter locker. We set up our tents. Sally cooked her dinner. I couldn’t eat because my stomach was still upset from the boat. At dusk, Sally made a fire and I made Hot Toddies. We sat on rocks inside the windbreak and enjoyed our warm drinks and the fire. We climbed into our tents by 8 p.m. to read and get warm. During the night the wind blew so hard that I thought my tent was going to take flight.

Site #7

Sunday at Parsons Landing

When we woke Sunday it was a beautiful morning. As we were drinking coffee and making breakfast we spotted some whales offshore. Breakfast with a view. We also watched a Bald Eagle fish in the ocean and a seal kept popping his head up to see if the beach was vacant yet.

Hiking on the Trans Catalina Trail

We packed our lunches and hiked to Starlight Beach. First, we hiked back to a spring. There was a little water flowing and we heard frogs, but couldn’t see them. Starlight Beach used to be the ending of the TCT it is at the Western End of Catalina. We hiked to above it but didn’t go all the way down to the beach. Although we saw lots of bison tracks and some scat we never saw a bison. I saw one Island Fox run across the trail in front of us, but nothing like when I backpacked on Santa Cruz Island. We ate lunch high up on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Our hike was around 8 miles roundtrip.

The Spring.
My lunch view.
The view of site #8
We survived day #2 of hiking.

Camp Life

When we got back to camp we took off our boots and explored all the other campsites. Our favorites in order are #8, #7 & 2. I would avoid numbers 3, 4 & 5 they are lacking privacy and right in the middle of the pathways. If you look closely you can find amethyst on the beach. I found two great pieces and debated about bringing them home because I didn’t want to add any extra weight to my backpack. Sunday we had extra time to lounge around, read and look at the scenery. For dinner, I made mushroom risotto and watched the lobster fisherman set up his traps in our cove. Sally made another fire and I made more Hot Toddys. We sat out by the fire and watched the lobster guy check his traps in the dark.

Shells & amethyst
Interesting Rocks
A squirrel visiting our firebreak.
Reading and cooking dinner.
The view never gets old.

Hiking Back to Two Harbors

Monday morning we took our time packing up camp. There are two boats that leave Two Harbors for San Pedro. The first boat is at 11:30 a.m. and the last boat is at 4:30 p.m. Instead of rushing and trying to make the earlier boat we took our time and opted for the 4:30 p.m. boat. When our backpacks were all loaded we started the trek back to Two Harbors. Keep in mind that there is little to no shade on the road back. The day we hiked back was only in the ’60s but we were in full sun and we got hot. Both Sally and I ended up with blisters and we think it was a combination of the heavy packs and our feet being hot in our boots. We stopped often and enjoyed the views along the way.

The views are amazing.

Back at Two Harbors

We arrived back at Two Harbors around 12:30 p.m. After peeling off our backpacks we went into the general store and ordered a pizza and bought some beers. The store will make either a large cheese or pepperoni pizza for $20. It comes out piping out in about 25 minutes.

Pizza and a beer.

Harbor Sands

After we were done eating we asked someone in the restaurant if we could take a nap on the lounge chairs on the beach and because it was a Monday and not in season yet they were happy to let us lounge. They even suggested we hang out in the cabana on the beach so we wouldn’t get too much sun. We spent a couple of hours lounging and it was heaven.

Lounging at Harbor Sands.


Before we arrived on the island we had been warned about protecting our gear from the ravens. While we were lounging we looked over and saw a raven unzipping someone’s unattended backpack. While I was walking over to shoo it away it stole their bag of chips and poked a hole in it. I put their chips in their cooler, but later Sally had to go over and coverup their backpack because the raven was trying to take stuff out of it again.

Buffalo Milk

Buffalo Milk is the name of the most popular cocktail on Catalina Island. The Harbor Reef Restaurant opens at 3:00 p.m. so when it opened we went inside to try a drink. The bartender made us our cocktails in plastic cups so we could take them back out to our lounge chairs on the beach. Buffalo Milk is made with the following:

  • 1/2 shot of Creme de Cocoa, Kahlua, & Creme de Banana
  • One shot of vodka
  • Half & Half

It is then topped with whipped cream and nutmeg. Buffalo Milk is delicious it tastes like an adult milkshake.

Inside the Harbor Reef Bar.
The Buffalo Milk Cocktail.

Back to San Pedro

We boarded the 4:30 boat and we were sad to find out that the boat goes to Avalon and then San Pedro. It took us 2 hours to get back to San Pedro and then 1 1/2 hours to get back home. I dropped Sally off at her house and came home and went straight into the shower and then bed. We had a great trip!

Little Lakes Valley

Little Lakes Valley is a little slice of Heaven located outside of Bishop, California. Driving up 395 on the way to Little Lakes Valley there is no indication of the beauty you are about to encounter. On the drive up you see Mt. Whitney and the surrounding mountains, but directly out the car window is isolation and Rabbitbrush. Heading North you exit 395 at Tom’s Place and head up Rock Creek Road. Rock Creek Road is a winding, steep 10-mile, two-lane road that heads straight up. From late spring to early winter you can drive all the way to the trailhead at Mosquito Flats. When there is snow on the ground the road is not plowed and it becomes impassable.

Making Reservation

Little Lakes Valley is a chain of lakes that were carved by a glacier. Today the area is used by hikers, backpackers, and fishermen. Permits are required for all backpacking trips and can be reserved up to 6 months in advance at Recreation.Gov. Day hikers and fishermen do not require a permit.

The Begining of The Trail

In July my friend and I set off for a backpacking trip from Mosquito Flat to Gem Lake. The hike is considered moderately strenuous and that is mostly because of the elevation. The trail starts at 10,000 feet. We spent the first night at the backpacker’s camp at the beginning of the trail. The mosquitos were relentless. The trailhead definitely lived up to its name. The next morning we loaded up our backpacks and started up the trail to Gem Lake. Our backpacks were extra heavy because bear cans are required in this area. There are no bear boxes once you start up the trail. On the way up you are walking alongside a river. We went in 2019 and that was a high snow year. Many parts of the trail were covered in water and we were thankful that we wore waterproof boots.

Balancing On A Log

We made it past Box Lake and then we had a water crossing that we were uncomfortable with. We eventually made it across, but Sally got really wet. It is hard to balance on wet logs with a 35-pound backpack on your back.

Picking The Perfect Camp Site

When we got to Long Lake, we met a couple that said it was not a good idea to head to Gem Lake, because there was too much snow. We chose to hike around Long Lake until we found the perfect place to set up our tents for the night. The view of the lake is awe-inspiring. We did some exploring and filtered water and generally just soaked in the beauty. There are no fires allowed in the area. We were able to use our stoves for cooking. We took our stoves down to the shore of the lake and made our dinner and ate watching the fish jump in the lake.

Cooking dinner by the lake.

Mosquitoes Are Not My Friend

Unfortunately, by 6 pm we were in our tents with nothing to do but read. The mosquitoes were a force to be reckoned with and no amount of Deet would keep them away.

The next morning we took our daypacks and headed off for Chickenfoot and Gem Lakes. We made it to Chickenfoot without any problems. Getting to Gem was a lot harder. We climbed through giant mounds of snow and it was hard to see the trail.

Using Microspikes

Sally gouged her leg on a sharp branch and we almost gave up after that. While she sat down and bandage up her leg I scouted around looking for the trail. I eventually found it. We made our way to Gem Lake and it was beautiful.

Gem Lake

For the longest time, we were the only two people there. The weather was nice. The wildflowers were in full bloom and the best part is all the snow was keeping the mosquitoes away. After a beautiful afternoon, we headed back to our tents at Long Lake.

Long Lake

After staying at Long Lake we packed up and headed back to Heart Lake. It is a pretty alpine lake with views of Bear Creek Spire as its backdrop. We set up our tents on a hill overlooking the lake. We spent the rest of the day hiking and exploring.

The End Of Our Trip

The next morning we packed up and hiked back out to our car. This backpacking trip was Plan C for us. 2019 was just a high snow year and our Plans A & B were not safe so early in the year. Although this was plan C we had a great time. Little Lake Valley is perfect for day hikes or extended backpacking trips. We saw a lot of people in the daytime and then by late afternoon it would just be the two of us. I’m sure there were other people camping around the lakes, but we never saw anyone after 4 p.m. Other than the mosquitoes (that are no joke) it is the perfect place for a little getaway.

Lessons I learned From a Bad Backpacking Trip…

About a year ago my friend Sally and I decided to start backpacking. We are both hikers and there are places that we want to explore that you can only get to if you backpack. We went to REI and got fitted for backpacks and slowly started collecting our gear. We’ve been on some overnight trips and recently we have been practicing for a through a hike in the Sierras. On our latest backpacking trip, I learned some lessons the hard way.

It Was Supposed To Be An Easy Overnighter.

Our latest trip was to Little Jimmy Campground. It is located off SR2 (Angeles Crest Highway) in the Angeles National Forest. You can only reach the campground by hiking in. There are 16 sites, picnic tables, fire rings, bear boxes, and a vault toilet. There isn’t running water, but Little Jimmy Spring is just 1/4 mile away.

The parking lot is at Islip Saddle.

Lesson #1: Watch Out For Detours

We started our trip around 11 am so that we could avoid the commuter traffic. Unfortunately, they were doing road work on SR2 and we had to make a major detour. We found some friendly firemen that were able to give us directions to detour around the road closure. There is no cellphone signal in the canyon. Our detour took us 2 hours.

Heading up the switchbacks.
Hiking on the PCT

Lesson #2: Eat Breakfast

We finally arrived at Islip Saddle Parking lot. The trail is part of the PCT and it follows steep switchbacks for the first mile. I wasn’t feeling it. Some days your body just doesn’t feel like hiking up a steep hill with a 35-pound backpack on. Looking back now, I realize it was probably because I didn’t eat breakfast and it was afternoon time when we actually started hiking and I had only eaten a protein bar on the drive up the mountain. I munched on a few sour gummy worms on the way up hoping it would give me a burst of energy. Luckily, after the first mile, the trail levels out a little bit.

We saw butterflies the whole way up.

A Hammock & Book Are Backpacking Essentials

We made it to camp and there was only 1 other camper there so we had our choice of spots. After putting up our tents, unpacked and set up our hammocks, we decided instead of hiking we would just relax in our hammocks and read. It was peaceful and relaxing for about 30 minutes and then it got windy and cold. After 45 mins we had to get out of the hammocks because it was too cold.

Hammock time.
My favorite part of camping is reading in my hammock.

Little Jimmy Springs

One of the best things about camping at Little Jimmy is the proximity to Little Jimmy Springs. The spring runs year-round and the water comes out fresh and cold. Some people filter the water, but numerous Boy Scouts and a ranger have told us that it isn’t necessary. We walked down to the spring and filled up our empty water bottles for drinking and cooking.

The trail to Little Jimmy Springs.
On the way to the spring.
Filling up my nalgene from the spring.

Lesson #3: Make a List

When we got back to camp I decided it was too cold to be sitting around in shorts even with a fleece top on. I climbed in my tent to change and found out that unfortunately, I packed a long sleeve shirt instead of my long pants. They are both black and made of the same material. unfortunately, I made the very bad decision to put on my sleeping fleece pants even though it wasn’t time for bed. I came out of my tent in my fleece top and bottom that I sleep in and a fleece hoodie. I was warm and cozy for a few minutes. We started dinner.

Lesson #4: Accidents Happen

Sally found out that she had forgotten her backpacking stove. Luckily it wasn’t a problem, because we just used mine. Over the last year, we have narrowed down our backpacking dinners to what we like and what we can eat without having leftovers that we have to pack back out. I had picked up a lentil soup at REI. We boiled the water I added water to Sally’s couscous and then I added two cups of boiling water to my package. After adding the water I realized the package didn’t come with the standard top that allows you to reseal it after you add the hot water. Generally, after adding water the food has to sit for 10 minutes while it rehydrates. I use a mailing envelope as a cozy to put my food in while it’s rehydrating. It helps retain the heat. Somehow while I was transferring the package to the cozy I knocked over the soup onto myself. I was sitting at the picnic table and the soup poured onto my ribs, thigh, calf and inside my camp shoes. I let out a blood-curdling scream, but I couldn’t do anything. The hot water was trapped between my fleece and my skin.

A Long Night

When I calmed down I pulled my clothes off and realized how bad it actually was. I had to leave all my clothes outside the tent. Inside the tent, I put on my long sleeve shirt and a puffer jacket. Unfortunately, I only had my shorts to put back on. I opened my first aid kit and slathered myself with antibiotic cream. My dinner was all dumped out on the ground so, I ate a small baggie of trail mix that I had packed. Sally made a fire and I sat with my burned side of my body away from the fire, because I was cold! I remained fairly calm. I made some trail margaritas and took some Advil. When it came time for bed I had to put all my fleece clothes in the bear box. We were in bear country and my clothes all smelled like lentil soup. I had to sleep in my underwear and I was cold all night.

Trying to dry out my clothes on the tree and the bear box.
Backpacking Margaritas
Sally made a nice fire.

Packing Up

After a rough night of trying to not pop my blisters, trying to stay warm and trying to sleep I was ready to go home. We had planned to hike up to Islip Saddle in the morning. It has a beautiful view and both times I’ve been up there I’ve seen Bighorn Sheep, but I didn’t want to hike anywhere. We had coffee and then packed up. While I was packing up my tent, I felt something on my leg. I looked down and a spider almost as big as a tarantula was climbing on it. I again started screaming and somehow got it off my leg. Thankfully, Sally came to my rescue and relocated it with a hiking pole.

Hiking Back To The Car

All packed up we hiked back out to the car. I was so happy that I made it to the car. I leaned my hiking poles against the trunk and hoisted my pack in the backseat. Later after we had been driving for over an hour I realized that I had left my hiking poles against the trunk and now they were laying in the parking lot. I went to the doctor the next day and I have 2nd-degree burns on my rib and thigh. The burn on my thigh is worse and will leave scarring.

Backpacking down the mountain.

Lessons Learned

Here is a list of things I learned from this backpacking trip.

  • Google Maps and Waze are not always up-to-date for road construction.
  • If you are in Southern California and using route SR2, good luck. This isn’t the first time we’ve run into road closures and I even called Cal- Trans the morning we left to check for closures.
  • It’s a good idea to have a permanent packing list. This would have helped with the forgotten stove and missing pants. I’m thinking of making a list of things I have to pack in my backpack and then laminating it.
  • Never change into your sleeping clothes until you are ready to climb into your sleeping bag.
  • When buying dehydrated food check the top to make sure it’s resealable or have another way to cook it. If I would have realized about the top before we got there I would have dumped everything into a ziplock freezer bag. You can pour boiling water into the freezer bags and cook that way.
  • Ice cubes will stay in your Hydroflask. Perfect for trail margaritas.
  • Accidents happen, not much you can do about this. I told Sally this trip was to teach us humility. We’ve been on so many backpacking trips where nothing went wrong something was bound to happen eventually.
  • Make sure all your gear is in the car before you drive away.

Little Jimmy Trail Camp

Hiking From Dry Lake to San Gorgonio Peak…..

Day 2 Of Our Backpacking Trip

Hiking from Dry Lake to San Gorgonio Peak was our goal. Friday morning we had backpacked from South Fork trailhead to Dry Lakes. We woke up early on Saturday morning. I had actually woken up a few times during the night. The first time was to a chorus of coyotes. The second time I woke up because something was sniffing around my tent. I almost had a heart attack and was way too scared to look and see what it was.

Backpacking Breakfast

Even though it was only 6 am we climbed out of our tents to make coffee. The only problem was it is so hard to open a bear canister when your hands are cold. I couldn’t get mine open and thank goodness for Sally being able to open mine or I would have starved to death. After a healthy breakfast of Pop-Tarts and coffee, we decided we would try to summit San Gorgonio. We have both summited from Vivian Creek, but never from this side. We packed up a lunch and put our supplies in small packs. The day before we had stopped at REI and picked up microspikes.

Heading up Mine Shaft Trail

Using Microspikes

We were following Alltrails. There are two ways to go. One is to hike back to the saddle of Dry Lake and Dollar Lake and head up from there or to start the trail near where we had camped and headed up Mine Shaft Trail. We opted for the closer trail. Within a 1/4 of a mile of camp we were in serious snow and we had to stop and put on our microspikes. It was early in the morning and the temperatures had been cold the night before so the snow was still solid and we had no problem walking on it with the microspikes and our poles.

First time using microspikes.

Navigating In The Snow

The real problem became navigating. It’s impossible to follow a trail that is covered in snow. Every couple hundred yards we had to stop and see how close we were to the red line on All Trails. After we made it to the top of a canyon we found out that we somehow got off course. At the top, we were on dirt and we had to sit down and take off our microspikes.

Using All Trails

Using the red line on All trails we went straight up a side of a mountain and somehow found our trail. We were at 9,960 feet above sea level, which meant we had 2,000 feet more to climb. Sally had a huge blister on the back of her heal and she wasn’t feeling it. We decided that San Gorgonio wasn’t in the cards for us that day. I again looked at All Trails and saw that we could continue on the trail we were on and we would be able to loop back to camp.

At the saddle.
Way too much snow.

Looking Up At San Gorgonio Peak

When we made it to the saddle we could either continue on Sky High Trail and in another 3.6 miles we would be at the top of San Gorgonio or we could take Fish Creek Trail and eventually end up back at Dry Lake we opted for Dry Lake. When we looked up at San Gorgonio there was so much snow we couldn’t even see the switchbacks. We were pretty confident that we could make it to the top, but we were scared of what it would be like coming back down after the sun had been out all day.

A New Plan

Fish Creek Trail had way less snow than the way we came up, but unfortunately, we ran into 100 feet of dirt and then huge mounds of snow completely covering the trail. We tried going over the snow, but we would either post-hole or start sliding downhill. Eventually, when we got to the snow we either went up or down the mountain to go around it. On the way back to camp we found Lodgepole Spring that we had looked for the day before. All together we hiked 8 miles and made it back to camp in one piece.

We spent one more night at Dry Lake and hiked back down to our car the next morning. We hiked a total of 25 miles and got experience with our bear canisters and microspikes. It was a good practice trip for the Sierras.

San Bernardino Forest Service

Backpacking to Dry Lake

Backpacking to Dry Lake was a real surprise. One benefit of the wet winter here in Southern California is that Dry Lake in the San Gorgonio Wilderness is not dry, it is currently full. An average Spring will bring some water to the lake, but it quickly dries up with the warmer temperatures. The past few years Dry Lake as been that very dry, but this year it looks spectacular.

Backpacking to Dry Lake

My fellow adventurer, Sally and I are training for a trip to the Sierras. We decided on a 3 day 2-night backpacking trip to Dry Lake. The trail starts at the South Fork Trailhead in Angelus Oaks. This the one lot that has plenty of available parking spaces. Adventure Passes are required to park in the parking lot. At this time permits are not required for day hikes, but permits are required for an overnight.

South Fork Trailhead

We struggled to get our packs on. They were heavy. This was our first time hiking with bear canisters. Black bears are prevalent in the San Bernardino National Forest, however, bear canisters are not required for Dry Lake. If we didn’t carry a canister we would have had to hang our food. This trip was a practice run for the Sierras so we opted to add the extra weight of a bear canister. I could feel the extra weight and it took up so much room in your backpack, but I wouldn’t want to have an encounter with a bear in the middle of the night.

South Fork Trailhead

A Little Detour

This winter’s weather played havoc on the beginning of the trail. The first 1/4 mile of the trail has too much debris to make it safe. Forest Service has marked an alternate starting point. It is easy to follow, you can follow the pink ribbons until you meet up with the original trail.

Horse Meadow

The trail to Dry Lake is 6 miles. At the 1.5 mile mark you find yourself in a meadow with some old structures. This is Horse Meadow and it is a beautiful spot for a picnic. There is a picnic table, but there is no overnight camping allowed. We took a little break and enjoyed taking off our backpacks and getting a drink.

Horse Meadow
My very heavy backpack.

Poop-Out Hill

After leaving Horse Meadow you walk through low brush on the way to Poop Out Hill. At 2.5 miles you can take a slight detour to take you to the top of Poop Out Hill. There is a sign for San Gorgonio Wilderness and an amazing view of San Gorgonio.

The junction to Poop-Out Hill.
At Poop Out Hill

Water Crossings

We got back on the trail that was heading up, through an area that burned in the 2015 Lake Fire. We spotted plenty of wild flowers, mushrooms growing on the dead trees and carpets of green grass. After you get to the junction of where to turn off for either Dry Lake or Dollar Lake we had to cross the river 4 times. Some of the crossings were easier than others. One crossing required us to walk all the way across on a downed log. Luckily we made it across without falling in.

Switchbacks All The Way To Dry Lake

After the water crossing, it’s just straight up the switchbacks until Dry Lake. On the way up we had to climb over two large trees that were blocking the trail. It wasn’t easy getting over the top with full packs on without falling down the other side of the mountain.

A First Patch Of Snow

A little before the 6-mile mark we started to see patches of snow. At 6 miles we could see Dry Lake. We walked on the right side of the lake looking for a place to camp. The next day when we walked around the entire lake we found out we should have walked along the left side of the lake. On the left is a sign with a map showing where the designated campgrounds are and also where the Spring is.

Dry Lake was actually full of water and beautiful.
Dry Lake
A nap of Dry Lake, the campground, and the spring.

Finding The Campground

Since we walked the wrong way and missed the sign we set up our tent closer to Lodgepole Springs Campground. A large group that we had walked up behind sat up their tents on the edge of the lake. No camping is allowed within 200 feet of the lake, stream, spring, meadow or other campers. The following day when we got back from hiking the large group had relocated farther back away from the water. We assume a ranger had come and asked them to move.

Our tents. We made sure they were more than 200 feet from the edge of the lake.
We could still see the lake from our tents.

Filtering Water

We didn’t bring a lot of water with us, so we had to filter water. The first night we couldn’t find the spring so we used our Sawyer Water filters to filter water from the lake. After our camp chores were done we sat down to heat up our dinners on our camp stoves. No campfires are allowed in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. While our meals were rehydrating I made us some Trail Margaritas. I mixed one packet of Crystal Light Lemonade with with a 1 1/2 shots of tequila, a slice of lime and lots of fresh snow. They were seriously the best margaritas I’ve ever had. We called it an early night and got in our tents and read. We had big plans to try and get to the top of San Gorgonio the next day.

I used a Sawyer squeeze filter to filter water.
Filtering water using the Sawyer.
Cooking dinner
Supplies for backpacking margaritas.
Making Margaritas
I made backpacking margaritas using 1 packet of lemonade, 1 shot of tequila, fresh lime and snow.
Trail Margaritas
The sun setting on Dry Lake.

An Overnight Backpacking Trip to Henniger Flats…..

On a Saturday in April Sally and I decided to go on an overnight backpacking trip to Henniger Flats. We are training for the Sierras and trying to get in lots of practice packing and carrying our backpacks. We started on Pinecrest in Altadena. There are strict parking rules on Pinecrest so we parked a few blocks away on a city street. The trail from Pinecrest to Henniger Flats follows a fire road. It’s a steady incline all the way up. It is about 3 miles from the start of the trail to the lower campground. I would rate this hike as moderate. Lots of casual day hikers passed us on the way up, but we were carrying heavy backpacks. I weighed my backpack before I left and it was 37 pounds. That is really heavy for overnight. The main source of weight was there is no water at Henniger. You have to bring everything all with you. This includes what you need to drink, cook and brush your teeth. I carried up 9 pounds of water plus my hammock and book. All things that I don’t usually have with me.

Almost to the campground.

Hauling My Backpack to The Top

We started up in the early afternoon knowing that Henniger gets crowded on the weekends. There are about 30 spots spread out over 3 levels and they are first come first serve. When we arrived there was only 1 tent set up at the lower campground and the coveted spot #1 was unoccupied. We decided that was where we were going to camp. Spot #1 is popular for its spectacular views of Los Angeles, the Pacific Ocean, and Catalina. It was a little cool and overcast so we could see Los Angeles and the ocean, but not Catalina. We were thankful for the cloud cover because there is no shade on the hike up. It would be a scorcher if the sun was out. Currently, you are allowed to have a fire at Henniger, but it has to be in their fire stove and not on the ground. In order to have a fire, you need to check in with a fireman that is on duty 24 hours a day. He will issue you a free permit to camp and make a fire. We found him inside the little museum that is at the top of the lower campground. There are bathrooms at the Henniger. I thought they would be vault toilets, but they’re flushing. Unfortunately, there was no toilet paper or running water.

Downtown Los Angeles is the little dot under the orange clouds.
Inside the Museum
An old fire look-out that has been relocated to Henniger Flats.

Setting Up Camp

After checking in we set up our tents and then tried to set up our hammocks. I might need to invest in some strap extenders. We had a hard time hanging our hammocks up, because the trees were either too close or too far away. I finally got mine up and enjoyed laying in it and reading a book.

The view from my hammock.
It was hard to concentrate on my book with this view.

Making Dinner in The Woods

We each made couscous for dinner. We’re trying out different backpacking meals for our longer trips this summer. After dinner, we noticed we only had a few pieces of wood by our stove. We had read that the Los Angeles Fire Department – Forestry Division provides firewood. We walked back over and talked to the fireman and yes, they do provide firewood. He was so nice that he offered to load some up in his truck and drive it over to our site. Sally had made some firestarters at home. She mixed vaseline and dryer lint together into little balls. It worked great and we had a fire going in no time. We sat around the firebox and enjoyed the warmth while we had shots of Patron. We stayed up long enough to see Los Angeles lit up at night. Eventually, we crawled into our tents. The temperature wasn’t bad, the low was 50 degrees. I woke up lots of time, mainly because of a crow flying above us screeching about “murder.” All in all, I slept better than I have on some of our trips.

Firewood that the fireman delivered for us.
A nightcap next to the fire.
The view of Los Angeles.

Good Morning

I woke up Sunday morning to three deers munching on the grass in camp. We watched them until they moved on. For breakfast I made coffee and I tried out making instant oatmeal by just adding the water to the little packet and it worked. No need to use a bowl, this is good information for our trip to the Sierras. After breakfast, we packed up our backpacks and headed down the hill. It took us less than an hour to get down and it was still early so it was cool outside. We didn’t see any snakes, but we talked to a man that saw a baby rattler. Again, we were thankful that it was cool outside. Overall, this is a perfect hike to test out your backpacking gear and practice packing and carry your backpack up an incline. Henniger Flats was pretty and I would go back again.

Two deer heading out of our camp.
Ready to hike down.

Whitney Portal Trail to Lone Pine Lake

Monday morning I woke up at 5:00 a.m. in my tent at Lone Pine campground and decided it was too cold and too windy to try and go back to sleep. I turned on my headlight and packed up my tent. At 6:00 a.m. when I heard Sally walk by I got out of my tent and then packed it up too. We had plenty of time to make coffee and try to warm up. As we were drinking our coffee the sun started shining the most amazing light on Mt. Whitney and the surrounding mountains.

Sunrise hitting Mt. Whitney

Sunrise at the Base of Mt. Whitney.

A Beautiful Sunrise

The view just kept getting better and better.

It was sunny but cold.

We were in awe, it was truly breathtaking. After lots of coffee and a breakfast of an almost frozen protein bar, we headed up Whitney Portal Road to hike 3 miles to Lone Pine Lake.

The Start of The Whitney Portal Trail.

Whitney Portal Trail

We started our hike where hikers that summit Mt. Whitney start and we foolishly thought that this hike would not be too tough considering we were only going a little over 3 miles each way. Wrong. We underestimated the effects of hiking at such a high altitude. The entire 3 miles was uphill and the entire time it felt like I was trying to suck air through a straw. We had to stop many times to catch our breath and to peel off layers of clothing because although it was cold outside we were working hard.

Looking back into the valley of Lone Pine.

The higher we hiked the more snow and ice we encountered.

Lots of snow & ice.

Hiking in Snow and Ice

There were a few sketchy parts where we had to walk very carefully because the entire path was ice. One of the craziest parts was the iconic log bridge that we had to cross. We got halfway across and realized that there was ice on top of the log. I was sure that I was going to slip on the ice and fall into the frigid water.

I made it across the log bridge.

It was a big relief when I made it to the other side.

Sally navigating the ice.

After the bridge, it was another uphill slog and then we saw the glorious sign for Lone Pine Lake.

We’re always happy to see a sign.

Lone Pine Lake

We stopped to talk to some fellow hikers and then headed down to the lake. The lake is beautiful, but it is very different looking than the Big Pine Lakes. The entire lake was in the shade, even though it was close to 11:00 a.m.

Lone Pine Lake, CA

We did not have a thermometer, but it was the kind of cold that makes your skin sting. I boulder hopped around the lake looking for a camera angle that showed a little more light.

Lone Pine Lake, CA

Lone Pine Lake, CA

We took pictures and tried to eat a protein bar, but they were frozen solid. We decided it was too cold to hang around. Lone Pine Lake is as far up the Whitney Portal as you can go without a permit, so this was the end of the road for us. We headed back down. Thankfully, the sun had started to warm up the trail and melt some of the ice that was on it. We came down much faster than we had hiked up.

Heading back down.

Hiking Down Whitney Portal

When we got to the bottom we decided that we would go to Alabama Hills Cafe once more. We had some delicious sandwiches and even though it was warm in town we were still frozen from that hike. On the way out of town, we stopped at the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center in Lone Pine to buy some stickers. While we were there I bought a book about the JMT (John Muir Trail.) A seed has been planted and Sally and I are considering doing either the JMT or the High Sierra Trail this summer. We are going to apply for permits and wait and see how much snow the Sierras receive this winter. Luckily, we had an easy 3 1/2 hour drive home to a nice warm shower and a comfy bed.

Big Pine Lakes Lived up to The Hype

Sunday morning we woke up early and crawled out of our tents. When the sun camp up we could see that it had snowed all the way down to the base of the mountain. No wonder it was so cold in my tent. Instead of cooking breakfast we took advantage of being so close to town and we picked up coffee on the way out of town. We headed back on 395 towards Big Pine Lakes. We parked at the trail head then walked over to look at the trout ponds at Glacier Lodge. The view was amazing.

The Trout Ponds at Glacier Lodge.

Hiking On The John Muir Trail

We started off on our hike. We soon came across the sign that we were entering the John Muir Trail.

Me on The John Muir Trail.

Sally on the John Muir Trail.

Blue Skies & Yellow Trees

I had an agenda of seeing blue sky, yellow trees and turquoise lakes. The storm from the day before had blown out and the sky was a brilliant blue. About a mile into our hike we started seeing fresh snow on the ground. This hike is on the tougher side of moderate, lots of uphill switchbacks. We hiked next to Big Pine Creek the majority of the way.

Big Pine Creek

At about 2 miles in we got to a meadow of Aspen trees and the leaves were magnificent yellows and oranges. We stopped and took millions of pictures. I must have muttered, “This is so beautiful” a hundred times.

The Aspen Grove

The view of trail.

Lon Chaney Cabin

We stopped and took a break at the old Lon Chaney Cabin. The cabin was build by the actor, but it is now owned by the Forest Service.

The view from the front porch of the cabin.

We Found The Snow

After the nice break at the cabin it was back to more uphill and lots more switchbacks. We started to see a lot more snow. Every hiker we saw that was heading downhill stopped to tell us about their overnight experiences. The consensus was that nobody slept, because it was freezing cold and the wind was howling. We were warned to expect more snow the higher we got.

Lots of snow

Big Pine Lake

Just when we thought we could not go another step uphill we saw a sign. Sally always gets excited when we see a sign, because that means we’re close to something. This sign was for Big Pine Lake. We hiked up over the ridge and then caught a glimpse of lake number one through the trees. Que the singing angels. The lake is stunning. The lakes get their color from particles from Palisade Glacier. The blue is so blue.

Big Pine Lake #1

The trail is above the lake and we decided we would hike to the second lake instead of stopping. Lake number two is even more amazing, because Temple Crag is the backdrop.

Big Pine Lake #2

Looking at Temple Crag

I could look at this view all day.

We scrambled down a trail to the shore. Again we took hundreds of pictures and we sat down to have a picnic lunch. While we were eating we could see the wind blowing snow on Temple Crag. Shortly after the wind started blowing across the lake and we were freezing. We decided it was time to head back.

On the shore of Lake #2

A picture for Carey.

One last look.

Heading Back Down

There are five more lakes, but we decided that we would save those lakes for a day that was warmer. The hike back was just as amazing. This was one of the first hikes I have ever done that I did not want it to end. We hiked a little over 12 miles and it is safe to say that this hike is now my favorite one I have ever done.

Looking at where we had come from.

We found Fall.

Blue skies and yellow leaves.

Our Campsite at Lone Pine

We drove back to our campsite in Lone Pine. We still had plenty of daylight so we decided that we would cook dinner and make a fire. Sally and I split a big beer that she had brought for us as treat. It was so cold that we started our campfire while it was still daylight. We ate rehydrated Mountain House Pasta Primavera and it tasted delicious after all our hiking. We sat around our campfire with big jackets and down blankets until we could not take the cold any longer. We climbed into our tents and got ready for another very cold night. The wind was howling again, but this time I toke Alleve PM and wore earplugs. Thankfully I was finally able to sleep, because Day 3 we were heading up the Whitney Portal.

Lone Pine, CA

Lone Pine is just a 3 1/2 hour drive from Southern Californa. Living in Southern California, every fall I see the pictures of the beautiful yellow Aspens and the turquoise waters of Big Pine Lakes. This year my fearless, fellow adventurer “Sally” and I decided we were going to make the trip to see it for ourselves. We made reservations for Columbus weekend at Lone Pine Campground.

Driving to Lone Pine

We left the Los Angeles area Saturday around 7 a.m. It only took us a little over 3 and half hours to get to Lone Pine. Our first stop was the infamous Alabama Hills Cafe. The cafe was packed with hikers. Some obviously just finishing up long through hikes and others that were out for the day. We sat at the counter and ordered omelettes. While we were waiting for our breakfast we had time to look at the giant map on the wall detailing all the stops in the Alabama Hills. On the way out we got giant chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies to go. Their bakery goods looked amazing and they make them all in house.

Alabama Hills Cafe

Lone Pine Campground

We drove to our campsite and we thought that we were going to be camping in the middle of the desert and that it would not be very pretty, however, we were dead wrong. Lone Pine Campground is pretty. We had a walk in site. To the right of our site was a creek and trees and directly behind us was Mt. Whitney. The views were amazing. It was a beautiful morning, but there was an 80% chance of rain for the afternoon. We set up our tents and decided to go exploring.

Camping in Lone Pine

Lone Pine Camp Ground

Exploring Lone Pine

Our first stop was right down the road from our camp, Alabama Hills. The hills were named after a CSS warship. The area is BLM land and there were plenty of people camping in random locations. Alabama Hills has been used as a location for filming many old Westerns. We drove through and stopped at various points to get out and hike. Mobius Arch is just a short hike from the car. The arch forms a perfect peek-a-boo window looking at Mt. Whitney.

Alabama Hills

The entrance to Alabama Hills.

Mobius Arch

Mobius Arch

A perfect view of Mt. Whitney

A perfect view of Mt. Whitney.

A big storm was on the way.

A big storm was on the way.

Manzanar Historical Site

The sky was getting dark and ugly and we decided to head indoors. We drove up 395 to Manzanar National Historic Site. I had drove past Manzanar many times, but never stopped. There is a visitor center with rooms full of displays. In 1942 after the attack on Pearl Harbor 10,000 Japanese Americans were forced to relocate to Manzanar. The displays explain their loss and experiences at Manzanar and other internment camps throughout the West. There is also a 3 mile driving loop around the grounds and you can get out and go inside buildings and see ponds and gardens. We were only able to go inside one building before the rainstorm hit.



A Storm in Lone Pine

We drove back to our campsite to see how our tents had held up. At one point there were gust of 40mph and pouring rain. The good news is our tents were still standing, the bad news is the wind blew so hard that my rain fly ripped on both sides of my tent. The wind was so strong that it pulled all my tent stakes out of the ground. After readjusting our tents we decided that there was more rain coming and we did not want to try and cook in it. Sally and I got back in the car and drove to town. We found a Mexican Food restaurant and we drank beer and ate enchiladas while we watched the rain pour down outside the window.

A double rainbow.

A double rainbow on the way back to camp.

Tent Camping

Not being avid campers, we were more than apprehensive about spending the night in our tents in the rain and the wind. By 7:30 p.m. it was so wet and windy outside we said goodnight and crawled in our tents. We each had our backpacking sleeping bags inside our old fashioned Coleman sleeping bags. The double bags kept us warm, but sleeping when the wind is howling is not easy. All night long it felt like there was something or someone coming in the tent. Somehow I finally fell asleep.

Day 2 : We’re heading to Big Pine Lakes.

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