Jaunts With Jackie

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Camping tent Anza-Borrego State Park

Desert Camping Anza-Borrego

Anza-Borrego Desert offers a multitude of camping options. There are four developed campgrounds with over 175 sites. These campgrounds also include group sites and Tamarisk Grove has primitive cabins for rent and if you really want to get away from it all Anza-Borrego allows roadside camping.

Camping amongst the cacti.

Anza-Borrego State Park

Anza-Borrego State Park is located about 2 hours away from both San Diego and Los Angeles. The park is open 7 days a week and there is a $10 fee for day use. After paying the entrance fee your first stop should be the visitor’s center. Inside volunteers and rangers have a wealth of information about the wildflowers, cacti, palm groves, and wildlife you might encounter in the park. They can also provide maps and current conditions for hikes. There are a small gift shop and restrooms located outside the doors.

The Cactus Bloom in the spring.

The Best Season to Camp at Anza-Borrego

Winter and Spring are the preferred seasons to camp at Anza-Borrego. Reservations can be made through Reserve California. Weekends in February book up far in advance. A regular site is $25 a night. Each site includes a picnic table, a shade awning, and a fire ring. There are a variety of bathrooms spread amongst the campsites including some pit toilets, some flushing toilets, and a few you just have to see to believe.

Tamarisk Grove in Anza-Borrego State Park

I have camped in Anza-Borrego State Park two times. The first time the only reservation I could find was at Tamarisk Grove for a cabin. I was leery about the definition of a cabin, but I made the reservations. The cabins cost $60 a night and are basically a large shed with a door and two windows. There is room for 8 to sleep and inside are bunk beds and a loft, however, there are no mattresses provide. You need to bring an inflatable or you will be sleeping on plywood. There are a table and two chairs, no electricity or running water and the door locks. Overall, the cabin provided protection from the howling wind and it was a cozy place to spend the night.

A Cabin in The Desert

We were able to hang our hammocks outside in between the poles of the shade awning. The hammocks were a perfect place to relax and read a book. When it was time for dinner we set up my jet boil on the picnic table and cooked ontop. After dinner, we made a fire in the fire ring and made s’ mores. The bathrooms at Tamarisk were nice, clean and they flushed. Because we only stayed one night we didn’t try the coin-operated showers. There are two easy hikes that start across the street from Tamarisk. They are the Yaqui Well Nature Trail and the Cactus Loop Trail.

Desert Camping

For our second overnight, we stayed in the main campground for Anza-Borrego State Park. We stayed in February during the rainy season and we didn’t make reservations, because we thought it was going to rain and we would have to cancel. When we arrived at the main gate they told us that they were completely booked for the night. We asked them lots of questions about the group site or the hike-in site and the ranger decided to let us camp in a hike-in site. Again at this site, we had a picnic table, a shade awning, and a fire-pit. The bathroom by our site did not have a roof and it had two toilets with a wall in between, but no doors. Not a toilet for the modest. We decided it was best to go to the bathroom in pairs and use one person as a look-out.

The craziest toilet I have ever seen.

A Hike That Leaves From The Campground

There are various hikes that start throughout the campground. One of the most popular hikes is Borrego Palm Canyon Trail. It is a moderate 2.9 miles roundtrip hike. There are signs warning you of the importance of bringing enough water with you for this hike. There is no drinkable water and you wiil not find any shade until you get to the palms. In the spring if it has been a rainy year there is a stream that runs down along the trail. It is possible to see a variety of animals on this hike including iguanas, Chuckwallas, and Bighorn Sheep. Once you get to the palms you will feel like you have made it to an oasis. The palms are huge and tower over you. They provide the much-needed shade from the scorching desert sun.

A Small Desert Town

The little town of Borrego Springs is right outside the entrance to Anza-Borrego State Park. In the center of town is Christmas Tree Circle. Here you can find a grassy common area, bathrooms, and free wi-fi. There are a few restaurants, gas stations, and little stores, however, be sure and check the hours, because of some of the places close early.

The Ocotillo were almost ready to bloom.

Dragons in the Desert

During your camping trip make sure you leave time to visit some of the 130 life-size art sculptures that are located around the town of Borrego Springs. The Chamber of Commerce has a map that shows the locations of the sculptures and because they are spread out you will need to drive to see them all. If you are camping with kids, this should be on your list of fun things to do.

The Sea Dragon

Free Dispersed Camping in Anza-Borrego

If you would like to camp in Anza-Borrego and are not able to get reservations you are allowed to camp for free as long as you follow the rules. Your car can’t be park more than one car length off of the road, however, your tent can be further you just need to walk. Another rule to remember is that you need to be at least 100 yards away from a water source. Furthermore, if you plan on having a campfire you need to have it in a metal container. No ground fires are allowed and lastly, you are responsible for hauling out your trash.

Staying in Anza-Borrego

Anza-Borrego has a lot to offer. There are plenty of both hiking and 4 x 4 trails. If you plan your visit right you might see the desert wildflowers in full bloom and at nighttime, you will get an amazing view of the stars. The desert just might surprise you, so get out there and start exploring.

Anza-Borrego Desert
Anza-Borrego Desert

Life-Sized Art Sculptures in the Desert

You never know what you might find when you visit Anza Borrega. Anza Borrega is located in San Diego County about 2 hours from SanDiego, Palm Springs, and the Inland Empire. The area is known for hiking trails, wildflowers, remote camping, and art. The ideal time to visit is during the Winter and early Spring. The summer months bring the scorching desert heat.

The Art of Borrego Springs

The small town of Borrego Springs is home to over 130 larger than life art sculptures in the middle of the desert. Artist Ricardo Breceda created these sculptures to resemble the creatures that might have roamed these deserts millions of years ago. The sculptures are made from welded metal and some of the intricate details such as whispy hair. The late Dennis Avery owned the land that is now referred to as Galleta Meadows and he had visions of free-standing art doting the property.

On the road to Anza Borrega

Locating the Sculptures

The sculptures are spread out and you need a car or possibly a bicycle to visit them. Most of the creatures are located off of Palm Canyon Drive. The Chamber of Commerce and some of the local businesses have free maps to help you locate the sculptures. To reach some of the sculptures you will need to drive on unpaved roads, however, the roads are fine for a 2 wheel vehicle.

A lone horse
Lots of Jeeps in Anza Borrego

Grasshopper vs. scorpion.
The Chief
A prospector and his mule.
The Sea Dragon

After Seeing the Sculptures

If you are not camping at Anza Borrego State Park or remote camping in Anza Borrego there are a few hotels located in Borrego Springs along with some restaurants. After a long day of exploring we ate at Carlee’s Place. Carlee’s is a typical “Dive-Bar,” however, the service was spot on and the food and drinks were both good. The night we ate at Carlee’s there seemed to be a good mix of both locals and tourists.

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.
Goodnight!

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.

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