It had been a few days since we hiked in the mountains, and low 80s were in the Bishop forecast, so we took a scenic drive up Hwy 168 west of town to the South Fork Bishop Creek Canyon. The road climbs from about 4,000’ to 9,800’ at the trailhead at South Lake, quite a steep drive over 20 miles, passing several forest service campgrounds. It was in the low 60s by the time we got to the large parking area, which wasn’t even a quarter full. Perfect.
When we visited with friends Rick, Annie and Steve at June Lake, Annie loaned us a book called “Exploring Eastern Sierra Canyons, Bishop to Lone Pine”. It is full of excellent information about the canyon’s history, hiking, scenic drives, camping, etc. From what I’ve read so far, it sounds like most of the hiking trails in this area involve a lot more elevation gain than we care for, but I chose one that wasn’t too long (3 miles to Treasure Lakes), and was rated as moderate.
The trail begins at South Lake, where the aspens looked to be at peak colors.
The lake was quite low at this time of year.
The climbing started almost immediately, and perhaps because we’d spent a couple days below 5,000 feet, or maybe we were both just having a bad day, this was one of the toughest trails we’ve done lately. Many times we stopped to catch our breath and Jim would check to see how far we’d walked, always a disappointment. We really weren’t sure we would make it the 3 miles to the first lake. But after resting and eating our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we slowly continued on up the steep rocky switchbacks.
At just under a mile the trail forks off to Bishop Pass, which must be where most everyone else was headed, as we didn’t see another hiker until we were almost at the first Treasure Lake. This truly felt like a wilderness hike.
High above South Lake.
We crossed several creeks.
And saw quite a bit of snow left over from the storm last week.
There was one more big climb just before the lake, but as usual, we were glad we pushed on. Impressive 13,000’ peaks surround the lakes at 10,600’
There was a man camping near the lake, and we had a nice long chat with him. He’s from Marin and lives on a 36’ sailboat, an interesting guy. What a great campsite he had all to himself.
As we were exploring the second lake a little farther down the trail, I wasn’t paying attention to the ground and my left foot went into a hole. I felt my ankle turn, and went down on my right knee. Fortunately we were by the shore and the ground was spongy grass. I could tell it wasn’t badly sprained, so I cinched the laces on my hiking boots a little tighter and had no trouble walking back, and it was so much easier being downhill most of the way. I told Jim I would crawl the 3 miles back to the car before I was airlifted on a helicopter. I think I would have to be unconscious before that happened!
It did make us wonder if we should get one of those Delorme inReach devices that track your location so you can get help out of cell range. We don’t know anyone who uses one, but it might be a worthwhile investment for as much hiking as we do.
That evening the winds picked up, and we spent a sleepless night rocking and listening to things rattle and whistle that we have never heard before. And we’ve been in some pretty strong winds in New Mexico, but instead of coming from one direction it just seemed to swirl around us. Yesterday was a wasted one as we felt like zombies, and the wind continued much of the day. Today is much cooler and the clouds have dropped more snow on the mountain tops.
After an interesting sunrise this morning,
these ominous looking clouds dropped more snow on the higher peaks. I kind of like never knowing what to expect!