For the first time in my life, I had Columbus Day off and decided to go on a solo hiking trip for the long weekend. One of my most favorite areas of California is the Eastern Sierra – the valley between the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada and the White Mountains which run along the California/Nevada border. The area is beautiful; full of sage brush, aspen, hot springs and mountain views. There was one place in particular that I’ve been wanting to get to for a couple years and figured this was as good a weekend as any. So Saturday morning I woke up early, loaded the car, and drove to a little town called Big Pine.
I got there in the afternoon as a few storms were blowing around, but I was so excited to hike that I went out anyway, chasing views of the high peaks. Pretty quickly it started to snow, and then it started to thunder. I loooove hiking in the snow, but I don’t mess with lightning, so I high-tailed it back to my car and had a restorative evening snuggled in the back of my car with beer, M&Ms and a good book. It brought me back to my cross-country travels and made me very happy.
The next morning I was at the trailhead at 7 and on the trail by 7:30, just after the sun came up. I didn’t see another person until I was almost up the the lakes, and then it was only people who had spent the night camped up there during the storm who were hurrying down to the sunshine and the warmth. Mornings after a snowstorm are the most beautiful mornings in the world to me, especially when the aspen trees are just turning to gold.
It was 6 miles to the second lake, with 2,250 ft of elevation gain, and I was there at 9:30. It took my breath away. I put on all my extra layers and just sat in awe of the view.
Once my body temp started to drop I knew it was time to start moving again, and since it was still only 10 am I wasn’t ready to head back down so I decided to make a loop past Third lake, Fourth Lake, and Black Lake. I passed a couple guys who had camped up at Fourth Lake and they assured me the conditions were safe without needing crampons or poles so away I went. The further up I got the more snow was one the trail, and the colder it got, but I felt pretty safe the whole time. I made sure to eat a lot of snacks and put on more layers and enjoyed the day. None of the other lakes were quite as breathtaking as Second Lake but they were each beautiful in their own way.
Surprisingly the most emotional point of the day was on my way back down from Black Lake, when I got an unexpected view back at Temple Crag and Second Lake from across the canyon. Looking at the view of the lakes on top of the sparkling snow, golden aspen, with the warmth of the noonday sun, made me literally cry with happiness.