Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Big Pine

We are the only campers at the Big Pine Creek National Forest campground, nine miles west of the small town of Big Pine on Rt. 395, in a stand of large of Ponderosa Pines, right at tree line at 7,700 feet along the willow lined banks of Big Pine Creek, which is brimming with spring runoff snowmelt. The sandy soil all around is dry, but barely, and it looks like this year's massive snow pack has just recently retreated to higher elevations. The willows around the creek are just beginning to stand tall and bud. The aspens are just beginning to leaf, but it seems even too early for the first blooming snow flowers to emerge from the pine duff, and crushed granite. The large mature fir trees that surround this idylic spot are widely spaced, and the forest floor is a jumble of medium to large sized pieces of granite separated by a pine duff and small sage plants.

Only a portion of the campground is open, as the larger loop was virtually destroyed by a late spring avalanche. Trees of up to 18" in diameter were snapped at head height, picnic tables, crushed into match sticks, and heavy metal bear boxes, torn from their bolted foundations and tossed down the slope and into the creek. Amazingly, the concrete outhouses seem unscathed. Needless to say, there is a lot of clean up required before these sites will be habitable.

Today we hiked up the canyon, but were stopped by the snow line at around 8,500 feet after just over an hour of travel. Here on the east side of the Sierras, the elevation climbs quickly, and the 11,000 to 13,000 foot peaks of the crest beckon around every turn of the trail. This would be a great trailhead for spring skiing expeditions, as the road gets cleared early, usually mid April, and the trail head at the end of the road is quite high. There is a small family run summer only resort at the end of the road - Glacier Lodge for those needing an ice cream fix, a quick trout from the stocked trout pond, or some rustic cabin accommodations. The phone number is 760-938-2837, and they are on the web at Www.jewelofthesierra.com. There is also Glacier Pack Station near the end of the road 760-938-2538 where you can arrange a fully catered horse supported hiking or pack trip, or drop camp support to the high alpine lakes within one day's hike of the station. From this trail head, there are two primary hiking routes into the John Muir Wilderness, one following the north fork of Big Pine Creek, and the other following the south fork. Both trails rise above treelike quickly, following their respective watersheds through the broken granite terrain, and lead within a few miles to chains of pristine mountain lakes. The north fork has two waterfalls. Returning to camp for some quiet time, we dig out the sweaters and put away the shorts, because as the sun sinks below the ridge line, the temperature plummets back to the 50's. We are glad to have the camper and a comfortable place to get out of the elements.

From Spring-Summer 2011

From Spring-Summer 2011

From Spring-Summer 2011

From Spring-Summer 2011

1 comment:

Justin Graham said...

Enjoyed reading your blog. This is Justin Graham, I use to work with you at ACC and still do in the LA office. Hope all is well, I enjoyed reading your blog. Big Pine creek is a great place to hike/climb. Heading up towards 2nd and 3rd lake is really some gorgeous places. I;'m guessing with such a long harsh winter those lakes are still frozen solid. I did Mt. Sill a few summers ago and it was spectacular. Not overly difficult and provided some of the best views in the high sierra. I am hoping to get up there this summer and tackle Middle Palisade.


PS- I sent you a friend request on facebook, feel free to accept, I have some good Sierra photos posted up on my account.