After last week, I completely understand why people choose to go on backpacking trips over car camping. I went on a baby backpacking trip with one of my best friends last week to celebrate our graduation / have one last hurrah before I left Los Angeles to head home in preparation for my one year adventure in Beijing. I had my doubts that we would actually go through with the trip, and boy am I glad that we did.
Since the beginning, we both had our uncertainties about how prepared we were for the trip. Although we had both been doing our research, neither of us had gone backpacking before. When we arrived at the ranger station in Bishop to pick up our wilderness pass, it seemed the ranger had his doubts too. Thankfully, he was awesome and he helped us out by giving us a heads up about the weather conditions / trail conditions (which initially freaked us the fuck out). He told us there was a huge stream we could potentially fall into, and how there had been snow storms and 40 mph winds in the area. After talking to him, Ashley and I both knew that we needed to hit up the local outdoor adventures shop and there, we bought gloves, an extra layer, a compass, and a trail map (all of which ended up being useful except for the compass, which we should have for safety purposes anyways) Thanks, Ranger John.
After that, we were on our way into the mountains. Day 1 consisted of car camping at the base of the trail so that we would be fresh for the trek the next day. That night, holy shit. The wind was blowing super hard and it was cold. V cold. We had bought this backpacking stove and the wind was so bad that it kept blowing out our stove fire. It was such a bitch. When it was time to wash dishes, we realized that we had nothing to wash them with. Ingeniously, we thought of cutting up one of Ashley’s old towels in her car to use as a makeshift sponge. It worked… somewhat adequately. We retreated into the semi-warmth of our tent pretty early on for a game of banana grams and light reading before going to be early, in preparation for waking up at 5AM to begin our trek.
Lessons learned: Use rocks to help block wind and contain the fire. Bring a sponge / soap because washing dishes with your hands sucks.
There was no wind that morning so cooking breakfast was a breeze. I was proud of us. We actually got our asses out of bed at 5:30AM and were packed up and ready to go by 7:51AM, which is when we began our trek. The first 10 minutes both of us were like, holy shit. This is going to be fucking hard. Taking a day hike for 6 miles is much different than carrying 30lbs on your back and walking the same distance. Our bodies needed time to adjust and the beginning of the trek was such a struggle, but so worth.
Here are some of the sights we saw:
After successfully conquering the stream that Ranger John warned us about, a few double backs over a river, many rest breaks and uphill climbs later, we finally arrived at Dingleberry Lake which would be our home for the next day.
At 11,000 feet, we were virtually alone. There were two other groups of backpackers up there, but the area was so large that we found our own area near a small stream to set up camp. It was so peaceful up there with the only audible sounds being the sounds of running water, rustling trees, and the barking of a fellow backpacker’s dog. Up there, you truly feel like a part of nature and it was while I was sitting up there admiring snowcapped peaks and still lakes that I fully understood why people endure smelly clothes, heavy packs, and extreme weather conditions to do this. Pictures really don’t do the beauty justice.
Lessons learned: Chicken risotto flavored freeze dry food is disgusting. Freeze dry food = made in the bag = NO DISHES ((((: Find a campsite by running water because it makes cooking much more convenient. Beware that you might poop in the same place as your friends. Dig big holes for your poop to avoid missing. Lul.
By this time, we felt like pros. We woke up at 5:30AM again and got packed and ready to go by 7:30AM, even though we took our time drinking tea by the lake. Day 3 was a breeze. Our packs were lighter and everything was downhill. Elevation changes make such a big difference! This day, we barely took any breaks and got back to our car in 3 hours. The day before, we had taken about 6. I don’t deny that we were being total millennials obsessed with documenting everything with the perfect picture appropriate for IG (probably accounting for a majority of the 6 hours), but I don’t deny that we were also struggling and needed those breaks. Cutting our time down by 3 hours, though, was super surprising.
Lessons learned: Decreasing elevation rocks. Lighter packs make all the difference.
Thanks, Eastern Sierras, for an amazing time and special shout out to Anthony’s Grill, an absolutely delicious Mexican joint halfway between LA and Bishop. If you ever make that drive, stop by that place. Ashley and I did. Twice. And we have no ragrets.