August 25-28, 2008
|Justdropin' (Cris, our wedding photographer and Mt. Langley hiking partner) and I spent the last four days hiking from South Lake up the Bishop Pass Trail and over into Dusy Basin in Kings Canyon National Park. Since I spent the first few years of my life at Bishop Creek I've been wanting to explore the backcountry here for quite some time. Growing up my family spent its time camping and fishing in the area but never hiked back into the wilderness. Back in 1999 I did an early season hike with Andrew up to Long Lake which was still snowbound but I have never been further back in. I'm so glad I finally decided to go! It is absolutely gorgeous... lake after lake after lake, waterfalls, meadows, and many very high rugged peaks providing the backdrop. Lots of wildlife, too - we saw a bear right at Bishop Pass, 11,900'. That's the highest I've ever seen a bear I think. We also saw two deer near our campsite at an unnamed lake in Dusy Basin, 3 pikas near Knapsack Pass, a mountain yellow-legged frog and tons of fish, a jackrabbit, squirrels, chipmunks, Clarks Nutcrackers, etc.
I drove up to Bishop Creek on Sunday and stayed the night at 4 Jeffrey Campground. This is just down the road from where we lived for the first few years of my life. I found a great site next to a grove of aspen trees and that night enjoyed a visit by a friendly and expressive deer. The next day I drove up to the trailhead and met Justdropin' and SPeacock (another bp.com forumite) who was joining us for the first day's hike up to Ruwau Lake. We made it up to the lake in time for a late lunch then we said goodbye to Steve and Justdropin' and I dayhiked up to Chocolate Peak to get a good view of the area and our route the next day.
The second day we cross-countried from Ruwau over to the two Timberline Tarns then caught the trail again as it went up to Saddlerock and Bishop Lakes. From here the trail starts to climb quickly and soon reaches a rockslide zone. Here a sign warns you to not dilly-dally and hike straight through until you reach the next sign. Then the trail climbs even steeper up a rock face to the pass. At the pass you are afforded a great view of Dusy Basin on down to the South Fork Kings River and the remote peaks beyond that. We hiked about a mile and a half down and then off trail to a medium-sized unnamed lake. We ate lunch then found a campsite on the western shore. We went for a swim and enjoyed the afternoon and evening. Especially wonderful were the alpenglow reflections of Mt. Agassiz, Winchell, Thunderbolt, and North Palisade. We also saw two deer that evening near our camp.
The next morning we kept camp where it was and dayhiked cross-country over towards Knapsack Pass. Now there is an easy way to do this pass and a hard way... and I think we chose the latter! We stayed up too high and ended up doing way too much talus and boulder hopping. At one point the boulders were so huge and the chasms between them so deep I started getting very nervous and scared. Thank goodness Cris was there to help me through it. We made it up to the pass and saw the incredible views into Palisade Basin and Mt. Sill, Middle Palisade, and Mt. Clyde beyond and I decided that was enough of an adventure for the day. So we headed back to camp this time taking a lower less-rocky route. When we got back to camp we went for another swim and took a nap. In the afternoon we played a game of Pass the Pigs and also had fun spotting the occasional hiker crossing the slopes in the distance. It is rather like "Where's Waldo?" - unless the person is moving or wearing red it is really hard to spot anyone out there in that vast landscape. Also that evening we started to smell smoke from a wildfire burning far to the west.
Early that morning around 2:00 am we heard a huge rockslide in the distance... It was scary to hear and I hoped it wasn't on the Bishop Pass Trail where we'd be hiking back out the next day. Thank goodness it wasn't. We made good time back over the pass after packing up camp that next day. At the very top, right at the sign, we saw a medium-sized cinnamon brown colored black bear ambling up through the rocks. I promptly started waving my trekking poles around and talking to the bear telling it to not come any closer whereas Cris promptly got out his camera and got a couple of shots. The bear took one look at us and just kept on walking and disappeared around a bunch of rocks. Soon after a guy came out walking the same way and we called over to him to see if he had seen the bear. Yes, they apparently passed within feet of one another. And it turns out it was the same guy we had seen at the pass two days before. In the meantime he had climbed Agassiz and Picture Puzzle Peaks. This is certainly a prime area not just for backpacking but also mountaineering.
On down the pass we went and braved the rockslide for the second time. I originally planned to spend one more night in the canyon but justdropin' wanted to join a few friends on another bp trip embarking the next day from Mammoth so we decided to hike all the way out on Thursday. We reached the trailhead around 3:30 pm, purchased showers at the nearby Parcher's Resort, then drove down to Bishop to eat dinner at Jack's. It was yummy, I had a cheeseburger on a homemade bread roll and part of Cris' milkshake. Thanks Cris for treating me :) We then parted ways, he heading towards Mammoth and me driving south along 395. I didn't quite make it home but pulled off to sleep at Four Corners and then drove the rest of the way home this morning.