I have hiked this trail as day hike in 2010 and have been wanting to go back again to do it as a backpacking trip so this trail has always been on my radar. I had planned it out for new years but had to cancel it so when i had a friday off along with opportunity to hang out with friends in Mammoth i decided to do this trail as a quick backpack.
Got my permits and the plan was simple, hike in friday morning and then hike back out early saturday morning and then go to Mammoth for my friends birthday and meet everyone. I had to be back in LA on sunday morning for diving the oil rigs so i had to drive back saturday from Mammoth. It was going to be a crazy hectic weekend but not the first one so i knew i could pull it off.
I didn’t spend too much time packing for this since i was going to keep it simple and it was going to be a quick backpack. I recently purchased a tripod so i decided to take it along with me on this hike.
I got only 3-4 hours of sleep the previous night which wasn’t good and left LA around 6.30 in the morning which was later than i had planned for and by the time i got to the trailhead it was 11am. I wasn’t sure where the overnight parking lot was and after some confusion i managed to find it and i was off by 11.30am.
I was in no hurry to get to third lake, its only a 6 mile hike with around 2-3k elevation gain so i took my sweet time. The trail from the parking lot to the waterfall and the main canyon is not shaded but it wasn’t that hot and the wind was helping.
When i got to the waterfall, i decided to test out my tripod and play with it. I have always wanted to take pictures of streams with longer exposure times to freeze the water action and so i was looking forward to it. But soon enough i discovered that the light was too strong and i couldn’t expose for longer period of time but i did manage to get some decent shots. I figured on the way back i would set off early and then try to get some more shots in less intense light.
Other thing was that i couldn’t keep the camera in portrait mode on the tripod, the ball of the tripod doesn’t allow for it. Oh well, i am not going to complain too much since i bought the tripod at swap meet for cheap. Now i know for my next tripod purchase what features i should be aiming for.
I trudged along at my slow pace, enjoying the nature and deep into my thoughts with few interesting ideas bouncing in my head. Since it was a friday i didn’t expect many people on the trail and i was right. It made the hike even better. I didn’t carry too much water with me since i knew there would be stream all along but i was surprised on how thirsty i was on the hike and i did manage to consume almost two liters of water before i even go to the first lake.
The hike is not steep but slow gradual uphill and since you are always gaining elevation i wouldn’t call it an easy hike, more like a moderate one. The first 3 lakes are really close by and i was there at the first lake at around 3.30pm, i took some pictures there and proceeded to the 2nd lake where i didn’t spend that much time. I wanted to get to third lake, establish camp and then hike around to take some pictures. My goal for this trip was to do a relaxing backpack and take pictures of the beautiful scenery.
I wanted to camp closer to a running water source and as i got to the lake it didn’t seem like there was a camp site which was close to the lake as well as close to a water source. I continued along further and was told that 4th lake is much prettier place to camp. But it was an hour away and then my permit was to camp at 3rd lake so i didn’t want to take that chance.
As i was on the trail, almost at the end of third lake i saw a campsite in middle of the trees which was about 50ft below the trail. I thought it would be a good place to camp since it seemed close to the lake and the stream which i could hear. So i descended down and decided that it would be a good place to camp but soon enough i regretted my decision.
I had thought the stream would be close by and there would be a clear path to it for me to get some water but it wasn’t the case. Since the camp site was in middle of trees, at night i couldn’t venture out too far from it and risk getting lost. All these things i realized after i had pitched the tent and unpacked my pack. So i just decided to suck it up for the night.
I went down to the edge of the lake to scout things around and see if i could find a way to get to the stream and fill my bottle but it wasn’t going to happen. I just took some pics, came back to the tent and thought about how i was going to approach the situation.
I had already filled one empty water bottle so i had enough water if i needed to cook something and drink. In morning i wouldn’t need that much either to make my breakfast so i decided that it wasn’t a big deal. I had my dinner which was chocolate custard (it was a big, big mistake. lets just say for the whole night my tent was a gas chamber, good thing that i was alone) and at around 5.30 pm i was ready to crash. The lack of sleep had affected me and i figured i could easily crash and sleep the night away for 10-12 hours.
Because of my choice of campsite i wasn’t too confident about going too far away in the dark and trying to take some night pics on the edge of the lake that is why i just decided to go to bed and then try to catch the morning light to take some pics but i was wrong again.
I dozed off at around 5.30 but then i was wide awake at 8.30 or so, no matter how hard i tried i just couldn’t go back to bed and it was starting to get frustrating. I wanted to do some night photography but at the same time not risk going too far away from the tent.
Finally i decided it was enough and i ventured out to take pictures. The moon was out which helped a lot and i found a clearing where i was able to photograph the milky way and play with my camera. After spending an hour or so outside, i felt much better and less angry about the choice of my camp site. Surprisingly the moon went away behind the mountains it was as if it was setting and it wasn’t even 11pm.
It was also a cue for me to head back to the tent. I set my watch alarm for 5am hoping to leave early but i suppose i was too tired and managed to leave at around 7am. I also didn’t feel like making any breakfast so i just munched on granola bars and then decided to start hiking back out.
On the way back i found a nice spot for me to take some pictures of the stream. I must have spent half an hour at this place and it was really relaxing for me to set up my tripod and just take pictures. I hadn’t imagined that i would feel so good doing so.
I reached the trail head at around 10.30 am and i decided to take a dip in hot springs near mammoth airport before going to Carolina’s place for her birthday celebrations. It was nice to meet some of the folks from the skiing group and i wanted to stay for sat night fun but diving the oil rigs was a priority over a night of partying.
The drive back seemed boring but with coffee as my friend i did survive it and the diving next day was simply amazing.
I really feel nostalgic on hikes like this, i simply love the sound of a river or a stream next to me while i am hiking or for that matter even at night when its quiet outside and all you hear is the stream. It reminds me of hiking in the himalayas. Greenery and beautiful views all around you with a stream continuously running next to you and you hear it all the time. Next time i get on this hike, the plan would be to camp out at fourth lake and hopefully hike up to the palisades glacier.