It sure was great to be back in the Sierra Nevada after two years of backpacking in what could arguably be called “lesser” locales, in terms of both elevation and beauty. But we didn’t originally plan on being there at all this summer, especially not for a measely three-day weekend.
Vicki and I originally had a permit to hike in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, but then the Lake Fire ruined everything. So I had to scramble for something backpackable. Something fun! With available water, preferably. And that pretty much removed Southern California from the list of options. Which is sad, because we live in San Diego, about as far south as you can get. It’s a long way to the Sierra from there.
So I stared at the maps, read some trip reports on the internet, and came up with a plan to hike the Cottonwood Lakes, which is about as far south in the Sierra as I could find, while still being wet enough, and up high enough, to make it worth the long drive. And if we were feeling particularly gung-ho once we got up there, we might even be able to bag a 14er!
We woke up early, and left the house at 3:30am, which I figured would get us past the evil Friday-morning L.A. rush-hour traffic before six, when it starts getting ugly. We had breakfast at dawn in Victorville, and proceeded to enjoy the rest of the drive to Lone Pine. It’s a great feeling to be on vacation.
We drove across the Big Empty, the Mojave Desert, on Highway 395 for what seemed like hours, seeing Joshua Trees and low mountains in the hazy distance. We were glad to have air conditioning this time. It’s hot out there in July. Eventually the road entered the Owens Valley, and the Sierra rose awesomely on our left, while the White Mountains rose on our right.
We arrived at the Lone Pine Ranger Station. We were late for the 8am opening, so we had to hang around until the 11am lottery. It was a nice modern building, with museum-like displays. We bought some shirts and maps in the gift shop. Our luck was bad on the lottery but good on the choice of trail, as we got a permit to hike that very day. I was certain we’d be in the Horseshoe Meadows backpacker camp that night, but no. We drove up the road to the trailhead and got ready to hike.