Last weekend I took my father on a short trip to Inyo National Forest. The plan was to leave car for a few nights at Agnew Meadows camp grounds and then head to 1000 Island Lake, then to Garnet, Ediza and back. We left San Diego around 2am and at 8am were at the ranger station in Mammoth. To much surprise ranger told us that starting today, there was no overnight parking until spring. This could ruin our trip, but we've decided to change it a bit and instead went to Silver Lake where overnight parking was still allowed. We've unloaded the packs and headed up the trail . Both of us haven't done much hiking or camping in a long while and we just couldn't wait to get back to the nature.
The trail up to Agnew lake was fun and scenic. We could see quite a bit of fall color around. Since we still hoped to get to 1000 Island, we chose the shorter but harder route - to the left of the Agnew Lake, over 10,000 feet and towards the Clack Lakes. The rapid elevation gain was somewhat hard and by 10,000 both of us were panting and slumping over the hiking poles. At that elevation there was some old snow, which was wet and mushy. The air was getting colder and required an extra layer (i went up in a sleeveless shirt).
Once over the top of the ridge we headed to the Clark lakes through some scenic meadows. Once past the lakes we lost our trail. Going in all directions looking at the ground and very few trees here and there we just couldn't find the trail...There were no steps in the snow left by previous hikers or even wild game prints to show where the trail was. After some time, we thought we found the trail and started getting through some brush and around rocks only to find out it lead to a fairly steep ledge with no sight of trail. After going back and forth some more we could do nothing but backtrack and try again. The second time around we still couldn't find the trail. At this point due to our pace and some steep climbs, both of us were exhausted. It was getting close to sunset and we had only a little bit of water left. So it was time to make camp, filter some water and cook dinner.
Stoic Arx 2XL went up like a champ. It is not ultra-light, but is comfy double wall tent with plenty of space for 2 people.
Dinner was the highlight....We cooked some buckweat and put a full can of slow roasted meat in it. Yes, we brought a metal can of cooked meat in it's own juice....It wasn't light by any means, but oh my goodness was it tasty!
A few cups of tea later it was pitch black and time to get some rest. After getting comfy in the tent and finding that the 15* 850 filled Rab bag was HOT i started to slowly drift into the sleep. Despite my thought about bears, the body just was giving up. Then it happened....the sound came from maybe 150 feet away...A prolonged howling that chilled me in the 15* 850 fill down bag, which was too hot just 2 hours earlier.
Lying in the tent and listing i couldn't think but wonder - how close, how many and how hungry they could be. Then I heard it again about 100 feet away...I've elbowed my dad to wake him up...This time the sound came from about 50 feet and it felt that like he/she/they were circling us. We got out of the tent with and started looking into the darkness - no flashlights as we didn't want to show ourselves (even though i'm sure they've seen us). After about 20 minutes we've turned the lights on and cut through the darkness in a circle. No trace of the animals and no red pairs of eye looking at us from the darkness.
Once back in the tent, both of us couldn't fall asleep for an hour or so. Then my dad gave in to the night and started to snore. This didn't help me at all as I was still trying to listen for steps of bears or anything else that could possibly feel brave enough to enter the camp. I never knew how hard it is to fall asleep when you are trying to listen for a bear, but all you can hear is the snoring of the person next to you.
Next day, after breakfast we've tried to find the trail again but to no avail. At this point we just didn't feel like spending any more time and went back until the first trail intersection so we could change the route. Even if we made it to the 1000 island, we wouldn't have enough time to stay there long and would have to turn back right away. Instead we went towards Waugh Lake and at Rush creek crossed over towards Gem Lake. A short while later we were getting closer to the Agnew lake and the trail back to Silver lake trail.
In Bishop we've stopped by for some absolutely awesome hot pastrami sandwiches at Erick Schat's Bakery. If you are ever in town - give this place a try - their food is GOOD!
Gear that worked:
- Stoic Luft sweater
- Stoic Merino base layer
- Patagonia guide pants
What I shouldn't have taken:
- 5lb camera and lens
- extra battery
- 15* down bag (should have taken 30*)