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Big Pine Lakes Basin Trail - 2 members in 5 triplogs have rated this an average 5 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Sep 13 2018
Oregon_Hiker
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 Guides 8
 Routes 349
 Photos 6,170
 Triplogs 463

73 male
 Joined Dec 07 2010
 Phoenix, AZ
Big Pine Lakes Trail to Second Lake, CA 
Big Pine Lakes Trail to Second Lake, CA
 
Hiking avatar Sep 13 2018
Oregon_Hiker
Hiking9.20 Miles 2,430 AEG
Hiking9.20 Miles   8 Hrs   48 Mns   1.05 mph
2,430 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Partners none no partners
This was the second hike on my tour of the Eastern Sierra trailheads on a driving/camping trip that would take me north to Big Lake in the Oregon Cascades to meet some friends on Sept 26 before returning to Phoenix on Oct 5. I set up camp in the Big Pine Campground near the historical site of Glacier Lodge and within 0.3 miles of the trailhead. This campground normally requires reservations but this late in the season it had started accepting first-come-first-serve. I arrived in the late morning in the middle of the week and had my choice of several sites. The campground water supply was out of commission which may have contributed to the vacancies. The lack of water was not a problem since I had stuck to my AZ camping practice of carrying 13 gallons of water. I would discover that the campgrounds at higher altitudes in the Eastern Sierras start shutting down water supplies in the Fall after several nights of freezing temperatures to avoid damage to the water pipes.

I started the hike the next morning at 8:00 am and encountered several fishermen already returning to camp. One smiling fellow was carrying two trout on his stringer. This area has the reputation of being one of the most scenic in the Eastern Sierras, probably because of the combination of the Palisades Peaks and Glaciers and the Big Pine Lakes Basin. It did not disappoint although every high mountain trail in the Eastern Sierras that I've been on has amazing scenery.

It's a popular hike and I encountered many hikers on the trail. Everyone was friendly and talkative which considerably slowed my progress. I ran out of time and energy upon reaching Second Lake. My goal had been Fifth Lake but realized it was beyond my capabilities for a day hike. Most of the day hikers I encountered were turning around at either Second or Third Lake. A number of backpackers were continuing on to the lakes basin. Shortly after starting the return hike I stopped to talk to a backpacker on his way up the trail. His backpack was the old external frame type but he did not have the usual sleeping bag and tent strapped on to the frame and the small canvas pockets on the frame did not appear to be full so I thought he was a day hiker. But no, he told me he would be out for several days and was a happy advocate of ultralight backpacking. From our discussions I assumed he was solo. About a mile further down the trail I stopped to talk to another backpacker and noted that he had the same brand and type of external frame backpack as the guy I had met earlier. This guy's pack was overloaded with lots of stuff strapped on the frame. With the weight of the overloaded pack and the extra pounds carried around his girth this guy was really struggling up the trail. When I mentioned the odd coincidence of meeting two guys on this trail with the same model and color of a somewhat rare external frame backpack the guy spewed out several profane expletives and said: "That was my friend, I'm going to kill that guy! He shows up for our BP trip with practically nothing in his pack and announces he's now into ultralight backpacking. If he thinks he's going to use any of my stuff he's got another think coming!" He then recounted several instances of this friend causing trip canceling problems on previous backpacks. I was about to suggest he should take up solo backpacking but decided to keep my mouth shut.

Historical stuff: This area has some interesting history so after getting back home I did a little research. I pieced this info together from scattered sources and I cannot swear to its accuracy.

Glacier Lodge: Although the location is noted on maps only the lodge foundations still exist but nine small cabins remain of what is still called the Glacier Lodge Resort. One of the cabins is used as the front desk, small store and very small "restaurant" The other 8 cabins are available for rent. The original lodge was built in 1917 and consisted of a small hotel and several cabins. A fishing camp of several tents was maintained at Fourth Lake. During the depression a local lumberyard in Big Pine with no customers and out of work residents combined resources to turn the site into a resort with a new beautiful lodge building. A smaller version of the lodge with kitchen and small dining hall was built at the Fourth Lake tent camp site. The resort enjoyed some success and was often booked solid during fishing and hunting seasons. The second owners even setup up a couple of ski tow ropes on the slopes to lure visitors in the winter in the late 1940s. The lodge met disaster during the heavy snow winter of 1959 when it was temporarily closed because it was covered with snow. They forgot to turn off the propane to the lodge, something caused a leak in the line and the lodge blew up after an avalanche buried the building sealing in the leaking gas. Many of the cabins collapsed under the weight of the snow. The main lodge was rebuilt but was later destroyed by fire in 1999. The Lake Lodge at Fourth Lake was torn down in 1963 due to the Wilderness Act of 1943 which stated that no permanent buildings could exist above 9000 ft and owners were given 20 years to comply.

Lon Chaney's Cabin: Lon Chaney Sr was a famous early movie actor, make-up artist, screen writer and director. He starred in the silent movies "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923) and "The Phantom of the Opera" (1925). Chaney enjoyed camping and fishing in the upper North Fork Big Pine Creek and in 1929-30 had a cabin built there on the bank of the creek at a cost of $12000. It was designed by Los Angeles architect Paul Revere Williams who was the first African American granted a fellowship in the American Institute of Architects. He was only able to enjoy the cabin for a few months before he died at age 47 in August 1930 from bronchial cancer. The cabin was taken over by the Forest Service in 1980 and has been preserved as an historical building.


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2 archives
Jul 01 2017
Lucyan
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 Routes 1
 Photos 12,122
 Triplogs 740

39 female
 Joined Jan 18 2011
 In the Wild
Big Pine Lakes Basin TrailSierra Nevada, CA
Sierra Nevada, CA
Hiking avatar Jul 01 2017
Lucyan
Hiking17.00 Miles 3,300 AEG
Hiking17.00 Miles
3,300 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners none no partners

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 First Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Second Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Third Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full
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2 archives
Sep 12 2015
trekkin_gecko
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 Guides 5
 Routes 352
 Photos 4,256
 Triplogs 2,714

61 female
 Joined Nov 17 2008
 phoenix, az
Palisade Glacier/Big Pine Lakes, CA 
Palisade Glacier/Big Pine Lakes, CA
 
Hiking avatar Sep 12 2015
trekkin_gecko
Hiking21.56 Miles 6,602 AEG
Hiking21.56 Miles   12 Hrs   41 Mns   2.06 mph
6,602 ft AEG   2 Hrs   12 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Partners partners
johnlp
Tortoise_Hiker
our second trip to the eastern sierras
this year instead of a backpacking trip, we camped and did two dayhikes that denny picked out
Saturday's hike went up the north fork of big pine creek
steady elevation gain along the creek and through pine trees
our first stop was at lon chaney's cabin, now used by the forest service
nice view of the creek from the front porch :)
the trail continued above turquoise colored lakes one, two and three
arrived at the junction with the palisade glacier trail, and headed for sam mack meadow
checked that out, then began a steeper ascent toward the glacier overlook
good trail for much of it, then off trail for the last few hundred yards
thrown off by a stray cairn, we first took a line through loose talus and scree to the base of a smaller glacier
knew that wasn't the big one, but I started down, knowing how difficult it is for me to descend that kind of terrain
john traversed a ridgeline to the west, and found the palisade overlook
he graciously insisted that I come back up with him on the correct route, which was much easier
wonderful views of the glacier, the palisade cirque, and a large pool at the bottom of the drainage surrounded by a wall of ice
well worth it, and john's extra effort for me to see it was much appreciated
great views of several lakes and the surrounding mountains and meadows
descended, picked up denny and dropped down to sam mack meadow, then returned to the north fork trail
we were not sure how many of the lakes we would have daylight for
passed by lake four and took the side trip to lake five
hank's favorite and I can see why - but all of them were beautiful
hit summit lake, and then went on the six and seven after some discussion, concluding that we might never come back that way again and should take in as much as possible
between six and seven is easy off trail
peaks surrounded all of the upper lakes
some light rain as we left lake seven, and smoke from the rough fire started rolling in
returned via black lake trail, passing black lake, for our ninth of the day
still more than four miles to go, and we finished at dusk
a nice long hike with plenty of elevation gain, and we took every possible side trip
such beautiful country and a good contrast in terrain between the glacier and the lakes
denny, great choice! loved it
twelve hours later we would set out on our second hike
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Sep 12 2015
johnlp
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 Guides 1
 Routes 9
 Photos 4,301
 Triplogs 3,425

62 male
 Joined Mar 16 2008
 chandler,az
Palisade Glacier/Big Pine Lakes, CA 
Palisade Glacier/Big Pine Lakes, CA
 
Hiking avatar Sep 12 2015
johnlp
Hiking21.56 Miles 6,602 AEG
Hiking21.56 Miles   12 Hrs   41 Mns   2.06 mph
6,602 ft AEG   2 Hrs   12 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
Partners partners
Tortoise_Hiker
trekkin_gecko
Since the same weekend last year Denny has been planning another Sierra trip. Due to his shoulder surgery we decided on day hiking from a campground vs backpacking. Fine with me. We camped at Glacier Lodge campground "Jewel of the Sierra" lol. The lodge is a glorified 1000 sq ft cabin. Food and beer are very good though. Best baked beans on earth, said the cook. Hard to argue with that. 1/3 bacon and green chilis help. :)

Mr Turtle decided to wake us at 0505 even though it didn't get light until 0630. We hit the trail at 0640 for a long adventurous day stopping by nine lakes and the largest glacier in the Sierra (Palisades).

Excellent hike. Excellent company. :)
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Light
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“Good people drink good beer.” Hunter S Thompson
Sep 12 2015
Tortoise_Hiker
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 Routes 78
 Photos 7,252
 Triplogs 2,630

58 male
 Joined Apr 02 2005
 Mesa, AZ
Palisade Glacier/Big Pine Lakes, CA 
Palisade Glacier/Big Pine Lakes, CA
 
Hiking avatar Sep 12 2015
Tortoise_Hiker
Hiking21.00 Miles 6,300 AEG
Hiking21.00 Miles   12 Hrs   41 Mns   1.66 mph
6,300 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Partners partners
johnlp
trekkin_gecko
I have a book of hikes in this area. It has ratings for scenery,solitude,difficulty. It also gives aeg for basic hike without side trips. This hike is listed at 10 for scenery,4 for solitude,moderate for difficulty, 12.5 miles without side trips, and 3,170 aeg. I'm sure everyone has there own opinions but I liked having a guide to give me an idea of the area. I think each trail has it's own personality as do my hiking partners which make these outings very enjoyable for me.
John and Kelly agreed to do this hike and another as a day hike. I hoped going from a 30+Lb backpack to a 8-10Lb day pack would be a lot easier on me. Thank You two! Kelly secured us a camp spot at Glacier Lodge campground and the plan was set. The campground was small and I only saw one restroom. The trailhead and next campground(near) had vault toilets and didn't seem to be an issue. There was a little store where you check in that had a few groceries and a 4$ shower. It also had a limited menu for breakfast to early dinner. I had chili dog first night and burger and baked beans the last and both were very tasty. There was also a trout pond but I didn't see any fish.
We headed out early to get as much as we could out of today's daylight and try and hit some of the side trips. The trail stays along the north fork of Big pine Creek for some time. There was plenty of places to filter so we carried 2qts or less most of the hike. The creek was cool and there were little waterfalls from time to time. You pass the old Lon Chaney cabin which is in an awesome spot by the creek then hit the turn off for Black Lake at 4.3 miles. If you are doing the loop it is recommended you do Blake Lake last as it is a loose sandy climb if first. I agree except going to Lake 1,2,3 first gave are pics a lot of glare. Lakes 1,2,3 have an awesome color to them. From there we were off to Sam Mack Meadow. It is a cool little area. From there we started the climb to see Palisade Glacier. When you get up a ways, the views of lakes 1,2,3 are awesome. we were able to follow a faint trail and carins until a quarter mile or so then made one small wrong turn. we ended up at John's "wheel barrel" glacier. We were lucky John didn't give up and took a ridge line over and found the real Palisade Glacier. Awesome view with the peaks in the background. From there we headed back down and enjoyed the scenic views from all kinds of angles. We were able to check out all the other lakes in the area including Hank's favorite no.5. Very nice area and would be fun to explore for a longer time. After climbing down from fifth lake we got a few sprinkles and some smoke started showing up from the Calif. fires. We picked up our pace and made it back right about dark.
We did here from a couple backpackers that they tried to filter from the lakes and clogged their filters. We told them the creeks are the ticket as we had no problems. Thanks to John and Kelly for this one. It was a long day but most enjoyable! You two rock! :y:
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Tortoise Hiking. Stop and smell the Petrichor.
2 archives
average hiking speed 1.7 mph

WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

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