May 4, 2015

Hiking into the Inyo National Forest

A few weeks ago, I tweeted about needing to get some camping gear -- which took me to REI, our favorite place for grabbing stuff to play in the outdoors. Every Saturday, they have what's called a Garage Sale. It's essentially new or barely used items that people have returned up for final sale, offered mostly at ridiculous discounts. You can only go if you're an REI member, though I'm pretty sure you can sign up there if you find something and you're not already with them.

It's possibly one of the most genius things we've ever heard of, and we go frequently when we need to stock up on some gear.

After waiting for a little over hour, we got in and immediately were able to snag a few of the items that we needed, namely: two backpacks, a tent, and some hiking boots for my mom (she didn't come with us this time, but they're good to have on hand!).

All of this was for a trip my dad had planned with some of his friends. He asked if I wanted to go, and I thought it could be interesting. So, with a car full of stuff, we drove a little over three hours to get to the Eastern Sierras. 

From there, we unloaded our stuff and waited for the rest of the group to come.

Starting at the Onion Valley Trailhead in the Inyo National Forest, we were planning on making our way all the way up to the top to Kearsarge Pass, which meets up with the John Muir trail. Our campsite was near the peak, which required us to hike up for about three to four hours.

So we were off! We grouped together and started the long trek ahead of us. While we tried to stick together, it didn't stay that way for long -- our group consisted of people with different levels of experience.

For example, this was my first time going on a backpacking trip. Naturally, I wasn't the first one up the mountain. There were some slower, some faster, but we made it a point to wait for each other at different locations along the hike to make sure that we all got up safely.

This sign made me so excited because I had heard a lot about the John Muir trail from my sister over the years. Named for the naturalist John Muir, it's a long-distance, intensive hike that spans across 160 miles. It goes through Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks.

Where we were going meets up with the famous JMT right along the ridge of the Sierras.

Something I had not expected was to have to hike through parts that still had patches of ice and snow, making for a slower pace and much more cautious hikers. Although the weather was fair (warm sun, cold breeze), these patches sprouted up more and more the higher up we hiked.

After losing much of the group, we made our way to a beautiful lake surrounded by snowy mountains. I cannot tell you how amazing this place was -- after miles of going uphill, you level out a little bit and are treated to this sight. A peaceful area with very few people around, and a lake that changed colors with the sun.

We waited until everyone from our group made it, then set back off to get to our campsite. After what seemed like another hour or so, we finally veered left from the trail and found ourselves a flat area to set up our tents and call home for the night.

All around us were mountain peaks sprinkled with trees and snow.

Right next to us was a little pond of water that dribbled into a little waterfall that we used to collect water to filter. The ground near the water felt like marshland, soft under our boots. It sank a little bit with every step, and on the other side were snowy patches with prints that we were all curious to check out.

Thankfully, they didn't belong to a bear! Maybe snow shoes. But definitely not a bear.

We set up our tents, unloaded our backpacks, and refilled our water bottles. Those of us that still had  a little bit of energy left in us headed off again to climb up to the actual peak, about an hour's hike away from where we camped.

So five of us left while a few others stayed behind to look over the campsite and to rest up.

But more on that next time! I get a feeling this post was poorly written, but I hope you'll excuse me for that. I'm still in recovery mode from the weekend and am in desperate need of a nap.

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