Sabrina to Hungry Packer Lake

This is a highly interactive post. The map below, and some of the large panorama pictures are able to zoom and pan like google maps. I also ENCOURAGE you to click on the pictures, you’ll get a bigger view, and more information about whats going on. You’ll also find some words with dots under them, if you hover your mouse over the word you’ll get more information. Thanks, and enjoy.

In 1994 I hiked from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, to the north rim and back with my Dad. It was 50 miles, over 6 days which included Thanksgiving. I’ve found something indefinably relaxing about backpacking ever since and went on to do a 50 mile hike in the Sierra’s, two more 50 mile trips at Philmont and one 100 mile trip also at Philmont. I’ve done lots and lots of shorter hikes as preparation, or otherwise in between mostly in the western Sierra’s. But since growing out of Boy Scouts and into the frenzied world of gainfully employed adulthood, the frequency of trips has dropped. Enter, Paul Lockyer who’s story is likely similar, just with more chapters. I’ve known him roughly as long as I’ve known his son Matt when we started Kindergarten together. Paul has been helping to orchestrate a yearly trip just about every year since his sons and I have graduated to the real world. This year, we went to the lake Sabrina trail-head, east of Bishop CA, to Hungry Packer Lake and back.

Day 0

We started out Saturday morning. Paul & Matt picked me up from my parents house in Shingle Springs at 11 am and we started the long drive to Mammoth Lakes. The drive takes an non-intuitive route from Shingle Springs, north-east on Highway 50 to highway 88 near Lake Tahoe, then across Monitor Pass to 395, and finally south on 395 until you get to Mammoth Lakes. Travis and Abby were coming from LA, their route was more direct, but longer. Paul, Matt and I stopped for lunch in Markleeville at a small sandwich shop and a few rest stops along the way, otherwise the drive was uneventful. We got into Mammoth Lakes around 5PM and setup camp at the New Shady Rest campground where we would spend the night and waited for Travis and Abby to finish their trek. I should spend a bit explaining WHY we stopped in Mammoth Lakes instead of closer to the trailhead. Our hike would start at around 9,100 feet in elevation and climb to near 11,000; elevations where your lungs kick and scream when you push them. Almost all of our group lives at essentially sea level (Paul is the highest around 1,500 feet). So we choose to spend the night in Mammoth Lakes because its elevation is near 8,000 feet. This gives us a day or so to get our body acclimatized to the elevation before we start doing anything strenuous. One day doesn’t make a huge difference, but its better than nothing. Bishop is closer to the trail-head but sits at only 4,000 feet. After Travis and Abby arrived and got setup we went out to Perry’s Italian Cafe for dinner. I had a Calzone and a Mammoth Brewing Co Real McCoy Amber. The place is sort of traditional for these trips. We went back to camp, placed some cards and eventually went to bed.

Day 1

The next morning we woke up, packed up, and stopped at The Breakfast Club in Mammoth Lakes (also a tradition) for a hearty breakfast. Bacon Omelette, Coffee and some whole wheat toast to start the trip before we drove through Bishop and to the trailhead. We tried not to waste any time getting on the trail, since this would be our longest day and we were getting a late start due to the driving. Once everybody had their packs on, we started up the trail. Our first destination was Dingleberry Lake. Blue Lake was closer, but we were worried about the number of people there since it was a Saturday and wanted to get beyond the weekenders.

There was a lot of climbing during this first day. We went from 9,100 feet to 10,500 in only a few hours. If you look at the map at the top of the page you’ll see the spots along the trail with crazy switchbacks that we went up. We ended up eating lunch short of Blue Lake on the way up. We made it to Dingleberry lake with a decent amount of daylight left and everyone setup their tents. It was starting to look like rain so everybody was quick to get their tents set up. I held off on putting up mine though. I have a Bivy Sack and I hadn’t yet tried it out in the rain. Its supposed to be able to handle it but I was nervous. It did end up raining some, but nothing harsh before we all went to bed; it let up long enough to make dinner. After dinner, everyone retired to their beds, I finished setting up my bivy sack and crawled in to read some and sleep. Just as I finished my book though, it started to rain again. Luckily, a light rain once more and the bivy sack held up great. I now feel much better about taking it on trips where rain is possible.

Day 2

Our second day on the trail dawned bright and clear. Everyone had survived the rain without incident and since we only had a short trip to make this day we decided to take the morning slow and lay things out to let them dry before packing everything up.

Breakfast for me was hot oatmeal, a cup of coffee and a granola bar. Which was simple and satisfying. We got on the trail in the late morning and made the short hike from Dingleberry to Hungry Packer Lake, which was to be our base for a couple nights. The hike was fairly uneventful, only a little climbing left to Hungry Packer which sits at just under 11,000 feet.  we got into camp in time for lunch and generally relaxed for the rest of the day. There were a few card games played, a lot of chapters read and general relaxing had by all. [panojs name=”trail2” path=”wp-content/uploads/tiles” prefix=”trail2_” width=”14218” height=”4745”] Dinner was a freeze dried meal. I should take a minute to explain how our meals typically work on these trips. We are on our own for breakfast and lunch, but we do always boil water in the morning so most everybody brings oatmeal. For lunches, I typically have beef jerky, some fruit and other high calorie snacks. Dinner’s are done in pairs though wherever possible because that’s how most freeze dried meals are packaged. Matt and I were pared this year, Travis and Abby were also paired and Paul opted to be by himself. The food isn’t generally bad, but usually lacks flavor and bringing some salt, pepper and hot sauce along will do a lot to make dinner something more enjoyable. The weather held out for us throughout the day; It threatened rain in the evening but never with a lot of force. It did however get quite cold after the sun set, which forced us all in our sleeping bags not long after the sun went down.  I did a lot of reading in my bag that night before drifting off to sleep. [hypha_divider style=”dotted”]

Day 3

Our third day, like most, dawned bright and clear again. Today was a day for whatever we wanted; a true day to just relax in the back-country. Travis broke out his big camera and captured a beautiful picture of an unnamed peak over Hungry Packer Lake in the morning sunrise.

Paul had read about a waterfall in the area that was supposed to be fairly impressive and I had an interest in climbing up a nearby ridge to see what I could see. We ended up doing both. We made a trip out to the waterfall in the morning, it was a fairly simple bit of cross country, but unfortunately because of how late in the season we were out the waterfall wasn’t much more than a trickle. It was still pretty interesting to look at.

After lunch Travis, Abby and I headed up the ridge to see what kind of view we could get. It turned out to be pretty good. I took a couple panorama’s from 11,520 feet. You can see a huge amount of the basin and even down into the lower valley. (tip: zoom in with your mouse wheel or the +/- buttons to see a lot more detail, you can click and drag to pan the image)

We also got a pretty good view of our camp. If you look closely you can see a blue dot near the center of the picture below. That’s one of our tents, the rest are around there too but don’t stand out.

We got back to camp just in time, as the sky quickly clouded up after we got back and made the most serious threat of a thunder storm we had the whole trip. There was thunder and lighting, but it never seemed to cross into the area we were in to. We ended up staying dry all night. Because of the weather we ended up all huddling about. Travis and Abby spent a good portion of the late afternoon in their tent playing card games. Matt joined them on occasion but I opted to stay out. It got really cold this night too. I have a thermometer on my watch so we set it out to check on the temperature and it was in the very low 40’s and windy when it got dark. This drove everybody into their tents early for the warmth of a sleeping bag. [hypha_divider style=”dotted”]

Day 4

Time to start heading home. We could have stayed one more day at Hungry Packer, and done the whole hike out in one day, but it would have made for a long day so we planned to hike back to Dingleberry and spend a night there before going all the way out. We ended up deciding we all felt good and would rather go all the way to Blue Lake. By now it was Wednesday and there wasn’t likely to be as many people at the lake as the weekend and it would set us up for an easy last day. Worst case, we would take a small side trail to Donkey Lake and camp there if Blue Lake was crowded or we couldn’t find a spot. We again took a fairly leisurely pace of getting out of camp. Most of the hiking was downhill and went faster than the trip up so we were at Blue Lake before lunch and ended up easily finding a spot that suited us. The flora and fauna at Blue Lake were drastically different than the rest of our trip had been. There were a lot more trees, and a lot of bold chipmunks that kept pestering Matt and Matt’s backpack which was pretty entertaining. Travis and Abby ended up hiking up to Donkey Lake to take a look. The rest of us stayed in camp and pumped water, read books and relaxed. It sprinkled a little bit in the late afternoon and was cloudy all night but again we avoided a serious downpour. [hypha_divider style=”dotted”]

Day 5

The only morning that didn’t dawn clear; there were still clouds in the sky when we awoke on our final day.

Because this was the last day we awoke early and got everything packed up as fast as possible. We were packed and on the trail at 8:15 am ready to make the final decent to the trailhead. Before we left, Travis got us all together for a group shot.

The trip out went really fast. I think everybody was anxious to get to the cars. We made it to the trailhead in less than 2 hours. Once back at the cars we cleaned up a bit (wet wipes and a clean change of cotton clothing in the car is an amazing way to finish a trip). We all headed back down to Bishop and had an early lunch at Erick Schat’s Bakkerÿ which was really good. From there we split again; Paul, Matt and I headed north on 395, Travis and Abby headed south. Both of us headed for Home. Paul, Matt and I stopped in Walker at Walker Burger for a milk shake and one rest stop but otherwise we made good time getting to Shingle Springs where they dropped me off at my parents again. I spent some time with my Mom and Dad telling them about the trip and showing pictures but I was anxious to get home and see Stephanie so I didn’t spend a lot of time before I made the final leg of my Journey … Home. It was a great trip; I look forward to next year.