North Fork of Lone Pine Creek (2)

June 26, 2007

Once Kyle graduated from kindergarten (Wednesday, June 20), it was time to start doing some fun summer things together.  The next day I took him to Rockreation, a commercial climbing gym nearby, which is better than the UCLA gym (but costs $17 versus free for UCLA) but pathetic compared to Planet Granite in the Bay Area.  Still it was nice to try a different gym than UCLA for a change (I'd only been to Rockreation twice before, both times several years ago) and it turns out they had some nice easy routes for Kyle go do.  He was able to do about 5.5 if the holds weren't too far apart, but at the end decided (entirely his own idea) to try "speed climbing" the slab using all possible holds (having Kyoko time him), and did about 20 to 30 laps on this.  We'll certainly visit more this summer.

Saturday I went with Kyle to bicycle again in Westwood Park, the first time since he fell a couple weeks before and scraped his arm.  This time he was much better at not falling, and also cycled on the sidewalk for the first time and discovered "coasting" by himself.  He also learned how to use brakes to slow himself down, and can ride pretty much indefinitely.  He still can't start by himself, though.

Then Sunday the 24th I decided to try taking Kyoko and Kyle up my favorite short hike nearby: Strawberry Peak, which I'd already done twice by myself, once with Kaya and Marisa, and once as a UCLA math hike on May 26 (we did a 12 mile loop starting at Red Box which was much better than the simple out-and-back hike, so I'd like to do that one more in the future).  So this would be my fifth time, but the first for them, and decided to take them on the short 6.4 mile out-and-back version.  That might still be a little long for Kyle, but it would depend on his mood.  We left early and started hiking around 7am.  Kyle started out in a great mood but quickly ran out of energy--the problem seemed to be that he hadn't had breakfast.  We brought snacks but it didn't seem to be enough.  He went back and forth between good and bad moods and ended up only making it up the first rock-climbing section before we turned back.  Here's the one picture I took of him at the top of that section, with the ultimate destination in the background.

I guess we made it up to point 5445 on the topo map.  So probably 700 vertical feet and some 3/4 of a mile from the summit.  That means we did less than 5 miles of hiking with 2000 feet elevation gain (in under 2.5 miles).  The whole hike took a little under 5 hours, so an almost painfully slow pace.

This was partly intended as a warm up for another hike in two days, so I was a little worried.  Just a couple weeks ago I'd hiked up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek to a little before Iceberg Lake before I had to turn back with altitude sickness.  I'd loved the part up to Lower Boy Scout Lake, however, and thought it would be a great hike for Kyle, since it was short (supposedly just 2 miles from the trailhead to the lake, which I still don't quite believe), involved several creek crossings (Kyle loves to play in creeks) and some really fun and safe 3rd class rock climbing (the Ebersbacher Ledges).  It would still be tough for him (and Kyoko!) but I figured we could turn back at any point.

We'd made reservations at Whitney Portal Campground for the night of  Tuesday the 26th, and so left a little after 5:30am and drove to Lone Pine with no traffic problems.  We had breakfast at the High Sierra Cafe, pictured in my original Whitney trip report.  This time it was open, and very nice on the inside, but the food was uniformly mediocre.  We then drove up to Whitney Portal, which at 10am or so was pretty quiet.  We stopped in the store there, the first time I've been in, just to take a look, put our food in a bear box, and started the hike at 10:30am.  Here's a picture at the trailhead.

Kyle again started strong but quickly slowed down, even with the big breakfast.  Here he is moving up the trail slowly.

He enjoyed the two minor creek crossings, and then when we reached the decision point and the North Fork crossing he wanted to play there.  We were either going to do the "easy" hike (to Lone Pine Lake, which I hadn't seen before) or the "hard" hike (to Lower Boy Scout Lake, call it LBSL).  That is, the South Fork or the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek.  Kyle was more interested in just playing in the creek, though.  He hopped back and forth across the boulders many times, and tried throwing small rocks in to see of the current would carry them down until I showed him that leaves and twigs were more interesting.  He then spent a lot of time watching various types of leaves get carried by the current.  He must have spent at least a half hour there.  Surprisingly not many people passed us in either direction.  I took a few pictures of him playing in the creek but none of them really came out well.  Here's one of them.

Eventually we convinced him it was time to move on, and a little surprisingly he picked the hard hike, perhaps because I told him it involved more creek crossings.  I think it was the better choice in any case--Kyle doesn't seem to like just normal hikes on trails.  He wants something with more "adventure" to it.  On the other hand this was much steeper, and certainly that slowed him down.  He stopped quite a few times for more snacks (fortunately we brought a lot) and water.  I should mention that the temperature was quite warm, probably in the low 70s.  I can't believe I did this hike before dressed so warmly.  I was much more comfortable this time.  My pack also weighed much less--only 13 pounds (I found there is a nice scale there, but I'm not sure if it's accurate).  At the end, with all the water drunk, it was about 9 pounds.

Kyoko had trouble too, and at some point acquired a walking stick which she said helped immensely.  Kyle then named our hike:  "A tough hike for a woman with a stick."  They both went very slowly but we continued to make progress.  The first creek crossing came fairly quickly and Kyle played a little there.  At some point, I'm not sure just where, I took the picture below.  The timestamp is 12:11pm, maybe a half hour or more after we took the North Fork trail.

Then at 12:36pm, further up, here's a picture looking down into the Owens Valley of Kyle, Kyoko, and Kyoko's stick (which she was so fond of she brought back to LA).

At some point after this we made the final crossing of the creek, the triple-crossing that involves going right next to a waterfall at the end.  Kyle enjoyed this.  Then it was up the Ebersbacher Ledges!  Kyle also enjoyed the climbing, and Kyoko did a good job too although she found one spot (which I remembered) where the ledge narrows quite a bit to be scary.

After the ledges we continued onward, but Kyle seemed to lose his energy and it was already 1:30pm, three hours after we'd started.  I was starting to get worried Kyle would have trouble making it back.  I asked him if he wanted to go on or go back, and he was torn because he really wanted to make it to the lake, but also was really tired.  He decided to turn back, which was I think the right decision.  I wasn't sure how far we still had to go, but at his pace it seemed like at least 30 minutes.  I was thinking of setting a firm turnaround time of 2pm, but I'm not sure he could have handled an extra hour of hiking.  Here's a picture I took at our high point, at 1:40pm.

I had my GPS unit with me and should have set a waypoint, but I was too lazy to do so.  Looking at my previous trip report, there is a picture I took which seems to be a bit further down and I wrote it took 20 minutes to get to the lake from that point, so I'd guess it would have been at least 40 minutes and maybe more like an hour for Kyle to get there at his pace (for comparison it took me just 1:40 to get to the lake from the trailhead, so his pace was considerably less than half mine).  It's very good we turned back.  It's not clear just how high we got, but from maps I'd guess somewhere around 9700 feet, which is the highest he's ever hiked.  I'm not sure if altitude affected him or not--it might have been tough since we had gone from sea level to this point in one day, and in a way I was hoping to do this hike the next day after having a night to acclimatize, but then I wasn't sure if he'd want to do anything the next day at all.  He did seem to enjoy the hike overall and I'm sure we'll be back next time and make it all the way to LBSL.  I was thinking perhaps I should call this trail "Disappointment Trail", as both times I've been on it I failed to make it to my objective.

Kyle started out going down slowly as well, but his pace picked up as we continued and he got into a better mood.  He played again for a while at the creek where the trails fork, but not too long as I told him we could just come back the next day.  We made it back to the trailhead at about 3:50pm, so 2:10 from the high point and 5:20 for the hike total.  It seems about 5 to 5.5 hours is Kyle's limit for a hike, and even though he was in good spirits at the end I wouldn't want to push him to do a longer hike at this point.  If the 4 mile roundtrip length to LBSL is accurate, then this hike must have been under 3 miles.  Still hard to believe.

We drove down to the campground, and at first didn't know what to do.  We thought we had to check in with the "host", but first we couldn't figure out where the host was (they just occupied one of the spaces, it turned out) and then they were out when we arrived.  It seemed we could just go right to the spot, which was number 42 and thus down a separate road, and indeed our name was on the sign and we never bothered talking to the host.  It was a nice system--just go right to your spot, camp, leave, and no trouble at all.

When we arrived at our spot there was a guy there from an adjacent site, who was about to clean his fish at our site.  We got there just in time.  He was nice, but later he and his friend broke some live branches off a tree to add to their fire.  On the web map our site looked far from everyone else's, and indeed for the section we were in it was, but our section was right next to the main section and we were right next to several other sites in that section.  Still it was peaceful and quiet enough.  We set up our tent in a little alcove, and here's a picture I took of it the next morning; Kyle is pretending to sleep.

This is just a two-person tent, and although we'd used it last summer for all three of us Kyle is bigger now and it felt very tight; he also moves around a lot when he sleeps.  It's time for a bigger tent, and since it doesn't matter how much it weighs for car camping maybe I'll just get a big four person tent so we have lots of room.  Certainly most other car campers were camping in much more luxury than we were.

The site had a picnic table and fire pit and even BBQ grill kind of thing, but we just boiled water using our Primus canister stove on the picnic table and ate Mountain House freeze-dried food (lasagna for me, and chicken ala king for Kyle, although Kyoko and I ate some too); Kyoko also had cup ramen.   We had some fruit cups and snacks as well.  I never have liked camp fires and was much more happy to eat this way.  After dinner Kyle wanted to play Sorry (he has a travel version) and we played many games, all but one or two won by Kyoko.  Kyle won once or twice and I never won once.  We looked around the campground a little; there's a beautiful creek (the same Lone Pine Creek after both forks have joined!) running through it.

I normally go to bed very early when camping, and was already tired by 7pm or so.  Which was strange because it wouldn't get dark until after 8:30pm, and it turns out the moon was nearly full so it never really got dark all night and we never saw any stars.  It was also very warm all night.  I had the lightest bag (30 degrees; Kyle had 20 and Kyoko 15) and found it hot to be in it even unzipped and slightly opened.  But it was a bit too cold to have no covers.  It turned out to be an uncomfortable night for all of us, but we still got a fair amount of sleep.  Kyle, who can sleep anywhere it seems, seemed to fare the best!

It's still wonderful to sleep outside in beautiful weather and to awake with blue skies and green trees above you.  I probably woke up before 5am but stayed in bed until everyone got up around 7am or so.  We broke camp and fixed breakfast--we didn't really bring any breakfast food and so ended up eating a third freeze-dried dinner (beef stroganoff, still my favorite as well as Kyle's) and more cup ramen for Kyoko.

Kyle didn't want to do any real hiking this day, not even go up to the creek fork and play there, so I thought we'd try walking through the campground and then up a trail to Whitney Portal, which was surprisingly far away (a little less than a mile, I'd guess, and also 500 feet higher).  I thought this would be some random uninteresting trail, and was surprised at how stunningly beautiful it was--one of the most beautiful trails I've ever been on, in fact.  I only realized at the end that the trail (which extends to Lone Pine Campground in the other direction) was designated a National Scenic Trail, which it certainly deserves to be.  I'm glad we tried it!

Kyoko and Kyle were still moving very slow and I wasn't sure if they'd even make this short distance, but finally we made it to the Whitney Portal Picnic Area and pond, which was stocked with fish and there were several people fishing there.  You could see plenty of fish just swimming around, and Kyoko wants to get a pole and try fishing herself now.  I fished when I was a kid and thought it was boring then and can't even imagine doing it now, but that would be fun for Kyoko and Kyle to do together.  We stopped in the store and got some drinks and snacks, and eventually made our way back to the campground.  We made it home just after 2pm, so a very pleasant day and a half camping trip.

Kyoko and Kyle seemed to really enjoy the trip, and Kyoko said she liked it even better than Yosemite in a way since it was much less crowded and more relaxed.  I agree.  I'm sure we will be back many more times.  There is still so much to explore in the Whitney area, and it's wonderful to have it so convenient to LA.