2016 Year In Review: Camping
In only my second full year living in Los Angeles, I was able to take fourteen different camping trips around the southwest. My goal for the year was to get out and pitch my tent at least once a month, and while I might not have made it out for every one, I more than achieved my goal. The area I stayed at most was Inyo County, camping 11 nights near Bishop, 8 near Big Pine, and 4 near Long Pine (all in Tuttle Creek Campground). Aside from Inyo County, I spent some time trekking through snowy Utah canyons in February and did some summer wilderness camping in the deserts of Arizona. One of my other favorite trips was the one I finished the year off with in Yosemite over New Year’s Eve. The summer nights were hot and the winter mornings cold, but the experiences and new perspectives on nature makes it all worth it.
About a year ago, I decided to take advantage of REI’s membership program and buy some quality camping equipment. I was able to put dividends toward more cold-weather gear and also exchange my sleeping pad once it suffered a hole and no longer held air. My tent, sleeping bag, and backpack are still in great shape and should hold up for years to come.
Finger Lake and Middle Palisade Glacier
While camping in the Sierra Nevada, the hours of daylight were usually spent hiking through canyons to get to secluded lakes. I hiked to over forty lakes in the Sierra last year, and my favorite far and away was Finger Lake. This glacially-fed turquoise lake sat just beneath Middle Palisade Glacier, west of Big Pine Canyon. The color of the lake was similar to those in the North Fork of Big Pine, with the minerals in the water making it a beautiful turquoise color. It might have been the steep climb to get there, or the backdrop of the Palisade Crest, but Finger Lake was incredible.
After Finger Lake, my next favorite lakes all included the backdrop of amazing mountain scenery. Along the North Fork of Big Pine Creek, Second and Fifth Lakes are next on my list. Second Lake lies just in front of Temple Crag, and the backdrop of Fifth Lake is Mt. Robinson. Those are two of the most unbelievable peaks I’ve seen in the Sierra, and the lakes themselves are nothing short of incredible.
Temple Crag is by far the most awe-inspiring peak I’ve come across in the Sierra Nevada. Sure Mount Whitney is enormous, but the silence and beauty that surrounds Temple Crag is untouchable. A few miles down the trail sits Mt. Robinson, standing tall above Fifth Lake. These two craggy peaks jut high up into the air, making it impossible to miss their charm.
My favorite campsite of the past year was next to Willow Lake on my backpacking trip to Middle Palisade Glacier. This campsite was hidden among giant rocks and trees, blocking off the wind and keeping the nights quiet. It had plenty of spots already used for camping, and was located near a creek. An honorable mention goes to the campsite along the North Fork river in Virgin, Utah, just outside Zion. This was private property off a side road, but the owner allows free camping as long as you pack everything out. There was a ton of dried up scrap wood for fires, and the ground was a clay sand that felt great on the feet at night.
Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park
More often than not, our camping trips took us into the Eastern Sierras. This side of the range is more abruptly taller than the western side, and also has less people visiting. The drive up Highway 395 is one of my favorites, since you have the Sierras on the left and the Inyo and White Mountains on the right. The John Muir wilderness in Inyo County has some incredible trails and scenery that’s absolutely worth your time if you like hiking.
I made it to a handful of National Parks in the past 12 months, including Joshua Tree, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Zion and Bryce Canyon. Because of a lack of reservation, I wasn’t able to camp inside the parks at Sequoia, Kings Canyon, or Zion. Camping at Joshua Tree was great, except for the windstorm that hit in the early morning hours. Camping on top of snow in Yosemite was my favorite stay in a National Park this year, and the trip was even better.