The South Fork Lakes are a joke. And I don’t mean like a pangolin. Oh, maybe that was the South Park pandemic special. As I trekked up into the Golden Trout Wilderness this last week these were the thoughts I was pondering (And I was thinking the Comedy Central t.v. show with Cartman was called South Fork the whole time) Where the actual F is this hidden trail I kept wondering as I trekked over fifteen miles all over this forest full of two-thousand-year-old golden-red barked Foxtail fir trees so unique they looked like fake Christmas trees. I had to break down and pay for All Trails the very next day after I did some research and I discovered, yes the South Fork Trail was right where I was hiking, it is just a hidden little spur that is unmarked. Does that make me an ATH? ( All Trails Hiker) No, I’m truly not a ATH. I know not to feed the marmots. I always put the lid down on the pit toilets for the love of God and I would never ever think to leave THREE ice chests sitting out for Yogi at camp at the Whitney Portal Campground. At least they are not STR (Short term rental neighbors read all about short-term rental ass-hats here) but my camping neighbors tonight just might be ATH.
Sometimes I just get sick and tired of cleaning up after ALH. I pick up so much trash on the trail so consistently but for fucks sake, I’m out here to get some cardio, take photos of marmots and probably yell at my dog in nature. I’m not here to deep clean the forest. Not every damn day.
This last winter season, at home, in our ski town of Big Bear Lake California, I picked up fifty garbage bag-sized bags of trash, not to mention so many truckloads of broken sleds. So sometimes I get sick and tired of telling the All Trails Hikers how to nature, how to leave no trace and how to not be a dumb-dumb basically. Like yesterday, when I told some ATH’s not to leave their ice chests out for Yogi in one of the highest bear traffic areas in the entire eastern Sierras.
Hey, Boo Boo… Don’t be a dick
After a fantastic fifteen-mile trek to the Cottonwoods Lakes today I’m beat. I had COVID the last week in March and I’m still not recovered athletically and that’s a nice way to put it. What I really mean is I’m fat and my lungs burn when I hike and wheeze my way uphill. But I trekked fifteen southern Sierra miles today and it was one of the easiest hikes I have ever done in the southern Sierra. The Cottonwood Lakes trails might be one of my new favorite foresty sections in this vast wilderness, just outside of Lone Pine, California. You just have to voyage up Horseshoe Meadows Road ten miles or so to the hidden trailhead that will also take you to summits like New Army Pass and ass-kicking Mt Langly at over 14,000. But I am nowhere near in shape to be summiting eastern Sierra passes these days. I’m happy to say I am getting there and almost ready for the summertime sierras trek after this last week where I trekked over forty miles in three days with my trail dog.
I had great plans to just hike all day long in the Golden Trout Wilderness and see so many alpine lakes that I had never laid eyes on before. The first mile of this trek to the Cottonwoods Lakes had me wondering am I even on the correct trail as the trail was heading east towards Lone Pine and also downhill. Now I knew this trail was supposed to crest at New Army Pass and Mt Langly. Why on earth was I trekking towards the Lone Pine Bistro and their phenomenal potato salad? This was mid-May and mid-week and the trail was empty of other hikers and back backers. There was no one to ask, just where the hell am I?
I couldn’t find the South Forks Lake junction to save my life. I made the game-time decision to head back to Horseshoe Meadows the following day, and even download the map off of All Trails, as embarrassing as that is. I’m going back tomorrow to trek this new to me trail and I had to give in and pay for a month of All Trails to download the map for this one. As a hiking guide In Big Bear Lake, California I hear all my clients talking about how they use All Trails to hike and how great it is. Usually, I’m good just looking at maps but both maps I had to choose from today were not correct and confusing. I had a fantastic day in the southern Sierra but tomorrow I want to discover these South Fork Lakes!
But back to the dumb-dumb All Trails Hikers camped next to me. Obviously, they have never camped at Whitney Portal near Lone Pine before or they would be bear aware. Meaning don’t leave three ice chests and multiple grocery bags out at your campsite and then leave camp for the evening! I never even leave my bear box open here at Whitney Portal or my groceries out for a minute because Yogi is everywhere and sneaky here eight-thousand feet above Lone Pine.
Now I have to haul my exhausted pup to the pit toilets with me ( Where I will put the toilet seat back down after) every time I go to the loo. I can’t leave her sleeping next to the campfire in the evenings with a threat of a bear showing up for the buffet next door. And she is a sleepyhead after fifteen miles of trail dog shenanigans. Like ignoring the thirty marmots we saw as she is deaf now and can’t hear their ruckus.
So this sounds like quite an ordeal dealing with the ATH camping neighbors, right? Well, it gets worse folks. At about 9:15 I was rolling into my tent, ready for bed as I was getting up at 5:00 a.m. to break down camp and start on my last day of vacation, that twelve-mile hike up to the mysterious South Fork Lakes. I was literally just lolling off to sleep when a big ass truck pulled in at the campsite next door, headlights flooding my tent like it was the middle of the day. These silly and quite loud All Trails Hikers then begin blowing up I swear at least three air mattresses with the truck’s battery which was so unbelievably loud when you’re just trying to fall to sleep headlights shining into my tent the entire time. This might not have been such a big ordeal in a regular campground, but Whitney Portal is known for hikers getting up at midnight and at 3:00 a.m. to start on their ascent of the mountain. So it’s usually the quietest calm as campground around in the evening hours.
Except for last night when I had the most inconsiderate All Trails Hiker’s camped next door. Now I’m not sure if quiet hours began at 9:00 or 10:00, but these folks next door did eventually blow up all their air mattresses and settle down for the evening. After much laughter and debauchery right outside my tent. And headlights. Don’t forget the headlights. Thank God I always travel with a sleep mask and earplugs.
At midnight the pup and I got up to pee and I noticed my tent was lit up like the middle of the day, once I took my sleep mask off. Odd. Exiting the tent, I noticed the giant truck had ridiculous bright running lights left on all night. Because these All Trails Hikers needed a night light apparently! I’m so glad I wasn’t preparing to enjoy the Milky Way and the night sky of the southern Sierra last night because there would have been no way with this circus and the Disneyland light show next door to my campsite!
At midnight I heard the unmistakable sound of tiny men shrieking at a three hundred pound California black bear because they were dumb-dumbs and did not listen to the grizzled old hiker in the tent next door who told them, yes there is a lot of bear activity in this campground. Human food; It’s how bears get fat. But not how I got fat, I blame that on the Muttar and Paneer Curry I inhaled for days on my wilderness woman outdoor adventure trip. Well, that and the little restraint I have when it comes to delicious north Indian foods. Are you headed to the eastern Sierra this summer for outdoor hiking and camping shenanigans Are you curious about how to be a happy and respectful camper or at least not a dumb-dumb in nature?
How can you too be a respectful and intelligent camper?
- Leave no trace for fucks sake! The number one rule of being a good steward of the land is to leave the wilderness as wild as you found it.
- Try to be considerate of the hikers and campers around you.
- Put the lid down on the pit toilet to keep the smells down. This is the camper equivalent to leaving the toilet seat up.
- Don’t leave your ice chest out of your bear box. This encourages bears to try to consume human food and sets the bears up for a whole summer season of bad habits.
- Don’t feed the marmots and squirrels, those cute little creatures don’t need to be tempted to get into human food.
- Always dose your campfire with water before you go to bed. Wildfire season is year-round these days in California.
If you have a camping and hiking trip the eastern Sierra planned this coming summer, please, please try to be a responsible hiker! No one wants to be called an All Trail Hiker!