Back to Bishop

17-22 December 2021
Several trails in Inyo National Forest
(15 miles, +3,000/-3,000 feet).

For the past few weeks, Half Cookie and I talked about getting away before the holiday break to do some day hikes in the Sierra. We both love Bishop, and I was eager to return to the place where I ended my PCT hike in the Spring to see how it looks in winter.

But winter wasn’t coming!

Up to just a few days ago there was hardly any snow at all. It seemed like we might actually be able to do a normal dry day hike to one of the alpine lakes below Bishop Pass or in the Sabrina Basin.

And then it finally snowed! So we packed snowshoes and microspikes and hit the road.

First stop: the Alabama Hills. I have never actually hiked there, having always been in a rush to get to or from the Sierra trailheads. The Arch Loop was a nice place to stretch our legs from the drive and see the crazy formations that make this area so popular.

The Alabama Hills
It’a a little chilly
No snow, just ice

After a hike and a meal in Lone Pine at the Alabama Hills Cafe (my favorite!) we finished the drive up to Bishop and checked into our AirBnB.

The Sierra from our AirBnB

The next day we decided to try out our showshoes on the road up to North Lake. They close this road to traffic during the winter so people can enjoy it on foot.

Trying out the snowshoes

But as it turns out, Half Cookie was not much of a fan of the snowshoes. We decided to turn around and try again with microspikes in a couple of days.

Returning the snowshoes

Our plan B hike was a trail I found on Caltopo, but it was deep with snow and no one had hiked on it, so we mainly just postholed for an hour.


Finally, we figured out that the best thing to do in these conditions was to go find an ATV road that was compacted enough that our spikes would dig in. We followed a bunch of rock climbers up to “the Hogback” and parked there before climbing the road towards Mount Tom.

This is better
Heading towards Mount Tom
Looking back on the Hogback and the White Mountains

The next day I felt under the weather, so we just stayed cozy in the AirBnB. It was equipped with thrilling board games.

Real Life

Fortunately, my mini-cold passed and we were able to try the North Lake hike again the following day. It was spectacular!

Plenty of parking
The road to North Lake
Snow rosette
Sabrina Basin – Wow!
Snow’s a little deeper here
North Lake
Heading back down
Down is easier!

On our last full day we drove up the Glacier Lodge Road until the winter closure and hiked from there to the Big Pine Creek Trail to do a little loop around Glacier Lodge. This was my favorite hike — we did it on a weekday and we saw no one but some CalFire guys at the parking lot and a couple of skiiers when we were almost back to the car.

Glacier Lodge Road
Big Pine Creek Trailhead
Mount Alice and Temple Crag
Beautiful icicles in the stream

On the way back to San Diego, we did a slight detour to Red Rock Canyon State Park. There was a nice little 2 mile loop there to finish out our lovely trip.

Red Rock Canyon
They call this the “camel”
Neat layers
More rocks
A scenic yucca garden

When we were almost done with this hike, we met a guy who was walking barefoot on trail and feeling up a cactus. He said to us “you should try it!”

He had just been to some kind of new age retreat and was clearly enjoying his new perspective. His enthusiasm was infectious, but we passed on losing our shoes….

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dori Cage says:

    Hi James , It is so fun to see your photos and hear of your visit to some of my favorite places (Alabama Hills and Alabama Hills Café) As well as the eastern sierras which I love dearly. The new zipper on your tent works great. Thanks for lending it! Was backpacking with the Sierra club Wilderness basics course this weekend in Anza Borrego Desert. It’s the first time that I’ve seen the mountains covered with snow on their eastern side. It almost looked like the Owens valley with desert below and snowcapped mountains to the west. It’s also really good for my mental health to go camping . Since I couldn’t drive very far, I got the opportunity to meet two wonderful people who gave me a ride. If you haven’t been to Blair Valley off the S2 you might want to check it out. There are pictographs, a dry waterfall, a crashed military jet, and a deserted old Homestead on top of a hill. Enjoy! Dori

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JimmyJam says:

      Thanks! Yes, I love Blair Valley and I’m so happy you are doing the WBC! I will probably volunteer for them this next year….


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