NEAR LONE PINE
INYO NATIONAL FOREST
GOLDEN TROUT WILDERNESS
Chicken Springs Lake via Cottonwood Pass Trail
Activity: Hiking, Camping
High in the Eastern Sierra is Horseshoe Meadows which lies in the Inyo National Forest. This area is a Trailhead for more than one Wilderness Area, featuring numerous hikes to quiet alpine lakes, thick lodge pole pine forests, craggy rock outcroppings, sheer rock cliffs, and a few soaring peaks with views of forever.
This would be the jumping off point for my most ambitious peak bagging adventure to date. I would join my very good friend Craig, who stood up for me at my wedding, and my new friend Mike. Mike and Craig are buddies from Ventura County. Mike acquired the overnight Back Country Wilderness Permits for our adventure.
We had set our sights on Mount Langley, sister to Mount Whitney, the highest Mountain in the lower 48. Mount Langley, one of the tallest in California, is no easy feat at 14,042’. Some believe it is tougher than Mount Whitney because Whitney has a trail to the top, conversely Mount Langley has almost 1000’ of scrambling at it’s summit with no real trail at the end.
I arrived first and secured a camp spot at Horseshoe Meadows. It was a Tuesday so it was not hard to do, especially since we had a pandemic going on, but perhaps the biggest reason for empty camp spots was Wild Fires were raging across the West. California was taking it particularly hard, and the Kern Fire, we discovered, loomed only 15 miles away.
It was disappointing as I drove up the side of a mountain on my way in as the valley below was smoggy with smoke. This area is so impressive, that I was wild eyed with amazement, but unfortunately my enthusiasm was tempered realizing I was not seeing the High Sierra at it’s best.
Due to a shuffling of participants at the last minute, I was lucky enough to be included in this endeavor. I hike quite a bit, but mostly around sea level, although I had been on a couple adventures during the month to altitude including Cooper Canyon Falls, Strawberry Peak, and Mount Baden-Powell in the Angeles National Forest. However, none of those were even as high Horseshoe Meadows, the starting point. I threw in multiple hikes just before leaving the OC to prepare my legs and feet as much as possible. Including a hard hike at my go to Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach the day before.
While in the parking lot of Horseshoe Meadows I was chatting up some fellow outdoors enthusiasts and they told me about a cool hike along the Cottonwoods Pass Trail towards Chicken Springs Lake. It turned out to be just under a 9 miles hike, rated Moderate with almost 1,500’ elevation gain. It was probably rated Moderate because the first part is at a relatively lower elevation and is Easy. Then in the later parts of the hike it starts going up, and at a pretty good clip. I met people going the opposite way that were giving up on their day hike, others throwing in the towel on their backpack outing some that were days or even weeks long dashed by the smoke from the fires. I did about 7 miles of the trail before I ran out of time and besides that it was really getting smokey.
I needed to get back to meet my friends, plus I had a monster climb the next day, and it turned out Chicken Springs Lake via Cottonwood Pass Trail was more than the little acclimation hike I was looking for. I did not want to hamper my effort for Mount Langley, but that is another story…
I got back to the campground just as my friends arrived- perfect timing. Craig and Mike set up their tents, and got situated. We had a lavish meal, the kind you can only have as a car camping dinner and we prepared for our venture into the Wilderness. We made a camp friend and swapped stories into the night enjoying the many benefits of a campfire.
Thanks for joining Craig, Mike and I on this- the inaugural posting of Central California Hiking – ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure.’ I have wanted to get back to the High Sierra and especially to share it on PBTA. This outing was not in ideal conditions, because of the CA Fires, but it certainly gave me enough of a taste of the Eastern Sierra on high that I can hardly wait to go again. Don’t go away because this posting is just the beginning- not just of the website, but of our adventure to summit Mount Langley one of the tallest mountains in California. It turned out to be everything that I thought it might, but for me oh so much more… Maybe too much more.
Pursuing Balance Through Adventure is about profound outings into nature seeking to balance the craziness of our everyday world, and I am sure that all of us feel this year, 2020, has been the craziest that we can remember for oh so many reasons. I won’t go into all of the reasons there are to many, they are complicated, and stressing, and we are trying to take a little break from all of that here. So go for a hike, ford a stream, climb a mountain, even scream if you need to. I did…
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Pursuing Balance Through Adventure