Everyday Adventure Big Pine Creek | Minnetonka Moccasin

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Capturing the adventurous spirit of the everyday. As simple as a backyard bonfire or as bold as a cross-country road trip our Everyday Adventure series celebrates the big and small adventures of everyday life. Today's post comes from Paulina Dao of Little Grunts. 

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A permit for the North Fork of Big Pine Creek is fairly elusive; they need to be reserved up to 6 months in advance if you don't want to leave your adventure to chance. With towering peaks, glacial lakes and fall color, it's hard to see why the wilderness permits are snatched up in an instant.

Here at Little Grunts, I'm all about the weekend warrior lifestyle. With a mostly enjoyable day job, I fully believe in utilizing every minute of the weekend. From 5pm on a Friday evening until 9am on Monday morning, anything is possible.

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I'd intended on solo day tripping the North Fork of Big Pine Creek, but a last minute permit popped up online for a brief overnight stay. Big Pine is about seven hours south of San Francisco.

Friday night at 7pm, I tossed my backpacking gear and a sleeping pad and pillow into the car. I planned to drive through Tuolumne Meadows and crash for a few hours somewhere along the 395 where free camping was plentiful. The next morning after stopping at the Mobil on Tioga Pass for hot water for granola and to brush my teeth, I’d continue the drive to Bishop to pick up my wilderness permit and then finish the last bit to the trailhead.

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The drive down 395 South is one of my most favorite stretches of road ever.  Jagged peaks fill the horizon. Bubbling hot springs wait to be discovered. Spectacular climbing lay all along this highway. Every turn off leads somewhere pretty magical. It makes the drive go by quickly. After grabbing my permit from the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop, I made the final push to the trailhead nestled in the canyon outside of Big Pine.

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The North Fork of Big Pine Creek is the gateway to adventure. There’s something for everyone. This time of year, the aspens change color and give the canyon a lovely glow. Ambitious hikers can head out to the Palisade Glacier. Ambitious climbers can summit Temple Crag. Cooler temperatures mean more people out day hiking, but at night, you could have the place all to yourself, which was the case for me.

It was roughly 5 miles of picturesque hiking in, most of it ascending. The trail was well signed, mostly well graded, and easy to follow. You meander with the North Fork of Big Pine Creek with its crystal clear glacial water through forests of aspen and pine trees. You gain a rocky section and it pops you right over the first of a group of glacial lakes.

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From the main trail, a small use trail splits off to the left to take you down to the shores of Second Lake, home for the evening. I only saw two other backpackers wandering around the lake and could hear a few more in the distance. Aside from that, I was completely alone on the north shore of Second Lake. The solitude was wonderful.

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The next morning I woke up bright and early, packed up and left. It was going to be a long day of driving back to San Francisco. After coming out of the wilderness, I was ravenous. The Great Basin Bakery in Bishop was open for rosemary shortbread cookies and sandwiches. It’s a small, locally owned business that gives back to the community. Well worth the pop in, even if it’s only for a little pastry.

15 hours of driving for 25 hours of wilderness makes for a long weekend. I might be a little crazy, but the solitude and sights were worth it.

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About Little Grunts

Little Grunts is a gear review and adventure blog based out of San Francisco, CA. As a software QA engineer by day and full-time adventurer, founder Paulina fully embraces that 5pm on a Friday up to a 9am on Monday. She enjoys climbing and backpacking and believes that your gear should work no matter where you are--metropolis or mountains.

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