This first day of the trip, we arrive safely at the Mosquito Flat backpackers’ campground. Brad, Grant, and Max had gone up earlier to get the bear canisters and to pick up the permit, which was in my name, and Jeff and Jeong Mi rode in my car, leaving behind all cell and data connection; we’ll be unplugged for the next few days. We had met up in Bishop and had dinner at the pizza restaurant at the north end of town. Now at Mosquito Flat, we enjoy dessert of hot cider with dark chocolate. Grant and Max make a warm campfire, and soon, it starts to rain.
The gentle drizzle continues for the whole night, and by the next morning, everything outside the tent is completely soaked. We organize all of the food according to the grid, and then we pack up and set out toward Mono Pass. Cloud cover cools our climb above treeline. Right at the Pass, we stop for lunch, and it’s here that Max starts to develop altitude sickness. We quickly cross over into Sierra National Forest, descend to Golden Creek, and then push on to Fourth Recess Lake.
A tall waterfall feeds Fourth Recess Lake, which stretches out like a fallen leaf, the waterfall being the stem. Clean up feels so good after a long day of hiking. After dinner, we sit around sipping hot cider and watch the sky turn from blue to purple to black.
Friday is a short day. The lake is a mirror this morning. After breakfast, we take the short hike up into Pioneer Basin. We decide to hike to the far end of Lake 2, where a beautiful lakefront campsite awaits. On this layover day, I hike up to the ridge just east of our private lake, and from there, I have a birds-eye view of Mono Pass and Fourth Recess Lake. Dinner tonight is tom kha soup with Thai peanut noodles followed by dark chocolate cheesecake.
This wide open basin provides a great backdrop for night photography. The crescent moon sets behind Mt. Hopkins. Soon, stars emerge on the cloudless sky.
We all get up early on Saturday, as we are nervous about making it back across Mono Pass. Again, Max feels the effects of altitude around treeline. After a short break at the drainage of Trail Lakes, we make the final summit push. We quickly descend to the meadow below Ruby Lake, where the boys take a nice long nap to recover.
The original plan was to make it to Chickenfoot Lake, but now out of energy, we are glad to just settle down at Marsh Lake in Little Lakes Valley. This turns out to be a charming location—a small private lake lined with wildflowers. We make miso soup and curry with rice for dinner and go for a short walk to Heart Lake before turning in.
On this last day, I am the first to get up to catch the first light. Again, this lake is like a mirror. Only a few of us have breakfast, some choosing instead to wait until we get into town. The hike out is much shorter than expected. After loading up the car, we drive into Bishop and have brunch at Erick Shat’s Bakkerÿ. On the way back, we stop in Lone Pine to return the bear canisters.
The rest of the trip home goes smoothly. Along the way home, we all plug back in, and at the same time, remembering what it was like to be unplugged for a few days while making memories that will last a lifetime.