Early season backpacking to Baker Lake

Baker Lake all to ourselves

The upside of a low winter is that the backcountry is accessible in early May 2021. Looking at the snow in Mammoth Lakes, I decided to give a backpacking trip up to 10,700 ft a try and hope for limited snow on our 13.7 mi, 3,800 ft adventure. At 8:30am, Sadie, pup and I all started up the little traveled Logging Flat Trail outside of Big Pine.

The trail started out on steep, loose sand that is so common in the Eastern Sierra but not that great for uphill travel. Until we joined the more traveled but longer Baker Summit Trail after 1,400 ft of gain. Next we went through a forest and eventually rounded a desert bush crest.

Some of the light forested section on the Baker Summit Trail

From here we left the Southern aspects (which get the most sun) and went into more Northern and shaded aspects. The trail luckily only had a few 10-15 ft snow sections which weren’t too bad.

Meadow crossing with a little snow

Unfortunately the beautiful alpine river section was marred in its wilderness feel because out of nowhere a road appeared. With it brought the typical OHV contributions of large campfires with broken glass everywhere.

Nothing like a dilapidated bathroom with trash around it to feel like you are in the backcountry

The streams here were both spring and melt fed, but there was no drinking straight out of a small cascade because there was cow pies everywhere tainting the water. It reminded me of Peru where in this beautiful backcountry setting I also felt like I was in a pasture.

Moving on from those thoughts, the trail became incredibly faint, requiring us to use GPS maps to try and get back on track multiple times. I also started post holing to my knee more often in these much longer snow sections. After 3,000 ft of elevation gain over six miles, I was pretty beat in this early season backpack.

Through personal perseverance and a little whining, we eventually reached our flat, lakeside campsite all to ourselves. The only other people we had seen that day were trail runners several miles back.

Tent time with a three tired pups

I thought we had just enough propane for breakfast and dinner, but the canister unexpectantly ran out. Therefore I subjected Sadie to the ‘cold rehydrate’ method of pouring in air-temp water to make a cold Thai curry rehydrated meal and overnight oats. Other than that, the way back was uneventful and the return trail was much easier to follow. It went quick. The first trip of the year is always hard, but this was also a good opportunity to get a feel of what 10,700 ft looks like in terms of snow for planning future adventures.

View of the Palisades when hiking up Logging Flat Trail