Scenic USA - California

Upper Pine Lake

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Upper Pine Lake - John Muir Wilderness, California>

Photos and feature article by Steve Wolfe
Steve's Pine Creek Canyon Backpacking Report

   A rugged section of California's Sierra Nevada Mountains form a high western wall to the Owens Valley Pine Creek Cascade - Bishop, California trough, one of the deepest valleys in the United States. Owens Valley is the meeting place among three very different bioregions - the Sierra Nevada, the Great Basin Desert, and the Mojave Desert. The spectacular eastern Sierra scenery culminates at Mount Whitney. At 14,495 feet, it's the tallest point in the contiguous United States and is dramatically cut by deep canyons. Backpacking trails start from the hot, high-desert valley floor and end up thousands of feet above, perhaps at a cool mountain lake.
   One such trail climbs through Pine Creek Canyon, Pine Lake Campsite - Bishop, California northwest of the bustling Owens Valley and the City of Bishop. Pine Creek is one of the gateways to the John Muir Wilderness, a 100-mile swath of the High Sierra protected by the landmark Wilderness Act of 1964. Here in the Muir Wilderness, dozens of alpine lakes provide scenic drama and unbeatable base camps from which to explore the surrounding high-country. One such backpacking trail leads to Upper Pine Lake, seen here with the late-afternoon light accentuating every ravine and chute of the surrounding mountains. The trail is marked with spectacular views along the way, including a stunning look back to Owens Valley below. The Pine Lake Trail is labeled a rugged climb and is considered an overnight hike.

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