There are two animals I never want to run into when I am in the wilderness. Bears and mountain lions. I was super stoked about our first extended camping trip in the Eastern Sierra but I was also very much nervous about running into a bear in the bear country because I have tendency to attract wild animals.
I took forever to pack up my car with camping gear that Saturday morning. Novice problem. I didn’t get to leave the house until 10:45 AM. So much later than I hoped. We weren’t meeting up with Jen and the boys until the next day so I booked a hotel in Bishop for the night. I am new to camping and I wasn’t ready to camp by ourselves.
Bishop is located 266.6 miles (428.9 km) north of Los Angeles.
It was the end of July and the temperature was over 100 degrees in Fahrenheit when we reached the desert. Ugh. It was hot in the car even with the A/C on. Bishop forecast said it was going to be 110 that day. I made stops at rest areas to stretch our legs but Xena didn’t want to linger after a quick break. It was just too hot. After 5 hours of driving in the desert heat, I refused to lock ourselves in the hotel room so I put saved trailhead coordinates into the GPS app and we headed over to the trail near Big Pine. High altitude should give us some break from the heat, I thought.
Big Pine is located 15 miles (24 km) south-southeast of Bishop.
We arrived at the trailhead little before 4:30 PM and found the area shaded. Yes!! At 7.723′, it was still 85 degrees. The shade made it tolerable though. It felt great to stretch out our legs. I changed into my hiking shoes, attached a bear bell on my backpack and we began exploring. This is an out and back trail and it goes out far into the backcountry. I planned to turn us around before it got dark or if I spook myself out with my paranoia about bears. I knew I had to go on a hike that day and face my fear. I was so nervous!!
We passed a waterfall and crossed two wooden bridges. We kept climbing up. The view wasn’t anything like we get in SoCal. So beautiful!
We hiked next to a creek. The sound was so refreshing and a welcome distraction although I thought I saw a black bear behind branches a few times. Last year when I hiked in Alaska, our group leader told us to say out “Bear Bear Hey There! Bear” when we were hiking alone. It’s to make noises so the bear can hear you before you approach and give the bear time to move out of the way. Never surprise a bear. I never liked that saying because it sounds inviting. So instead, I’d say “Bear Bear Go Away Bear” in the nicest way.
Xena would bark or growl if we are being preyed on, right? I wonder about this often because she is so peaceful with other species. She doesn’t even blink, so to speak. Chickens, horses, deer, peacocks, lizards… Ok, except cats and squirrels.. maybe she would let me know if there is a mountain lion. Let me tell you based on my personal experience, this type of thought on the trail does not help you to relax. Haha. We passed by hikers who were returning from hiking all day. The fact that none of them had a bear bell didn’t change my mind.
Strangely but thankfully Xena didn’t pick up my anxiety and she remained calm. Or she thought it was so ridiculous that she decided to ignore it. Either way, I found that helpful and comforting. After a mile or so, the trail leveled out and we came out to a beautiful open meadow. Would you just look at that! I made a plan to come back to do the whole hike another time.
We only went a half-mile more or so from this point on. Xena was getting hot and she didn’t want to go any further. I happily turned us around and headed back to the car. Having been on the trail for 3 miles and nothing happened to us, my fear of bear was noticeably under control at this point and felt great about the camping trip starting the next day.