Our annual hiking trip found us in the Inyo National Forest again. This year we are hiking behind Convict Lake and backpacking to Lake Dorothy. We headed out Wednesday night following along the very familiar 395 highway. We got to Bishop early enough to check in to the Bishop 395 Inn and make a quick stop at Schat’s Bakkery. After a great nights sleep we woke up early and headed to Convict Creek trail head parking lot.
The hike starts at the North end of Convict Lake and takes you along the lake for about mile. Right before you turn to the back side of the the lake the trail will split off to the right. This is where the climbing really starts. Right after the turn from Convict you come to your first set of small switchbacks that takes you up a 100 feet in elevation. At the beginning of all my hikes I like to take inventory of landmarks along the way, like boulder fields, switch backs, etc. This helps me count down on the way out and gives me hope.
There’s not much shade until you are little over 2 and half miles. Then you will reach a section of dirt trials and beautiful, beautiful shade. You can hear the rushing water from Convict Creek down in the canyon. At this section of the trail there is one side trail that will take you the the stream. This will be the only easy access to water until you reach the stream crossing. Make sure to have enough water for 4 miles. The shade will last for about a mile and will end at the 2nd set of switch backs. After that you will be completely exposed for the rest of the trail.
At about 4 miles you will hit the stream crossing. There used to be a bridge but it washed away years ago so you will have to cross 2 streams, one from the outlet of Lake Genevieve and the other is Convict Creek. You will be crossing at the point where they merge. When we went the river was flowing but it wasn’t super deep or fast. However it was deep enough to get into one of my boots.
After the stream crossing the trail disappears for a bit while you run along the stream. Then you take a hard left and the stream lowers itself back down the canyon as you quickly ascend up the mountain. At this point the trail changes from mostly dirt to shell rock and boulders and at about 4.5 miles you will hit the 3rd set of switch backs. Once you get to the top of switch backs you will notice the change of color in the trail to a grey.
Even though the trail is hard take those moments to look around. When you get to about 5.3 miles right at the top of the last long climb to Mildred Lake stop and turn around. Take in the canyon that you had just come from. The views are breathtaking.
Once you leave the moon grey trail we had one last hill to climb before we got to our lunch spot Mildred Lake. We headed to the right and found a flat beach where we could pull out our chairs and have some lunch. The views were beautiful and the weather was perfect but we still had one last mountain to climb before we hit our final spot.
We walked along the flat marsh and headed up the last mile and a half to Lake Dorothy. The climb was brutal as Mildred Lake got smaller and smaller. It is the hardest part of the trail going straight up with large shell rock. At about 6.2 miles Mildred Lake disappears as you make your way through 2 more switch backs to the top of the mountain.
Once at the top the trail sweeps around for a short distance opening up to Lake Dorothy. We got there about 4:30. The time of day the has the best light turning the lake into the most incredible shade of blue. We got our camp set up, had dinner and rested for the rest of the night.
The next day we cooked some pretty amazing freeze dried meals, fished a little and explored around the lake.As the sun changed positions in the sky the lake also change colors on us giving us a different look each time we turned to watch it. With sore legs and little rest we packed up at 2:30 and started to head back down the mountain.
The way up tests your lungs, your hips and your legs. Going down tests your toes, your knees and your calves. Blisters start forming and all you can do it push through it. You start to count the inventory of landmarks you took on the way up hoping you didn’t forget the order. You remember spots that you struggled getting through going up worried that you will have a harder time going down. But when you stop looking at your feet and stop thinking about just getting off the trail for a moment and stop to look up and you see all that you have done. The mountain you have climbed and are now coming down. You are pushing your body and your mind. You decided to LIVE your life by saying YES to the adventure even if it is hard. Live each moment to the fullest! Love every minute because you are not promised tomorrow.
For more information about our trip visit our Youtube Cannel for a full video of our hike.