Mile 788.9 Bishop, CA to mile 906.7 Mammoth Lakes, CA
More miles equals more beauty in the same day.
Day Forty: 11 June 2015
Start: HM 789.1 + 7.6 Kearsarge Pass from Onion Valley
End: HM 799.8 Woods Creek
GPS Point: 36.873630, -118.438005
Day Total: 18.3 miles
Water at mile 795.8 Dollar Lake
We were up too late last night hanging out. I woke up still tired. Tami came at 7:30 AM to give Endless, Prickly, S&M, and I a ride to the trailhead at Onion Valley. Tami’s parents were in town to give her a few days off. So wonderful of them to bring cookies and provide us transportation! Tami took a guy named Frosty to Independence from the trailhead. We saw the man, Richard, who gave us a ride two days ago. He was heading out on his lake adventure.
Heading up Kearsarge Pass, back to the PCT, and over Glenn Pass, was pretty easy. There was some snow on the north side of Glenn Pass, but going down was just fine on the hiker alternates that have been in use around the snow areas. I am feeling pretty good about the snow conditions if Glenn was supposed to be the worst of them. At the top of Kearsarge, we met a couple from Portland, Maine, named Sarge and Stump. They are pretty cool and ended up at the same camp as us tonight. We met some other PCT’ers but mostly there were tons of southbound hikers on day hikes or short trips. There was a couple on the Rae Lakes loop. It’s about 40 miles long. The Rae Lakes were absolutely stunning! I would definitely hike them again.
There was a ranger station right by the Rae Lakes. Prickly and I saw the cabin and wandered over to it. We met a ranger named Sam. Endless popped in shortly after. Sam let us see the inside of the cabin. It was pretty awesome and perfectly set up. Makes me think of tiny homes. While walking away I realized how much PCT hikers are like curios marmots. We see a cabin and wander over hoping to get food or something. Even if no one was around it would still be worth the side trip. Funny how quickly we become mooches once we have to carry around all our food supply and options.
We made it down to just shy of mile 800 at the suspension bridge and decided we were going to call it a day and camp there. Most of that decision came from Prickly and I needing a bear box and this being the only camp with one. Plus I was exhausted. All day I wasn’t feeling any energy. I am sure part of that is being fully packed with food and toting around the bear canister. The two late nights also contributed.
Our camp locale is very filled with hikers. There are at least 20 people around and some group had a big fire going. Some guys said they saw a bear earlier. Our food is safely canistered and bear boxed. Endless gave us story time again. My error from last night, he’s reading Call of the Wild, not Into the Wild. Too tired to think anymore. We are cowboy camped and S&M has her tarp setup in case it rains again. Boone and Nomad turned up at camp. Night.
A day of water.
Day Forty-one: 12 June 2015
Start: HM 799.8
End: HM 828.5 Grouse Meadow
GPS Point: 37.063508, -118.589125
Day Total: 28.7 miles
Water at mile 799.8 Woods Creek, mile 813.7 stream off South Kings River, mile 823.6 Glacier Creek, mile 828.5 Grouse Meadow
Last night we ended up as a sleepover in S&M’s tarp. S&M, Endless, and I were cowboy camped but had S&M’s tarp set up close by. It started raining around midnight. We huddled under quickly and were snugly safe from the rain. It was pretty nice actually. And the tarp was super warm with all of us under there. Hilarious and awesome. The only unfortunate part was that I couldn’t sleep in since they both wake up so early.
Yesterday I meant to write about my shoes feeling like I was walking on cupcakes with velvet frosting. New socks and new shoes, my feet hardly know what to do with themselves. Today my feet were repeatedly wetted during the thirty or so fords and multiple sections of drowned trail. I didn’t think about it, but it meant my feet had a slow soak all day. At camp, I was able to give some TLC to my soggy feet since normally they are too rough and dry to do anything for the callouses.
Today I saw lots of people again. Right off the bat, after crossing mile 800! I saw Tank heading my way. He had a late start from his team and didn’t think he could make it to Tuolumne in time for the next gathering. I also met Silver. He hiked with Boone and I this afternoon and is camped with us tonight. There was also a girl named Bugs. She complimented me that I am the cutest hiker she’s seen; that I am so clean. I thought it was very sweet of her. And tonight, she found S&M for us! So glad! S&M almost camped a half mile back thinking we had gone on to our original goal a few miles further.
Writing all out of order, we had another double pass day. First was a 7.7 mile uphill to Pinchot Pass. That was an easy pass. Then we had a short down to a valley before immediately climbing back up towards Mather Pass. Boone, Silver, Endless, and I ate lunch just before the pass. We never saw Prickly or S&M but continued on. I caught up with Boone just on the other side of Mather and we flew downhill. Coming into the valley was incredible! The trail hugged the cliff walls and continuously switch backed down along the water. I would like to have seen this area during a normal snow year, because I bet there would be so much water flowing everywhere! Like an intricate weaving of streams across every available surface. All the water fighting for its place in the main channel. We passed Subway and Sugar Rush, too. I am not sure how they could possibly have gotten in front of me.
Today was a day about water. I have never seen so much water not immediately attached to an ocean delta. It was beautiful. I wanted to jump in and take the fast route to the bottom. An extreme water ride! I don’t even know how to describe the way the water had a life of its own. A thriving, continuos gathering of all the water coming together, separating, and colliding again. A sparkling movement of life. Even now, we are camped at the edge of this stunning meadow. We have seen at least a dozen deer, leaping around or sauntering by. In playful bouts and races. Curiously investigating the stinky group of hiker trash. You can hear the water rushing through the main stream on the far side of the valley, but there is also the beginnings of an oxbow lake forming near our side. Water gently rushing through, calm enough for a swim. Clear enough to see the fish curiously checking us out as we filled bottles. And the mountainous backdrop. Almost too beautiful to believe.
A beautiful day.
Day Forty-two: 13 June 2015
Start: HM 828.5
End: HM 855.9 campsite near Piute River
GPS Point: 37.224837, -118.832346
Day Total: 27.4 miles
Water at mile 828.5 Grouse Meadow, mile 835.5 Middle Fork Kings River, mile 842.1 Sapphire Lake, mile 855.9 campsite near Piute Creek
Today was beautiful. The sky was clear and bright this morning. Prickly, S&M, and I watched a group of six deer prance around the valley. They had no fear of us, and came within 15 feet in their play. Literally deer everywhere. We had about ten miles uphill to Muir Pass. Clear skies and warm the whole way. There was a fair amount of trail hunting, waterway dodging, and snow stepping to the top. Not to mention the false summit at Helen Lake. But I knew I was finally there when I saw the stone cabin. It was really cool. Inside I met Seven and Wrong Way, a couple hiking the JMT northbound. We shared the moment, chatted a bit, and all enjoyed a snack. I knew today we were planning on big miles again so I said my goodbyes and continued on. As always, I was last out of camp this morning. I had caught up to Prickly and S&M shortly before the pass, but hadn’t caught site of Endless or Boone yet.
The lakes at the top of Muir Pass might be my favorites so far. The water was the clearest crystal in the shade of azure, as always. Today the lakes were also so calm the surrounding mountain spires reflected perfect images where not covered with a thin creaking plate of ice. It was eerily calm and so beautiful. I had the strongest urge to just jump in. The best part is that these lakes feed the hundreds of waterfalls, streams, and ground seeps that we walked up the east side of the valley as well as the ones we hiked down the north side of the valley. Incredible!
As I hiked away, down the next valley, I was searching for a good lunch stop. I filled up some water and suddenly saw Boone and Endless sitting a little ways further down by Sapphire Lake. I headed their way and saw Aloha sitting by an inlet. He apparently went into Bishop too over Bishop Pass because the Muir Valley Ranch isn’t open yet for him to stay at. I finally got to see him in his straw hat with lei around the brim. Hence why Hoots and Hot Sauce named him Aloha.
After lunch I was feeling oddly exhausted. But Boone and Endless stopped occasionally for me to catch up. This lead to my favorite moment of the day, when I scared the wits out of Endless. I have been trying to sneak up on him on several occasions, and today I finally had my perfect window of opportunity. There were several rain showers this afternoon, and I was constantly adjusting my poncho pack cover or readjusting straps to take a photo. Endless passed me right as I was putting my pack back on. I quickly caught up to him and could tell he didn’t know I was there. His headphones were in, he was singing aloud to whatever song he was jamming out to, and I matched his pace for a few minutes. I waited for the perfect moment to tap him on the shoulder with the end of my trekking pole. In an instant he went from hiking away in a good groove to jumping back and slipping onto the trail. I hadn’t intended for him to lose his footing, but I definitely won the moment at giving him a good shock of adrenaline. 🙂 Hehe.
Today was our first real river ford. Evolution Creek. Boone and Endless were waiting on the other side as I took off my shoes and socks and walked across the 20 or so feet. The middle got deep enough to my upper thighs and you could feel a solid current. In high water years, I can imagine that crossing being a formidable obstacle.
The three of us made it to our planned camp spot and called it a night. Prickly and S&M never showed up. I am guessing the afternoon rains and hail may have held them up somewhere. We were planing another big day tomorrow, I hope they can catch up. Supper was eaten in rain gear as we anticipated more rain while lightning and thunder rolled in the background. I set up my tarp as a backup shelter and the three of us are cowboy camped under a clear sky of stars. This valley has us at a completely different angle than last night. The Big Dipper easily perched above us versus not being in sight last night. The sun was also out for a good hour longer. Wonderful raveling through the different valley perspectives.
Challenges we give ourselves.
Day Forty-three: 14 June 2015
Start: HM 855.9
End: HM 887.2 campsite below Squaw Lake
GPS Point: 37.479865, -118.932688
Day Total: 31.3 miles
Water at mile 855.9 Piute Creek, mile 865 outlet off Heart Lake, mile 871 Bear Creek, mile 880 North Fork Mono Creek, mile 881 outlet off North Fork Mono Creek, 883 Silver Pass Creek, mile 887.2 Squaw Lake outlet
Today was a good day. It was also my biggest day for miles. And I am thoroughly worked over. We covered two passes, a big uphill, a river fording, and 31 miles of the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains. Selden Pass. Ford at Bear Creek. A big up and down. Then forded North Fork Mono Creek. Finished up with an evening trek over Silver Pass.
The scenery today was the most varied since entering the Sierras. Steep valley cliffs, raging rivers, quiet meadows, Aspen groves, sandy hillsides with lizards, deep blue lakes, meandering river basins, lush tree meadows, and many more. As quick as I came into the Sierras, their end is coming just as fast. More beautiful, awe inspiring, and phenomenal than anything I could have imagined.
There are many people in the world, but I want to take a moment to think about the ones who enjoy challenging themselves. Not the day to day struggles like turning down the second helping of cake or taking the stairs over the elevator. I mean the people who hike 30 miles back to back, despite being exhausted, because they can. Or the 50+ year olds out-hiking people half their age. Or anyone who sets intense goals for themselves for no other purpose than to see if they can do it, and not necessarily because they are observed or evaluated. Despite all my hiking examples, there are people out there who are so stubborn, it doesn’t matter the activity, they push themselves harder, longer, and to bigger extremes than the regular masochist. These people inspire me, and I hope to be included in their ranks.
First thing today I ran into three Australians hiking together. They were very nice. They saw me coming up on them and they stepped out of my way, saying that they try to let the young, fast hikers go ahead. They cracked me up with a joke about hooking items to the packs of faster hikers to save weight a few miles. Said if the hikers move too fast they just throw rocks. Hahaha! They were a great morning interaction.
I caught up with Boone just after the Bear Creek ford. He was taking a break and said Endless has passed through shortly. We took off, caught up to Endless, and picked out a fantastic lunch spot. Actually Aloha found the swimming hole, but we were smart enough to join him. Endless was delighted at the chance for an afternoon dip. Aloha, Endless, and I all swam. Boone opted out, working on his impeccable tan lines. It was a pretty nice lunch break.
After lunch we still had 16 miles to go. I felt great the whole day until we started the last climb to Silver Pass. I was beaten by our past several days of hard miles topped with today’s mileage. We are camped just below the pass under Squaw Lake. The site was so mosquito ridden that I shamelessly hid inside my bug netting while Endless and Boone built a fire. Once they had smoke going I came out of my shelter to join the group. I am covered in bug bites. Mosquito smorgasbord. Tomorrow we only have 20 miles into Reds Meadow and Mammoth Lakes. I am excited for an easy day.
Wish I could write more but I am mentally and physically exhausted. Ready for sleep and rest.
Tired and excited!
Day Forty-four: 15 June 2015
Start: HM 887.2
End: HM 906.7 Reds Meadow to Mammoth Lakes
GPS Point: 37.614855, -119.074890
Day Total: 19.5 miles
Water at mile 887.2 Squaw Lake outlet, mile 895.9 stream off Duck Lake, mile 901 Deer Creek
I slept in later than the other days. Knowing we only had twenty miles felt like we were taking a nero. Boone took off right away this morning as a man on a mission to make the Post Office before it closed. Endless and I took our time more leisurely. The first ten miles seemed easy, but by lunch I could tell my energy was low from the toils of the last several days. We lunched at a river on mile 901. No lake for Endless to swim in. I somehow missed the 900 sign so made my own. After refueling, the last six miles were a breeze.
The last thing you walk through before reaching Red’s Meadow is a fire area. It was a deeply moving experience. Before lunch we were hiking through dry terrain, reminiscent of the desert. Then the trail suddenly throws you into a somewhat lush area with ancient giants. The blow down area begins immediately after switchbacks down from the giants. It should lead you into more ancient trees, but instead you see a huge span of tall, charred stumps. The tree tops missing. A strange void of land with ominous ghosts of old giants.
After reaching Red’s Meadow, Endless and I caught a bus that was supposed to take us to the main Mammoth lodge below the ski resort where we would catch an additional bus to town. Instead we had a kick ass driver who took us all the way to Mammoth Lakes. He was on his last run and heading to Mammoth Lakes regardless to drop off the bus. He told great stories about the area and let us off right by Zpizza, where we wanted to eat.
I felt extremely hungry when we reached Zpizza. Endless and I ate a Thai pizza and Greek salad. So delicious! Boone had a room for us at Motel 6 already. After a shower he joined us. Post pizza and salad face stuffing, we all went to the Mammoth Mountaineering. En route we ran into a guy named Brett. He gave rides to Boone and Endless at some point earlier on in the trail near Wrightwood. He has become a trail angel for rides at various places along the trail. He ended up offering to pick up S&M from Red’s Meadow. So glad she made it in tonight! Prickly headed to VVR for a package so I suspect she will be back with Queen Bee, Malibu, and BK now.
We saw Silver and all headed to the grocery. Mostly we were all ready for pints of ice cream, but we were productive and bought our food through Tuolumne too. Tomorrow we plan a relatively easy hiking day and will chill out during the morning to finish the rest of our town chores. On our way back to Motel 6, we saw Burgundy again. He was the night hiker from yesterday evening. Seems odd to night hike through the Sierras, but to each their own.
We just finished up laundry and it is way too late. Goodnight.