Soho and I decided to take the day off and relax a bit. I spent most of the day eating and updating this blog. Back on the trail tomorrow. Next stop is VVR, then hiking to Tuolumne Meadows. Going to be 150 miles of the best that the High Sierra has to offer. Will have a lot of writing to do !
For most folks hiking the Sierras, you have to do at least one side hike out to get resupplied. The stretch is too long to do in one go and many folks opt for the Kearsarge Pass route. It is an 8 mile hike out to the Onion Valley Trailhead where we pray for a hitch.
Fortunately, it is eclipse day and it turns out there is alot of traffic today.
The Eclipse was starting to take out the sun. Made it a little strange. The sky was getting darker as the morning progressed.
The climb up turned out to be easy. Only 600 feet of vertical. The descent down to the trail head took forever. Going to be painful climbing back up this thing in a few days.
On the way down I shot a lame picture of the eclipse.
I hope somebody saw something interesting. The clouds rolled in as the sun dimmed so there was little to see….just weird gloom.
Alice is heading back home from Mammoth today and plans to meet me in Independence. I spent most of the hike down trying to convince her to pick me up. That turned out to be a failure. I even picked some flowers to entice her…..
Once we reached the trailhead it only took 10 minutes to find a ride down. The guy didn’t even want my flowers….so there.
We checked into the hostel at the courthouse motel. Great digs and good people. Alice turned up a few hours later and brought us some food. She says I look skinny. 🙂 I’m looking forward to getting this hike done and returning to my normal life. Just a couple more weeks, Honey!!!!!!
Did 8 miles getting out today, but zero PCT miles. I did, however, drink about 6 beers. So that counts for something.
Just a few drops last night, but lots of thunder. Woke up to 35 degrees and slowly made my way out of the tent. The mosquitos are still hanging on my bug net, but they’ve no energy. It is my time to fight back!
To be honest, I’ve been worried about this pass for a long, long time. I still have a bad memory of hiking with my daughter and her friends up to Glen pass (~12k) 10 years ago and getting a nasty case of altitude sickness around 11k. At that time, it was nearing the end of the day, I was dizzy, barfing, and felt achy all over. After a night’s sleep there, I woke up feeling even worse. We had to cancel the rest of the hike and head back.
In the back of my mind, I was thinking. Will this happen again? Am I drinking enough water? Will my head explode when I reach the top? Well today I find out.
Soho was ahead of me most of the way, but we kept pretty close together. I hike faster in the morning and he seems to be taking it easy.
The approach climb is not too bad. Gradual climb across a huge valley. Here is a pic looking back.
I saw Soho passing a couple switch backs above me. I yelled out his name. The mountains need to know his name.
Along the way I passed a memorial to some kid who died making the trail. He apparently left his tools behind.
This is looking back over the infamous snow chute. I’m glad I didn’t cross this thing when the snow was covering it.
There was not much room at the top, but we found a gal who agreed to snap our photo. She managed not to fall off the mountain doing so.
And here is my celebration pic.
On the North side we had to deal with some snow fields. 3 of them were tricky with the first one being the hardest. A lot of folks were coming up a direct route, but it seemed that going down that was risky. We decided to take a side route. I took the lead through the snow and found some rocks to hop down. It was a tricky decent.
After skirting the snow fields it was a long, long descent into the valley. There are streams running everywhere, but the green doesn’t start again until 11k or so.
All those little streams feed into Bubb’s creek. The trail follows it for a bit, but fortunately we don’t have to cross this beast.
Soon there is water + flat meadows which = mosquitos. Sorry no more pics of the lower elevations. I was running for my life.
At the end of all this is a final 1k climb over 1.5 miles. It begins with a note from Ranger Rick about the bear menace. Why can’t I just exchange my 2.5 pound bear can for a 2.5 pound pistol? That would permanently solve the bear problem.
Climbing up I had a couple moments of deja vu. Turns out that this is the same trail that Stephanie and I ascended when I got altitude sickness.
When I reached the top, I found the sign for the trail intersection to Kearsarge pass. This is the route we will take tomorrow to go to Independence for resupply. It also turns out that this is the spot where Stephanie, her friends, and I stopped long ago.
I was barfing my guts out on this log.
Stephanie and her friends were camped over here.
Anyway, that was a little spooky. Fortunately, I felt great this time. Made camp a couple hundred feet from the evil barf log and had a good dinner. Tomorrow we hike out to Independence.
Mileage-wise today is an easy one, just 14 miles. Unfortunately, it involves 3 climbs to 11k. 3,600 feet of ascending. I’m learning that any climbs above 10k take a LOT longer. I’m apparently not built for speed at altitude.
Crossing Rock creek turned out to be easy. There were a couple logs spanning the raging waters below so I just walked over with feet dry. Wouldn’t want to fall in that thing.
Climbing the first hill I ran into one of the couples that passed me yesterday. They were taking a snack break. Turns out I was right about their experience. They hiked the PCT last year. Names are Cinch and French Fry. She is a nurse, he is a teacher, and both need their hiking fix every year. This year they are southing from tahoe and doing some obscure routes in the area. They were talking about how much harder the trail was this year compared to the last due to snow. Nice to hear what I already feel.
They told me it takes a couple of months to recover from a PCT hike. Cinch said he was stiff for a month and had lost most of his upper body strength. I’ve heard this from other hikers, so I guess I have that to look forward to in a month or so.
On the first decent I hit a nice looking meadow. It looked like a pleasant place to stop until I got closer and discovered it was skeeter-ville.
Just pausing to take a picture turned into a slapfest. There was a river crossing here. I took my pack off to switch my shoes to cross. Slap…slap…slap, slap slap. Screw it. I threw the pack back on and stomped through the water.
Got lost on the other side in a frenzy to run away from the mosquitos. When I came back I found Soho sitting next to the creek with his shirt and shoes off. I don’t know how he can ignore all these things sucking his blood. We talked for exactly 2 minutes then I ran up the next hill followed by a cloud of miserable creatures. I’m walking in wet shoes today.
Somewhere along the way Soho passed me heading up a hill. The dude climbs so much faster than I do. It is impressive.
The top was a barren plateau. Had a little pond up there as well. This place was a little spooky.
I’m now on the JMT and running into tons of people headed South toward Whitney. Generally they look like a pathetic lot. Their packs are too heavy, some are using sticks instead of trekking poles, some have music blaring from battery powered speakers. Many are wearing heavy boots. Most are not the lean, trim hikers I’m used to seeing. Their mileage is often 10 to 15 max a day. They look at me in awe when I tell them I’ve done 1,300 miles so far. I’m really surprised at how elitist I have become.
Well at least the views just keep getting better.
Had to ford Wallace creek after the next climb. I switched to my junk shoes after that since walking in my wet ones was no longer the fun I hoped for.
After the last 11k peak, it was a long descent down to Tyndall creek. I passed a father and son pair. Dad was bent over doing something with his son’s boots. His son was bundled up in long pants, shirt, and hat, and a bandana over his face to ward of the mosquitos. All I could see was his son’s eyes. They looked lost and scared. I had a look at the repair job. His dad was wrapping his sons boots in paracord apparent because they are falling apart. They are North bound and have been on the trail for 2 days. Jeez. I just moved on, there is no hope for these ding-dongs.
Bottom of the final 11k peak was Tyndall creek. I took the time to switch shoes for that one. Now I good shoes are super wet again and my crappy ones are dry. Oh well. Soho found us a nice camp spot, but the mosquitos have to be even worse here than the first creek. It was only 5pm, but I quickly setup my tent and jumped inside and never got out.
Soho was wondering around camp drying stuff, cooking food, etc. He must be covered in mosquitos. There are 15 of them trying to get at me in my tent. I cooked there, ate, talked to him through the liner. Finally, after eating, he said the mosquitos were bothering him so he too was going to his tent. As soon as he zipped up, another 10 mosquitos showed up on my bug net. He must have been the bait that kept them away. A little later I unzipped a small opening and threw my bear can out. It rolled down the hill. Fine by me. I quickly zipped back up. Die mosquitos….just die.
Slept like a log last night. Soho says I was a making a racket last night snoring, so I guess that kept the bears away. Speaking of bears, I hate this stupid bear can. It weighs 2.5 pounds, hard to fit in my pack, and impossible to open early in the morning when the plastic is cold. I’ve taken to loading my food bag with breakfast before I go to bed so I don’t need to open it in the morning. I sleep with the food bag, so that kind of defeats the purpose of having the can in the first place. I figure me and the bear are going to have to fight it out if he wants my breakfast.
Today’s goal *should be* and easy 19 miles with only 2,500 feet of ascent/decent. We should be out of cow land with its churned up trails and frequent poo deposits.
Have not met many folks on the trail so far, but I expect that to start changing as we start crossing access points to the high sierra. When we get on the JMT at the Whitney portal, it will probably going to be a circus.
On the way up to Chicken Spring I ran into a cowboy type riding a pretty palomino horse. He was bushwacking around the trail, so I stopped and watched while he climbed the hill. We chatted for a few minutes. He was out looking for 3 horses that escaped last night and are wondering around the woods. Didn’t see them, but told him a few cows seem to be lost a few miles back. He gave me an earful about the land management forcing him to move his cows around, that they were not bad for the environment, how eventually the rangers would close the trail to even backpackers, yadda yadda. I get it. Sometimes these land management folks go over the top. Don’t know what the answer is. All I want is to not step in cow shit and drink water that tastes like ass.
Said bye to cowboy dude and carried on up the trail. Just before Chicken Spring I ran into a dude coming down with his fishing gear. Apparently he day hiked up to fish in Chicken Spring only to find out that the rangers had killed all the fish there because they were not indigenous to the lake. Something about saving another frog. He seemed pretty bummed.
There was water coming from the overflow of the lake, but I bypassed a fill up. I’ve come to hate water spilling from lakes. It is warm and taste like swamp. Two things that don’t go together.
The climb ended at about 11,400. I’m still getting used to the altitude, but I’ve a system of hiking until my heart rate gets too high, stop for a minute, then continue on. Seems to work for me so far.
Speaking of poo, well, that is always on my mind around this time of the day. I thought doing my business at the highest peak today was a good goal. It turned out to be perfect. Good digging ground, solitude, views of the valley below, and…..a one wiper! Perfect drop.
Rest of the day was long descent to Rock Creek. Got passed by two couples who looked pretty fresh. I can tell the lead couple knew their stuff. The other ones not so much. They left a giant cloud of dust in their passing. Looks like I’m closing in on the JMT types.
Soho was setup next to river when I arrived. Got the tent squared away and had a good Mountain house meal. These things are almost universally good. Glad the remainder of my hike will have these in my resupply boxes. Did 19 today. River is roaring next to me, going to be another good nights sleep.