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#19621 - 11/05/11 03:34 PM 95 Days in the Sierra
RoguePhotonic Offline

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
This trip report will be presented in 5 parts of 20 days each.

Part 1/5:

July 2011, another year and the start of another hike. Some have asked what drove me to do this, the answer is complex, dark and generally not good conversation, the more simple answer of how this thing was given the green light you could say is my decision to put off possible job changes of the future. After doing a 39 day hike in 2009 then 71 days in 2010 I had become so involved with volunteer trail work and become acquainted with programs associated with it that I was planning to pursue a paid job in that field. In 2011 I had missed my chance to apply for the National Park Service jobs I had my eye on so I had applied for an SCA internship doing work on the PCT but what if I don't get any sort of position then what are my summer plans? This is where the initial planning phase for another major hike came into play. It would be essentially a "backup" hike. That notion in itself is a bit comical to many I'm sure because doing a multi month trek around the Sierra is a life long dream of many that never is accomplished and here I was planning it casually as something to do in case all other plans fail.

Several months passed from the time I applied to SCA and I had not heard from them and in the mean time my summer hiking plans had grown to an epic journey, one that would surpass anything I had done before. Both in terms of miles, days and the fact that I was planning to do a major amount of cross country travel which I had done very little of up to this point. I then began being torn between the notion of pursuing work I loved or delay and take another trip of a life time. My age at nearly 27 combined with the ever increasing turmoil of my life made me feel I should not delay any further. Ultimately I decided to withdraw my application to SCA and go forward with my hike with the idea that perhaps this will be my last great adventure.

While planning and getting suggestions from a number of sources I received large amounts of criticism being called reckless, irrational, crazy, selfish and many more things all revolving a general atmosphere of resentment. A common theme in a number of activities in my life I have simply "learned by doing". The notion of engaging in dangerous activities without proper training or experience is of course foolish at best but I was determined to overcome the challenges I was planning and in this case I did not feel I was lacking the experience necessary to do my hike safely. The snow fall and cool spring of the year only added to the "risks" involved but I would not be denied what I had planned, not even if it cost me my life. My life situation was and well is that I have nothing to live for. My hike is essentially all I have all year. Literally the only thing to keep me going each day is the fact that come summer I would get away from it all and wander the Range of Light. People told me not to do it or shorten it or do something safer but when this is the only thing you have in the world then all else be damned. Combine this with my constant stance that not only am I ok with dying if I did but I would be glad only added fuel to the fire and resentment that the public body gave me. Even so one thing did remain true, I was not setting out to get killed and would do what it took to not.

Come summer I had delayed my hike by one week for more snow melt and to earn more money to fund the hike even better. The day was set, Saturday July 2nd 2011 it would begin.

Day 1 Saturday July 2nd.

Waking on this day one might feel excited but generally I did not. The planning phase had been so long and the scope of what lay before me was so large my mind could not take it into a picture that could make for feeling as simple as "excited". The day was hot, more than 100 degrees which felt worse now that I was suited up in my fully covered hiking clothes. I always wore long sleeve shirts and pants in the Sierra to protect from the sun and mosquitoes. My friend Chris was the one who would take me to the trail head and off I would go but first getting a permit was in order and this year I had to do so at Lake Isabella. Arriving at the Ranger Station I wondered what the reaction would be this year to my itinerary. The previous years the Rangers would be extremely surprised and even envious of my plans but when this particular Ranger asked how many days I would be out and I answered around 100 he didn't seem to react at all as if somebody walking in and asking for a 3 month permit was as routine as a weekend. As we went through the process it became apparent that I knew more permit regulations then this Ranger did and I had to correct him a few times. Then he began to write by hand my entire hike onto permits which would have taken at least 10 pages and luckily when I told him that it wasn't necessary and that Yosemite did not write down any locations the year before he agreed to only do the first week and then my exit location. Once back onto the road we began making our way up the mountains marveling at the massive amount of people that were camping any and everywhere on this fourth of July weekend. At one point we passed a large dirt turnout by the river which was completely covered wall to wall by tents directly out in the 100 degree summer heat. Chris commented that he would rather go home then camp like that and there. Finally reaching the trail head I was amazed to see that the parking area was completely packed with cars and at least 4 horse trailers! I guess it was a good thing that this trail head had no quota system or I may not have gotten a permit! My original plan had been to spend the night at the trail head and then hike in first thing in the morning but the scene at the trail head and the fact I still had a couple hours of light left I saw no reason not to just hike in for a couple of miles.

After a trail head photo I gathered my gear and began my journey into the wild once again. As I cruised down the trail the notion that after all the planning and day dreaming that I was actually here at this very moment on my hike and would not be done hiking for over 3 months was simply not real at all. Once again my mind could not take in the reality before me. As I hiked in a bit this area of forest was a maze of trails including some not marked or listed on maps and I was having trouble finding my route as I checked my GPS topo maps. During the planning phase of this area I always looked at a map that was oriented North and now that I was looking at my GPS topo it was oriented to the direction I was facing and it threw off my generally good ability in route finding. Without locating my destination successfully I decided on which trail to take but before I got very far into it I ran into two hikers who advised me to take the Cattle Run trail which was quicker and I decided to do so but after I dropped 150 feet down hill I had major doubts if I was going the right way and after closer study of my map I discovered I was headed completely the wrong way! The two hikers had misunderstood where exactly I was going and sent me in the wrong direction and of course I was quite angry for following the advise of two random hikers instead of my own navigational choice which had been the right one. So turning around and slogging back up this very steep hill I resumed as the light began to fade. My goal had been to reach the bridge that crosses the Little Kern but I had almost no light left as I reached what a sign on a tree dubbed "Jug Springs". Generally it was not a good place to camp. It was littered with trash including an egg crate and the camp fire sat 10 feet from the trail and the only decent place to put my tent was literally 5 feet from the trail but I set up any way and as I did I was greeted by the wonderful winged demons which for some reason this year I referred to as "little ****" most commonly. Little did I know that this season was different from any other I had had and that these little evil bugs would not only be biting me now but would also be doing so on my last days of this hike.

Day 2 Days 1&2 A-2168 D-3834

On this morning I admittedly for the first time engaged in a major act of leaving trash in the wilderness. Since I had planned to be at the trail head I had brought a can of stew to eat for breakfast and instead I had packed it in and I did not wish to pack this large tin can for the next three days so where the large egg crate lay in this camp site I stuck the can there in the hopes that all these pack trains out here would not only take out that crate but the can as well. I can only hope! Back on trail the going proved to be mostly a grind and as I had expected Golden Trout Wilderness is mostly a place of heavy forest cover scattered with small meadows offering little grand vistas. The going was generally pleasant but hot. After some climbing I began heading far down into the Kern Canyon and the heat was ever increasing as I went. I immediately discovered that the light weight water proof pants I was wearing did not breath at all and was hot and sweaty like wearing a trash bag. As I began to grind down into the canyon at least one beautiful display was offered telling me that it may be hot but it's beautiful! My goal had been Grasshopper flat and upon reaching it I was a bit surprised to see a number of camping sites like an official campground with tables built out of logs and metal fire pits. All this day I had gasped at the elaborate camp sites I came across. Tables, fire grills, chairs, all a product of the old world you could say where camp sites were "improved" before the wilderness act days. Generally the National Park Service has the resources to remove such sites but in these parts it was still the good old days depending on your prospective. As I passed through the empty sites at Grasshopper Flat I decided I had no plans of using these sites at all. It was hot, very hot and I was burning up so I went down by the river and found once again an illegal camp site too close to water that offered relief from the summer heat as the cool air came off the roaring Kern River.

Day 3 A-2963 D-1184 R-T

Trying to beat the heat I made my way up the dreaded so called "Devils Stair Case" which proved to be nothing more than a typical set of switch backs that climbed for 500 feet. Passing Little Kern Lake offers little views of what generally is a beautiful little lake. Cindy, the Roaring River Ranger told me later that while swimming in this lake she had become covered in fresh water leeches so perhaps it's a place better enjoyed by the eye! After topping the ridge and coming to Kern Lake I noticed huge Cumulonimbus Clouds rising above the peaks and instantly thought "that's not good". As I moved along the massively swollen Kern River that at times was over the trail almost requiring a ford I had to marvel at it's size with this being early July. To think what it must have looked like in May! Reaching the Coyote Pass trail junction I took lunch before tackling the large climb ahead. Now that I had moved further into the range the number of people around had dropped to zero. As I began up the switch backs I noticed a trail crew camp and fresh tracks and work on my trail. I was lucky enough to be only a day or so behind the crew which had cleared all the trees making for easy going. It was not long though before the sky was black , thunder was rolling and the first drops began to fall. I did not bother to put on a rain shell as the rain generally was pleasant. As I climbed I kept a close eye on my topos. I did not plan to cross Coyote today as I was still very out of shape and feeling the strain of the trail so I had my eye on an area above 9200 feet where the terrain was less steep and probably offered good camping. As I reached this area I began the scan mode of scrutinizing every inch of the surrounding terrain for signs of good camping or better an established site but I could find none. At this point it had been raining for nearly 2 hours and I was soaked and ready to stop. As I got closer to steeper terrain it was apparent I would not find an established site but I managed to find a good location for breaking in a new camp between the V of Coyote Creek and an unnamed creek. While eating dinner by my fire the trail crew passed on the trail. This would be the last people I saw for 2 days.

Day 4 A-2713 D-2091 R-T

Continuing up Coyote Pass proved to be a laboring task. I certainly was out of shape and fat at 250 pounds when I left. It had been the heaviest I had ever been before and although my base weight was around 22 pounds that left one heavy son of a **** for my feet to carry up this hill! After a slow grind I finally made the top near noon and the clouds had already covered the sky but no rain or thunder yet sounded. I studied the ground and discovered the extend of the trail crew travel ended at the top of Coyote Pass which of course marked leaving Sequoia National Park. From here there was no evidence that anyone had crossed this pass or any bit of the trail to Farewell Gap this year. Leaving the National Park also had the effect of meaning the trail was infrequently maintained and it began to show it right away. Moving down I could see the heavy snow covered mountains of the Mineral King area in which I was headed but at the moment the clouds were far more ominous! As I approached Rifle Creek which had been my paper written destination it was heavy on my mind if I should go further or stay there but the decision was made for me since as I reached it the trail completely disappeared into a thicket of brush offering no camping of any kind. While this happened the clouds suddenly opened up and began a total down pour on me. As I made my way up the hill out of Rifle Creek the storm became a complete deluge! Hail pounded me, lightning cracked over head and as I reached a small ridge all I could see of the surrounding mountains was silhouettes from the rain falling. The wind roared over the ridge I was on pounding me like a hurricane! I was excited beyond belief. I shouted out loud wildly and laughed like a crazy man at this rage nature thrashed upon me. I did not have on my rain coat and was completely drenched but couldn't have been happier. As I moved down the trail it was quickly turning into a creek from the rain. As I approached Pistol Creek though things began to get more serious. Lightning began striking directly over head and the terrain had become exposed with me out in the open with my metal ice ax sticking up on my back. Clearly this was no good so I decided to hike to the lowest point of the terrain which was the creek crossing and I pulled out my rubber pad and sat on it as the storm raged about me. It did not take long before what had been a fun storm became miserable. The rain was still coming down hard and showed no signs of letting up. I was soaked and the wind was blowing an icy chill now that I was not hiking to stay warm. The thunder boomed loudly over head and all I could do is sit and wait. After about 30 minutes the rain had slowed to a gentle rain fall and the thunder seemed to be farther South so I decided to move on and within another 15 minutes the rain had stopped completely. To the South I could see the storm continuing with all it's rage. Finally approaching Shotgun Creek I was hoping for some camping other wise my options seemed grim. While high up from the creek I could see what may just be a fire pit so after doing a bit more recon of the area and finding nothing I dropped down to find a very old camp site which looked like it hadn't been used in years. The only place to put a tent was just large enough to handle mine so this would be home for the night. While unpacking I learned the hard way that my pack was not water proof at all. My sleeping bag on top had many wet patches, most of my clothes were soaked and my wallet with all my money since it had been at the very bottom of my pack. Like many Sierra storms though by 4:30 the sky was mostly clear and the sun was shinning so I laid out everything to dry and even had to spread 900 dollars in cash on the ground to dry displaying a quite ridiculous scene. Hard living on the trail I thought and it's only day 4! When I had taken my pants off I learned that although they were 125 dollars a pair they had only lasted 2 days and the whole bottom was ripped up with about a 10 inch hole and another smaller hole! 250 dollars spent on worthless gear that would have to be replaced!

Day 5 A-1895 D-3510 R-T

As I resumed I constantly picked apart the condition of the trail. At times the tread corridor was 3 inches wide and trees were down everywhere. If they don't do some maintenance soon I thought this trail will be lost. Looking South I could identify little other then the Needles. Moving up towards Bullion Flat finally high Sierra beauty was around me taking away from the irksome trail I was on which I had lost a time or two. Passing ever increasing beauty I finally got my first look at Farewell Gap which had a fair amount of snow on it. I began picking apart the terrain for my cross country approach of the pass but as I did I was delighted to see that most of the switch backs were not under snow and I shouldn't have much troubles. As I approached the base swollen creeks blocked the way and I only managed to make it across without getting wet thanks to my good boots. A fact that would be repeated many times throughout this journey. The grind up proved to be fairly easy. A few decent size snow fields had to be crossed which were hard packed and care was needed but before long I found myself on the top over looking the beautiful Mineral King Valley and the Tablelands beyond which I had planned to be crossing in 4 days. It's times like these that although distant I will make navigational decisions many days in advance now that I am here and now and able to carefully scrutinize the terrain I am headed for. In this particular case what I saw is more or less what I had already planned for. That the terrain not only of the Tablelands but most of the approach was about 90% snow cover. This in itself was not the problem but my physical condition was inadequate for several thousand feet of vertical post holing so I made the decision to not take Buck Creek to Moose Lake and cross the Tablelands. Instead I would take the High Sierra Trail. The North side of Farewell Gap contained far more snow and for the first time I felt some glissading was in order so I pulled out my ice ax for the first time and began sliding down. My general rule for glissading out here always involves keeping my speed down below 10mph. Sliding with a full pack on puts me at greater risk of losing control and when your out for so long there is no need to put yourself at greater risk for a bit of fun. Unfortunately for this slide when the slope leveled out too much for good sliding and I got back up I noticed one of my water bottles was gone. It was my new one also but I could see nothing up the slope so it was just oh well. I gained solid ground once again with the trail still a ways off but it did not take long before I was on it. Once again the clouds had covered the sky and a few rumbles of thunder sounded nearby. I was still completely exposed and wanted to get down below the tree line before I took lunch but I finally gave in and stopped for water which proved to be exact timing since within seconds of stopping the rain began to fall so this time I put on my rain shell. Dropping down I was warned in a joking manner that I had an "interesting" creek crossing at Franklin Creek. When I reached it I could only think "oh crap". Rushing over a small cascade the water was a churning white water mess at the trail crossing, you could not even see the bottom to know how deep it was and a few feet down stream it cascaded down hill steeply so one fall meant certain death. I checked up stream but it looked no good. My only clear choice was right into the white water at the crossing. For the first time ever I actually felt a serious bit of fear in my stomach as I looked at that water. Only one notion helped my apprehension and that was because the water was flowing over a cascade meant that despite it's intimidating churning white water the raw energy of the flowing water was being dissipated by it's fall. The same concept of check dams in trail construction. So water shoes on and into the freezing water I went. As I entered the unknown of the white water I had to feel my way through. Out in it I was waist deep and the overwhelming power of the water meant absolute care and focus was needed. Tiny baby steps had to be made to avoid being knocked down. Although my theory of energy dissipation was correct the water in one area was flowing steady around a large rock funneling water and therefore increasing normal energy. Little did I know that this was the exact spot only a month earlier that a woman had been sucked down stream under a snow bridge and almost died but with care and calm nerves I successfully made my way through just fine. As I made my long slow grind to the bottom my intention had been to camp about a mile from the trail head but camping seemed to be very limited to non existent in this area so I just hiked all the way out and made my way down to Cold Springs campground. At this point it had been raining for nearly 4 hours straight and unpacking everything once again it was all soaked but worse. My sleeping bag finally had enough to have large clumps of down in it and I just laid in my tent moaning at this damn rain and the state of my gear. I had spent 71 days in the Sierra the year before and it only rained on 4 days with the worst of the two being light sprinkles for an hour. Now on just day 5 I already had 3 days of rain that lasted for hours and extremely hard. This location also had nothing at the moment to lift up my morale. I may have been out at the trail head but the only store was almost 3 miles down the road and I walked over 12 to get where I was so for tonight it was just wet woes.

Day 6

Although wet I had managed to stay completely warm all night and set out for Silver City Resort for resupply and within an hour arrived. My first woe you could say is that upon walking into the store they had almost nothing in the way of food. Only one small shelve filled with things like smores supplies for kids, an assortment of expensive resort gimmick foods such as dried veggie chips, cans of soup, a few cliff bars and some real Italian noodles that you had to boil for awhile. Resupply here was clearly going to be minimal and expensive. I asked if they had laundry service and they did not. The showers were the worst cost to minute ratio of the whole trip. 5 dollars for 4 minutes. Luckily though this was a simple policy and not a token system so more time could be used. The next woe was they did not have butane fuel for my stove followed by they did not have power to charge my stuff until noon when they turn on the generators. Thankfully amongst all the things that made the place not very "hiker" friendly the people were very nice and enjoyable to talk to. After telling the staff of my woes with my wet gear they offered me black trash bags that would protect my gear for the rest of the trip. After showers, buying supplies and having lunch all that was left to do is sit for the next four hours and wait for some of my AA GPS batteries to charge. A woman coming out of the restaurant commented to me that I was sitting so still that I looked like a statue.

Day 7 A-2325 D-3623

Having talked to many hikers the day before this whole area seemed to be a snow logged location. I had not seen any evidence that anyone before me crossed Farewell Gap, hikers headed for Franklin Pass said the Rangers had no reports it had been crossed yet. A man that had been up Timber Gap said there was too much snow on top and he turned back and canceled his trip in which he was headed for Black Rock Pass. Despite the grim attitude of all around I was moving forward regardless and Timber Gap was the goal. Moving up the switch backs the amazing beauty that is Mineral King showed itself. Reaching the top of the pass the snow cover was thick and complete. I lost the trail entirely. A faint set of tracks made it's way down across brief patches of trail but generally what kept me on track was simple trail logic. I would lose the trail and study the terrain from things like the area being too thick for a trail or simple logical pathways based on the terrain. This eventually led me out of the snow and back on solid trail below. The rest of the grind down was a standard slog getting even more hot as I went. Although Cliff Creek was a large ford it was easy and refreshing. About two miles away from Redwood Meadow I saw a bear walking through the forest so I stopped and tried to snap a photo and the bear still hadn't seen me so I said in a very casual voice "hello Mr. bear". The poor thing didn't even look at me, it took off crashing through the woods like it's life depended on it. The rest of the grind was a peaceful slog surrounded by wild flowers and as I arrived at the outskirts of Redwood Meadow I saw another large bear grazing the meadow. Getting here was a delight as I had never wandered through the giant redwoods in the solitude of the back country. I set my tent up below the largest in the camping area and talked with a trail crew that was camped by the Ranger station. Back at camp I noticed a horribly old looking out house but when your in the back country having a place to sit and do your business is all that matters but as I started to step into it a number of bees came flying out of the pot and I said "no way". No rain had fallen, my gear had dried and all was well again.

Day 8 - A-2788 D-1492

Getting on the trail early I came to a very cold ford that was easy to cross but before long I had come to the Middle Fork of the Kaweah and I was a bit taken back when I did not see any bridge. I was under the impression that there was one for some reason and the river looked nasty. Putting on my water shoes I made for the crossing where the trail went but as I approached it I just said "crap" and decided to not even give it a try. I then stumbled up stream slightly and studied the water closely "while in the water" and could not see any good place to cross. I looked closely at the raging white water flowing over small rocks and considered that it looked more shallow but as I gave it a try I only made it a few feet into the fury when I could barely stand on my feet. I was being pounded and shaking from the currents blows and I was one tiny step away from disaster so I ever so slowly retreated back from the rapids and while still in the water went back to the trail crossing location I had said no go at and began into the water but it quickly became apparent it was more then waist deep with very fast flowing water so once again I retreated. I moved down stream a bit where the distance between me and the other bank was only around 10 feet away and began in but once again the water was far too deep and fast. I was angry and dismayed. I scanned all around and could simply see no where to cross so I decided to retreat completely and put my boots back on. My feet were killing me now after so much time in this very cold water. So pounding back up the trail a bit I was very irked and I began to move up stream but I did not make it very far before the steep banks made me take off my boots once again and take to the water. After getting back into the water I moved up stream along the bank fighting through spider web covered branches while still in knee deep water until I finally came to a location where the river became much wider and I was able to cross in thigh deep water which was still quick moving. Once again my feet hurt badly and I staggered to a rock to sit and relax as I get my boots back on but as soon as I sat down the mosquitoes attacked me like crazy only adding to the poor morale of such a miserable and dangerous crossing. It was fairly hot now and it was time to climb once again. Trudging up the switch backs four elderly ladies were on their way down. Seeing them I was concerned that they may be headed for the ford but after I asked they said they only intended to go to the river for lunch and turn back. Good I thought because I did not see those ladies passing that nightmare safely. After a lengthy and hot grind up I arrived at Bear Paw Meadows for lunch. Once again I was back onto familiar trails. Passing Buck Creek I stared up canyon and thought that I should be going that way and I felt quite good about it so it became one of the reroutes I was not too happy with but push on down the High Sierra Trail I did. After a hot grind I made my destination of Mehrten Creek closing the day.

Day 9 A-426 D-1171

This was a fairly simple day as I made the grind down to Crescent Meadow and caught a shuttle to Lodgepole. After getting a site and food, a shower and doing some laundry I gave my report of the ford at Middle Kaweah to advise hikers where the "safer" crossing was to the Ranger at the permits desk and asked about charging possibilities around Lodgepole which there were none that did not require you to monitor your stuff. On the other hand getting friendly with employees pays off as this Ranger informed me about an outlet in the utilities closet on the side of the bathroom I could use that officially the public was not supposed to be accessing. After visiting a few sites on the shuttles I closed the day with the intention to do a layover day here tomorrow instead of at Lonely Lake as planned which would turn out to be a good idea...

Day 10 Layover

One of the driving forces behind resort layovers for me was the need to charge up my GPS batteries which I had 4 sets and could only charge 2 at once. This took nearly 4 hours per set making for 8 hours of AA charging, maybe 2 hours of camera battery charging and a few hours for my solar charger. A layover was the only easy way to get everything to full in most locations. After taking in typical sights like General Sherman I went back to Crescent Meadow where I made quick friends and hung out with a mother and her son which like anyone really tripped out at what I was doing out here.

Day 11 A-2123 D-1363

After consuming 3 double cheese burgers, 4 orders of chili cheese fries, pizza and more ounces of drinks then I could count it was time to get back into the wild. The return trip to Bearpaw Meadow was the standard beauty yet rollercoaster ride that is the start of the High Sierra Trail. Mehrten Creek was notable as I had had to ford it while heading West but now it had dropped to where it was crossable. Once at Bearpaw and night fell I intentionally urinated around my tent to attract the deer which worked beautifully and for what seemed like the whole night deer were grazing around my tent.

Day 12 A-3388 D-776

After amusing at a deer enjoying a nice urine breakfast in my camp I set out for the higher trail heading for Elizabeth Pass. The steep terrain immediately was making the going tough and many downed trees plagued the trail. Once reaching the grand view of the high point I was dismayed at the fact a major haze washed out what is normally an incredible view. Despite this I still had a hard time pulling myself away from such beauty. Several snow fields blocked the trail and as I started out onto one I saw not far from me a small hole in the snow showing it was undercut and it was close enough to put my trekking pole in but I could not reach the bottom so I back tracked to a safer route. As a began the long climb up the switchbacks I was reminded just how steep this trail is but also just how beautiful. Endless beautiful views keep you company as you fight your way up. Once I reached what I call Lonely Creek I began off cross country for Lonely Lake. Generally the terrain is easy going but I felt extremely fatigued and the going was difficult. I had just finished The Chronicles of Narnia books a couple days before on audio and as I climbed I kept thinking "further up and further in!!". Nearing the lake the low clouds that had been sweeping the area finally engulfed me in a cold fog and as I reached the almost completely frozen Lonely Lake a serene sort of peace was about the area as gaps in the cloud would reveal amazing beauty and then I would find myself engulfed in a thick fog turning my world into a small 100x100 orb of peace. After setting up camp I did some laundry which was miserable in water so cold it was quite painful in a matter of seconds. While I made dinner and closely studied Horn Col to plan my approach I heard rock fall coming from what sounded like Deadman Canyon. It was so loud that it sounded like large bombs going off. I couldn't help but actually feel the sound waves hit me. Where it actually had been though I would never know.

Day 13 A-1196 D-3875

This morning was amazingly clear and I was well above a blanket of low laying clouds. I had already decided not to go over Copper Mine Pass primarily because if I took Deadman Canyon I would be able to make better miles for meeting up with Chris who was coming to Kings Canyon so I could buy new pants. The approach to Horn Col was amazingly gentle and easy until I got close to the top ridge. The snow was so hard packed it was straight ice. I got out my ice ax and began cutting foot holds in the ice which was a laboring task. Not all that safe either since I often would cut a single foot hold and balance on one foot while I cut the next. Reaching the top the Deadman Canyon head wall was a beautiful sight as it was still a winter wonderland. After taking one of my rare self portraits I at first was a bit concerned with the decent. The saddle had what I thought to be a 70 degree snow slope with total coverage but as I studied the terrain I decided it was easily doable to follow the saddle up hill a bit to where the slope is not so steep and then navigate a few rock selves down. This proved fairly easy and I finally was on a fairly steep but not scary snow slope. At this point the snow was soft enough to be sinking in a couple inches. I stopped and looked at my ice ax which I had been holding with the ax end down but it occurred to me that since the snow was getting softer it was smarter to point the ads end down to maximize drag if I fall. The very second I flipped the ax over in my hand my feet suddenly slipped out from under me and down the slope I went flying. Making quick work with the ice ax I self arrested quite easily. I immediately began laughing even as I was having trouble keeping myself at a full stop on this slope. I also was having a hard time standing back up but I tried to stop laughing and thinking "yep exactly like that" because about 20 feet down the slope from me was a small cliff drop off I wanted to try and not slide over. Once I was back on my feet I only had one more fall before I was on manageable snow and I had to consider my path across this head wall because if I went too far to the left I would find myself at steep cliff sides so I chose a path I thought would take me to the trail. The going was slow and hot on all the snow. While I moved down I took every chance I could to glissade but more often then not the snow cups would not allow for it. After once again slipping like a cartoon character with my feet flipping straight out in front of me and landing firmly onto my butt I thought it was time to consult the GPS to make sure I was going the right way and luckily I found I was directly on the trail. Finally reaching where the trail crosses the creek and taking the snow bridges I was able to pick up the trail thankfully clear of snow where it switch backs steeply into Deadman Canyon. Getting to the bottom and moving down canyon I only found many hundred yards of more snow to cross but finally I reached solid trail. This of course meant one thing, the mosquitoes attacked me in crazy numbers but I was not surprised. Welcome back to Deadman Canyon I thought and trudged down the trail. Sadly once I reached Ranger Meadow smoke from some where was making the view hazy. It still proved it's usual majestic self with 10,000 Shooting Star littering the area. Moving steady down canyon I came upon a section of trail where the creek was swollen and it needed to be forded but to it's left was a small cave that was dry enough to squeeze through if you remove your pack. The rest of the slog to Roaring River was a mess with many down trees including some straw piles that proved extremely difficult to get around but I finally strolled up to the Ranger station and while I signed the log Cindy and her son came and greeted me. Apparently they had just arrived today for the season and I was the first hiker they had seen. They invited me to hang out and have a hot drink so after dinner I joined them for a second dinner I didn't expect. It was nearly midnight by the time I stopped chatting and headed for bed closing a difficult, at times dangerous, but beautiful day.

Day 14 A-2746 D-1840

There is not allot to say about this day as my goal was to go only from Roaring River to Sphinx Creek. After a grind to the top of Avalanche Pass I had a good tip from Cindy. This pass in general has no view at all. You cross it in the trees and see nothing but she told me to turn North at the pass and go 200 yards to the view point which had a beautiful vista of the whole area. After enjoying lunch there I made the grind down to camp and closed an easy day.

Day 15 A-286 D-3359

Once again the grind down was a long uneventful slog. The only note was seeing a small rattlesnake below the bubbs Creek crossing. Reaching the trail head at noon I had told chris to meet me around 5pm since at the time I had planned to do Copper Mine Pass. I spent the time chatting with hikers and especially the Ranger manning the permit desk. Thankfully Chris arrived early and off to Fresno we went to visit REI. Rolling into society was a strange business and I can't say I liked it much but I was able to replace my pants, get a burger at Five Guys and saw the final Harry Potter movie in Imax. We finally arrived back at camp at about 2am.

Day 16 Layover

There was not allot to do on this day other then wait. My grandmother, aunt & uncle met me at camp in order to bring me the money my uncle owed me which beefed up my trail funds by another 1100 dollars. Once they had left Chris and I made a stop by Roaring River Falls. David finally arrived and I talked to the store manager about holding my packages which he agreed to do.

Day 17 A-2069 D-481

Slogging back up to Bubbs Creek David's slow pace was actually helping me on the switch backs. He was going slow enough that I never started breathing hard at all. This enjoyment of the slow pace of David would not last however and I first became annoyed while eating lunch. We sat and did our thing for 45 minutes and I began to pack up but as I was ready to go David pulls out his stove and begins making coffee. He had been sitting for the last 30 minutes reading a book so it annoyed me that he had not made coffee then if he was going to do so. By the time lunch was over an hour and a half had passed. Once back on the trail David was hiking at about a 0.5 mile an hour pace which was just killing me. I began to get very dreary. Just as I would start feeling good he would stop as I stood and waited which had the opposite effect for me then rest and as we would resume I would feel like crap again. This kept up in the heat for more hours then I care to remember. Finally rolling into Cross Creek we make camp and put an end to what was generally a miserable day for me.

Day 18 A-2044 D-499

The day began with a camp fire which was a typical move for David. Because getting on the trail is my main priority I never have one myself. Generally I don't mind as long as we get on the trail in a sensible time frame. As the fire had died down a bit and David finished up his breakfast he then threw his Mountain House packet onto the fire which was so weak it had not even fully burned the plastic label off before he dumped water onto it. I thought to myself "MY GOD! It's a repeat of Rock Creek!" Flashing back to last year when David joined me on my hike we had camped at Rock Creek and I had talked to the Ranger there. Once David had left I came back to Rock Creek and the Ranger almost fined me because she said that foil was directly on top of our fire and that it was so hot at 4PM she burned her hand when she went to pick the foil out. The fire she spoke of was of course David's morning fire and his foil on top. He had the audacity to deny the whole thing and here we are a new year and him doing exactly the same thing on the first morning out! Once on the trail David was moving at his same slow pace. Actually he was hiking slower and generally was more out of shape then I had ever seen him. After an agonizingly slow hike we reached Junction Meadow and saw a mother bear and her cubs. Once our grind up the switch backs began David said he did not think he could make Charlotte Lake which was our planned destination for the day. The only realistic alternative was to camp at Lower Vidette Meadow which made the days hike only 4.2 miles. This also meant we would have to sacrifice our layover day. I consented but it made the outlook more grim. Once in camp we both did allot of fishing but could not catch any fish large enough to keep. While eating dinner a bear that was grazing the meadow started coming for our camp. Since I don't scare animals away and prefer a closer relationship with the animal life I just sat back and let the bear enter my camp. It went straight over to the bear box which I had food in, took one sniff, said "yes there is food in there and I cannot get it" and walked off. At this point having David along was proving more irksome then anything else. Not only because of the slow pace and inability to complete the hiking plans which I had decreased significantly in difficulty for him but because all he ever would talk about is world politics and how messed up things were. These sorts of things is exactly why I am out in the wild and want nothing to do with yet it was the primary topic of conversation.

Day 19 A-1971 D-768

Another morning and the start of another easy day as we slowly made our way up the switch backs leaving Bubbs Creek. The classic panoramas I have come to know and love showed themselves as we made for Charlotte Lake. David once again was moving so slow it made the hike relatively effortless for me. As we closed in on the junction to Charlotte Lake we lost our way. Snow had covered many sections of trail and where my GPS showed the trail junction there was none. As we made our way up the trail climbing again I realized we were on the trail heading for Glen Pass so I decided to bail off cross country to the trail. Arriving at the lake it was a perfect day and we had first pick of camp sites as no one was there. I went to say hello to George but he was not at home. After a couple hours of fishing I could not catch any worth eating and gave up.

Day 20 A-1971 D1974

Today was going to be the start of our cross country adventure over Gardiner Pass so we set out to the end of the trail and began cross country. David does not navigate well so I took to the lead and made slow progress through wet marsh like terrain. David's morale always drops off trail and he kept asking where is the pass? Where is the pass? I kept telling him I do not know! This was true because the nature of the terrain and the surrounding trees made it difficult to tell which section of terrain the pass was located on. I would know where it is once we got further down the creek. We were only about a quarter of a mile in when I was in the lead and very slowly finding my way through the marsh when all of a sudden David went out around me straight for a bright green patch of moss. I didn't even have time to yell NOOO!!! When SPLASH! and David falls waist deep into a bog. He began to panic shouting quick sand! I told him not to panic because he would only become more stuck. He made his way out of the mess and had a nasty gash in his leg that was bleeding badly. Luckily for him we were near a creek that he could rinse off in. I pulled out my first aid kit and while David patched himself up I began doing some thinking in dismay. David clearly could not handle even this easy cross country. I was annoyed because the whole reason I planned this hike in this particular area was to visit Gardiner Basin but I had to make a decision and considered the options. I figured Rae Lakes was about 5.5 miles so it should be easy to make it there. So off we went back to the trail and heading for Glen Pass. As we got closer snow patches began covering the trail requiring a few minor detours. As I made my way down a short piece of cliff David was complaining about the route. It's easy class 3 I told him and pointed the route down to him. Slowly he made his way down and back on track. What had become a common theme out here I ran into a couple I had met last year and we had a chat about our routes. The woman warned me that Alpine Col was the worst thing she had ever done. Something I would clearly learn later... Moving up the pass I was becoming irked at the constant stopping of David. I felt great and wanted to get on top of the pass as soon as possible so finally I took out in front and began making my way up. I passed another man that asked "so you do this every year?" as he knew me from last year also. The snow was heavy but easy and before long I was standing on top of Glen Pass once again. After enjoying the view and being pushed into a group photo by random hikers we began down. The North side of Glen Pass was mostly snow and I made quick work trudging through it and hoping across talus fields. I reached the bottom long before David and I waited for him because the route was still snowed over. When we resumed I stayed in the lead and had fun sliding down some snow fields. David on the other ran was extremely worn out and moving very slowly. As I approached a small creek I noticed the crossing looked difficult and the snow was undercut. I decided to take a wide approach and crossed the creek on solid snow bridges up stream. I stopped and took my pack off because I was in desperate need of water. As David caught up to me he made his way straight for the crossing. I had been pumping water and then I looked up to see David firmly smashed into the ground. Apparently the undercut snow I had saw collapsed on him throwing him to the ground and bashing directly into his leg causing it to start bleeding again. Christ I thought! His power of observation clearly was non existent. The snow did not fully let up until we were nearly at the lakes. Crossing the outlet David almost fell while on the logs. He also was barely making it along as he said he had a bad blister on his heel but finally just after sunset we strolled into camp closing a very mixed day.

#19657 - 11/06/11 07:10 PM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
FrankHaase Offline

Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 1
Loc: San Francisco
Thank you for sharing your amazing adventure here. I cannot wait to read the sequel! I wish you all the best for your life at home!

#19658 - 11/06/11 08:14 PM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Bee Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
I will admit that I have not begun to read the actual trip report; however, I did read your prologue (which may be more of interest to a overly introspective lot such as myself). In a sense, I sort of feel sorry for young adventurers in the USA, because you are caught up beyond your control, by a safety mania that is a country-wide obsession: playgrounds so safe that if you fall, you may bounce 10ft off the ground due to the rubberized "safety mats". Mandatory Helmets on bicyclists, skiers, walkers, sleepers? Of course, you know where this is heading: Liability, litigation, $$$$$....need I say anymore? The second part of the equation is, of course, that no one is allowed to die by their own stupidity in this country. Rather, a whole brigade of honorable folk will be detatched to retrieve your sorry arse, no matter how much you protestith your right to be stupid (meant tongue in cheek). It is the way it is here, thus, people will react with the knowledge in mind that along your merry way, you drag (against your will be it as it may) a whole contingent of folk who are running behind you with a giant safety net at the ready, all the while, risking their lives.

Rogue, you were born in the wrong time and place for the freedom you wish to exercise. Perhaps, someday, you will be able to roam the rest of the world, where people don't give a crap about an individual sorry arse, leaving you to revel in newfound anonymity. However, there are also equally anonymous others who lie in wait hoping to aid and abet in your disappearance -- kind of a check and balance, so to speak.

I digress; I feel for you, man.
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

#19671 - 11/07/11 02:29 PM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: Bee]
chulo Offline

Registered: 06/01/11
Posts: 2
Loc: CA
Thanks for posting your adventures. I really appreciate you taking the time to post, and I feel that you have a gift of writing.
I read all of the "crap" advice that you got prior to your adventure, and I'm so glad that you more than held your own. You sound like you are your own man, and as Bee says, maybe you were born 100 years too late. I'm not so sure that this doesn't apply to me also.
I have reached the age when my hiking is mostly limited to day hikes with my grand kids, so reading other peoples trail reports is very enjoyable.
Looking forward to your next post!

#19689 - 11/08/11 10:50 PM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
SaraC_UK Offline

Registered: 08/07/11
Posts: 127
Loc: Sussex UK
Hey thanks for the post, I have not had a chance to read it all yet , but I loved it from the start. I know exactly what you mean about jealous people trying to scupper your plans and put you off going because they can not. I have the same reaction to a lot of my plans, even though they have been on a much smaller scale. So much so that I have generally given up talking about making long travel trips or hiking trips. When I cleared of to the USA for three moths a while back I thought people would be excited for me, they were not, they were just negative. Similarly when I was on Amtrak heading to the Grand canyon for a hiking camping trip, a guy on the train started telling me a story of a guy who was camping in the canyon and someone above was taking shots at him with a rifle, Thanks for that

#19807 - 11/12/11 02:28 PM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: SaraC_UK]
Rod Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 660
Loc: Santa Clarita, Ca. USA
Wow I have always wanted to do a "Devil may care" adventure.I had one planned when I was 19 years old and it never came to be.Although I have thought many a time to just hop on a Harley or grab a backpack and take off for the Sierras, it has never happened. I will live vicariously through your 95 day adventure.

#19815 - 11/12/11 07:48 PM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: Rod]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7600
Loc: Fresno, CA
I've been reading sections. Just finished Day 4.

I can't believe your expensive pants were ruined by the second day. As for the currency -- the paper is more like cloth, so it would eventually dry even if you kept it in the wallet all the time.

Your meadow picture from the first day is nice:

And the money... pretty unusual Sierra picture:


#19818 - 11/13/11 12:38 AM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: Steve C]
SaraC_UK Offline

Registered: 08/07/11
Posts: 127
Loc: Sussex UK
Reading your story is so inspiring, it just makes me want to get out there all the more. It reminds me that I need to get back to Sequoia and Kings canyon, and soon. Crossing the trail with white water and feeling fear reminds me of when I tried to cross the Queets river above the Queets camp ground early one summer. That was swelled with rain but I really wanted to get over not least to see the worlds Biggest Douglas Fir (disputed)
About a quarter of the way across I was over waist deep, the river was pushing me very hard, I was alone and under my feet were smooth rounded boulders, some very large, which had clearly all been moved regularly by the river. At about this point, near the start of a three month USA trip I re-evaluated my situation, and decided to return to the bank. I didn't want serious injury or worse and was very scared.

Your trip report is exhilarating, and I am hardly into it yet. I definitely want to plan for a reasonably long trip in this area.

Ohh I just read a little more, it was red wood meadow I was heading for when in Sequoia on the same trip, when I was caught in a huge white out snow storm, the rangers said oh it was lovely last week, I never did get to Red wood meadow

Thanks so much for posting.

Edited by SaraC_UK (11/13/11 12:44 AM)

#20178 - 12/12/11 10:27 AM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Sorry it took so long but the image work is what takes all the time.

Part 2/5:

Day 21 A-600 D-600

This day turned into mostly a layover day. Due to our route over Glen Pass and staying at Rae Lakes it put us a day ahead of the planned schedule so after sleeping in a bit I got up and hiked around to some classic photo points. I went to say hi to Dario the Rae Lakes Ranger. His new cabin was almost complete and he was camped up the hill. He was a tad surprised at me stopping in just to say hi. I talked to him about my planned route through Sixty Lakes Basin and he suggested a route over a ridge leading to the North shore of Arrowhead Lake and I decided to take it. Returning to camp David was just getting up and we set out for Dragon Lake. The trail leading up was faint and steep but very easy to follow. The views of Rae Lakes on the way up were amazing. Reaching Dragon Lake the theme didn't let up as it proved to be an amazing gem. David and I did some fishing and could catch them on nearly every cast but they were hardly worth keeping. We ended up with two and took them back to camp and cooked them up.

Day 22 A-1629 D-3337

Since David's heel was bothering him with a blister we decided to meet up later. David would take the JMT to Woods Creek and I would go through Sixty Lakes Basin. As I began up the trail patches of snow had to be crossed at regular intervals. For more then a week now I had been listening to Lord of the Rings on audio book and as I marched down the trail I kept singing to myself "old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow, bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow". Topping the ridge still singing I began passing lovely tarns littered with patches of snow. Sixty Lakes Basin was still fighting it's way out of the winter's wrath. Passing by more beautiful lakes then I could keep track of the snow cover became thicker and at times I lost the trail. This led to the occasional poor choice on route as I would come to small cliffs and have to make a few difficult maneuvers to avoid back tracking. After some difficult creek crossings and one ford I made my way for what is known as Basin Notch or so I should have been. Dario had pointed to a spot on his map which unless I am mistaken he pointed to the small notch North of Basin Notch which is what I went for. Moving down this notch was very steep but doable. I made my way to Arrowhead Lake and had lunch. Tromping briefly cross country I met back up with the trail and began the easy slog to the bottom. At one point I passed a cracker next to a creek and knew that David had ate lunch there. After inquiring with a passing hiker she confirmed a sighting of a man with such a large pack she thought he was packing the gear for three people. Reaching the bottom I met back up with David closing the day.

Day 23 A-613 D-2005

This was another easy day as we strolled down canyon past beautiful places such as Castle Dome Meadows. Reaching Middle Paradise Valley which was our destination I set out to do some fishing. After fishing the river for almost a mile down without being able to catch anything but very small ones I gave up and ended the day.

Day 24 A-292 D-1506

Once again and for the last time we made the easy slog down to the bottom which would mark the end of David's hike. After getting a camp site and food we attempted to do some laundry but the line was too long. While waiting we once again met up with a group of three which we had talked to several times in the past couple of days. The woman of the group had cracked a rib coming down Glen Pass and had been in allot of pain as she made the hike out for several days. They were supposed to be hiking further North so coming out at Kings Canyon meant they had no ride out of the Sierra and hitching a ride in this area isn't as easy. David had long said to them that he could not give them a ride because he only had a single cab truck but ultimately with the difficulties they agreed to ride in the back and camp with us.

Day 25 A-3257 D-318

After a good breakfast and gathering up the last of my supplies it was time to head up the Copper Creek Trail. Having David here meant I was able to get a ride to the trail head this time around. For this section of my hike I had completely changed my plans. I had intended to go up over Granite Pass, down to Tehipiti Valley, back up and to Volcanic Lakes, then over Kennedy Pass to Cedar Grove again. The notion of climbing 6000 feet up then 5000 feet down and be unable to ford the Middle Fork of the Kings was just unacceptable. Also the idea of going down to 4000 feet into the heat was not appealing so I spent some time studying the map of the area and thinking of a plan. Ropers book had said good things about Goat Mountain so I planned a climb of that and then drop down to the Kid Lakes, make my way out of there through Glacier Valley and to Volcanic Lakes like planned. Beginning up the switch backs where a very nice grade and I made quick work on them although it was very hot. All the way up I was debating on if I should go all the way up to Grouse Lake or stay at Upper Tent Meadow. Ultimately although I felt fine I decided to stay at Upper Tent Meadow because well why grind up even further when I had plenty of days to spare. So finding what seemed like the only place to camp at this so called meadow I set up and picked apart the site. For some reason it looked like the Rangers may not want people to have fires here. One pit had a rock on it for obvious reasons but I also found burnt rocks in the area like a pit had been scattered. I took everything into account such as the low altitude, the abundance of wood, the relatively low amount of traffic and simply made the call that I see no reason a fire pit cannot be in this site so using my ice ax as a digging tool I made a level place for the pit and cut level places to sink small cut logs to use as seats.

Day 26 A-1845 D-437

Another day and another easy one at that as I just had to make my way up to Grouse Lake. Once I had finished the switch backs I began cross country making use of a faint trail that leads you to a small meadow. As I walked up on this meadow I stopped and thought to myself what an amazing pure and beautiful location this is. That notion only lasted a few seconds as before I knew it I was being swarmed by about 150 mosquitoes. Oh crap I shouted! Frantically I got out my defensive gear and pressed on. Grouse Lake turned out to be a charming little lake but I had a bit of trouble finding a place to camp on either the Southern or Eastern shores but finally I found a little nest in a granite bowl. It was only noon so I spent the day relaxing and threw a line in wondering if the fishing was any good. My first cast caught me a 12 inch Brook Trout so I knew I could have some fish for dinner. That night after catching two Brooks I tried to make them easier to cook by lining my fry pan lid with foil but it failed horribly and like usual in the Sierra cooking fish was almost more trouble then it's worth.

Day 27 A-2327 D-2065 R

On this morning while I was finalizing packing up I noticed two hikers high up on the Eastern slope above my camp. Why they were up there is beyond me but as I began climbing up to the Saddle between Goat Mountain and Munger Peak I looked down to see I had passed up the two hikers. The climb to the saddle was gentle and easy with a mess of snow fields to cross. Once there I dropped my pack and started up the ridge to the summit. The climb was made a bit more difficult as I had no sort of day pack so it forced me to carry a bottle of water and my camera while I climbed along the ridge. Despite this the going was generally easy and very fun with a maze of rocks to navigate and some medium class 3 if you choose. The toughest bit was to get through the small pines that littered the slope. Nearing the summit I looked down to see the two hikers making their way to the saddle and then slowly, very, very slowly working their way down the other side which was total snow cover. As I watched their technique I could only conclude that they were a bit scared as they descended. The view was incredible although a bit covered by a blanket of smoke coming from the South some where. The register was interesting as it showed on average people sign it about once a month and only two people had signed it this year. It's a shame as people are missing out! Dropping back down to the saddle I began moving down the snow until I was able to pick up some rock shelves to get down. I ended up picking up the tracks of the two hikers several times but I never saw them again. The final drop down to the largest lake was another mix of shelves that didn't cause any problems. This lake in general was amazingly beautiful and I snuck up on different locations on the shore to see if there were any big fish in the lake but I could see none. I ended up setting up camp near the outlet and gave fishing a try but I had no luck at all. I concluded there were no fish in this lake. Around 7:30pm it began to rain but was a light sprinkle and only lasted about 20 minutes. After a beautiful sunset I laid down for bed to the sound of croaking frogs putting the final touch on the idea that there is no fish.

Day 28 A-1596 D-2568 R-T

My plan entering this area had been to hike out to some of the amazing vista points over looking the Muro Blanco then move North over a notch near the State Lakes but after more careful study of the contour lines I decided it was just way too steep. At the time I did not know about Glacier Saddle other wise I would have taken it so instead I decided the ridge crossing between two small lakes SE of the Upper Glacier Lake looked doable. This I named Kid Pass for obvious reasons. Dropping down to the smaller Kid Lakes I was surprised to see that they had fish. After taking a small detour to see one of the last lakes which was worth it I began up the granite shelves topping out to see that Kid Pass would not be a problem. Up until now I had been a bit worried that I might climb up here to see a uncrossable mess of terrain. As I reached it's top I could not see any signs that anyone had crossed it this year anyway. Once I had dropped down past the small unnamed lake I began North as the terrain turned into cliffs. After enjoying a beautiful view for lunch and singing to a Pika I found myself on the shores of beautiful Glacier Lake. The second was just as beautiful and I made my way toward Glacier Valley as the storm was almost ready to pop. Taking the Western descent proved easy and when I neared the bottom I decided to pack away some gear that I didn't want to get wet but I had only resumed for about a minute when it began to rain. Once again I said to hell with it and didn't put on my rain gear. Once I reached the first large meadow a full blown deluge had begun and I was soaked to the bone once again. Lightning cracked over head and it began to hail like mad. Marble sized hail was pounding me senseless as I walked down the trail going "ack! ouch! crap!". Before long it looked like it had snowed the ground was so heavily covered with hail and the rain did not let up at all. Tromping down through the wet muck I finally passed the small meadow and it had stopped hailing to only begin once again with a fury. Once I picked up the trail I started heading West and the rain finally stopped and it was colder then I had thought out which made me see the mistake of just getting soaked. This was something I would not repeat again through the trip. By the time I had reached camp at the crossing of the Middle Fork Dougherty Creek it had hailed and rained once more but it was time to camp so I set up and made a fire and began to dry out. I quickly had learned that the mosquitoes do not care if it's raining at all. They would swarm me even as it's pouring down rain. Although I did not fish it I took special note of this creek as the trout were a bright beautiful shade of gold. More bright then anything I can find in the Sierra fish book.

Day 29 A-696 D-536 R-T

Once again due to changing plans it left me with very easy days as I only planned to go to the lowest Volcanic Lake and stay which was a short couple miles away. Generally the going was easy and uneventful and I was at the lake long before lunch. The only campsite was not legal due to it's distance from water which was probably 30 feet at best. While the lake had been higher the water line was almost touching the fire pit. I set up camp anyway and set out for some fishing. I spent a couple hours fishing with mixed results. Only two fish I caught were just at the limit of being worth keeping and many of the other ones I caught were extremely beautiful in color but acted strange and weak. Some would not put up any fight at all as I pulled them in and as I put them back they didn't seem to even care. I could reach in the water and touch them and they would swim away with an attitude of "do I have to!". While I was still fishing the storm said it was time so I topped off my kitchen sink which the fish were in and got in my tent. Once again a full blown deluge began and for the next 3 hours it rained non stop. Lightning flashed over head and I felt a bit uneasy about being in my tent with a metal pole but it is what it is. As the storm raged on I learned more and more how terrible the Tarp Tent Rainbow is for rain. The water was splashing off the ground and coming through the screens, mud was thrown all over everything and all I could do is sit and wait. I was finally looking forward to cooking fish over a fire but with all this mess I thought to hell with it I am going to throw them back. It finally stopped raining about 30 minutes before dark and I got out of my tent to get moving on dinner. I looked in my kitchen sink to see my fish were gone! I looked around and found them many feet away dead on the ground! Damn it I thought! I was going to let them go! I got to work on a fire and was able to get one going despite the amount of rain fall that had come down. At this point I was becoming more and more happy with my ability to make a fire even in these horrible conditions. As an amazing sunset began and the clouds started to break up I could tell this was no ordinary storm but a major system.

Day 30 A-3566 D-5537 R

On this day once again I had minor changes. I had planned and had been considering crossing a small ridge from the Volcanic Lakes to East Kennedy Lake but I decided not to based on more unknowns and considering the alternative of hiking around and through Kennedy Canyon which I had never done didn't seem like a bad trade off. So picking up the trail again I began up to Dead Pine Ridge and the trail already showed signs of less maintenance. Once passing over the ridge and beginning down slowly the trail faded completely and it also began to rain steady again. This time rain shell on and I began careful scan mode. The further I went down the less of a trail there was until it's gone completely. At this point it was about having Eagle eyes, you would spot a cairn or cut log and go to it and begin very carefully picking apart the terrain until 50 yards off you would spot another sign. Occasionally you would lose any signs and move through the forest attempting to pick up anything at all. At this point I was a bit annoyed at the National Park Service. Not because of the condition of the trail or lack of it but because if you look on many maps they show a normal trail like any other and I was thinking about how an inexperienced or just poor at navigating person might decide to stroll through here and they could become lost very easily in this thick forest. So continuing down a thick cloud layer rolled over me dropping visibility substantially. Now and again I would pick up bits of trail until I reached a point where in two opposite directions they both looked equally likely to be the route but after careful scanning I decided on one and while tromping down in that direction I suddenly saw two cairns as if a gateway on my left. The terrain didn't seem to support that the cairns where the trail but after moving through them I found the very old and over grown switch backs. Considering the fog was allowing me to only see 20 feet or so I thought it was lucky I found them. Once I had dropped to the bottom the trail completely vanished again and it was back to scan mode for cairns. The scene at this point was I had dropped out of the cloud layer of fog but it had been raining non stop while the mosquitoes happily attacked me in great numbers which meant I had to have my head net on which also meant it was getting soaked and filling the holes in the net with water making for even less visibility. Moving up canyon through the forest was a nightmare of trail following. It was almost insulting at times as I would see a cut log that had fresh wood chips and you walk through it to find literally no tread at all. I was weary from the constant attention needed to follow this route and the rain would not let up. Lunch time came and went without me stopping due to the rain. Find the trail, lose it, find it, lose it, rain, rain, rain, marshes, fords. Finally I gave in and sat on a wet rock and ate a beef stick. Once you near the tree line you pick up the trail which can be followed most of the way. This had been the worst trail I had ever had to follow which taxed my abilities to the limit. Cross country would have been considerably easier because you just go up canyon anyway that you can instead of having to pick apart every piece of terrain there is for signs of the trail. Later I would learn that a Ranger a week before had been lost for 3 hours in this area trying to find the trail. Grinding through wet muck that said it was early June and not August I finally began up the pass. While fighting my way up through bushes on a very steep hill after losing the trail a large buck came bouncing down the trail straight at me but veered off before he ran me down. Once I was high enough to see the ridge I had considered crossing from the Volcanic Lakes I was glad that I hadn't. A mess of cliffs littered with snow fields showed itself which didn't look impossible but difficult at best. After a slow and tiring grind I finally fought my way up the final snow field to the top and enjoyed a nice view of Northern Kings Canyon. Grinding down the other side it seemed I finally had a proper trail to follow until I reached a very large hill side covered in ferns. The trail corridor was now gone completely but still could be followed without any trouble at all. There was a major down side though and it was that since it had rained for four hours straight the ferns were soaking wet and as my pants brushed them they soaked up all the water and then it ran straight into my boots. Within 30 seconds I was literally sloshing down the trail with completely soaked cement boots. Pushing my way through I felt a sharp pain on my arm as a large bumble bee was stinging the crap out of me! Once out of the ferns then came the downed trees. The whole trail was littered with straw piles of trees so large you could not climb over them. It was also a puzzle as you would try to walk around one only to find another going in another direction to find another and another forcing you WAY around. All this while attempting to find the trail. At this point the sun had set and I was looking for a camp site without luck. I began getting worried about it getting completely dark and trying to find a site. Finally I crossed a small creek and looked up over a hill to find an old camp site which was not great but would due for the night. By the time I was set up I was out of usable light and began making a fire which was a bit more difficult in the dark and after 4 more hours of rain. I took off my boots and dumped a couple ounces of water out. I was beat after such a horrible day. Kennedy Canyon is now in my book of trails that says I have done it once and will never do it again.

Day 31 A-975 D-4000

Once I stepped back onto the trail I found the junction sign only 20 feet down the trail surrounded by fallen trees, I laughed that I had been so close to Frypan Meadow which I was trying to get to the night before. While trying to find the trail through the mess two people came hiking up and at least confirmed my direction. Moving through Frypan Meadow was no easy task with all the downed trees and marsh like terrain. At one point I had to climb up onto a large downed tree which took one of those 1-2-3! type climb ups. I made the mistake of trusting my trekking pole with most my weight as I lunged up. As I went up my pole sunk into itself. I made it onto the log severally thrown off balance and was forced to leap off slamming into another drowned tree. The smash damaged something in my elbow and for the next two months it gave me trouble if I would hold my arm out straight and pick up any weight at all. It took about 3 months to heal fully. Once out of Frypan Meadow the downed trees became less frequent and it was left to just slogging down to the bottom. As I got close I ran into a couple Europeans day hiking up. It turned out that this was their first time to Kings Canyon and the Ranger had recommended they hike up to Frypan Meadow! Why? I exclaimed! Generally there aren't any great views, it's hot as hell and once at Frypan it's a nightmare of downed trees. Resuming I completed the slog down in time to have a nice lunch at the grill but to my dismay during the storm along with flash flooding they had suffered a broken water main and were refilling the water tanks so it meant no shower and no laundry. Since the bridge was still out I decided to hang out around the store until dinner time so I bought a book and relaxed by the river until I ate and then walked around to Sheep Creek campground arriving just after dark.

Day 32 Layover

Although I had got in early I still had a layover day planned so I set out for the store in order to get lunch. While I was walking there a Ranger I had talked to on my last two visits pulled up in the ambulance and had me look at a flier for a missing hiker. I had just been to some of the locations listed on his itinerary so I gave him a full report of when and where of no sightings. At first he said he could not give me a ride and I already knew of the official policy but he gave me a ride anyway the rest of the way. So after lunch and hanging out with some people I had to consider what I wanted to do for today and the following day. I decided to just hang around again and read while I waited for dinner. I also decided to get back to Roads End I would just spend the next day getting my supplies and then making the 6 mile hike and camp out there.

Day 33

Once again I got up and made the mile and a half walk to the store and hung out for the day. Unfortunately I had finished the book I just bought for 25 dollars and there was no post office so I just gave it back to the store and bought another book. At first I had planned to hike out earlier but in the end I decided to stay until dinner then hit the trail. Slogging down the horrible sandy trail to Roads End was uneventful other then having a bear stand up and check me out. Once at Roads End I went out into the forest NE of the Copper Creek Trail and found a nice place to set up out of view of the parking area and did some illegal dispersed camping.

Day 34 A-3236 D-183

After a good breakfast I once again went slogging back up the Copper Creek Trail and made the same decision that although I could make it up to Grouse Lake why bother and just stayed in the same campsite I had before at Upper Tent Meadow which I saw had been used and the fire pit I had constructed had burnt trash in it making for the nice touch.

Day 35 A-3018 D-2727

Once back at Grouse Lake I went around the Western shore this time and noticed some nice camping on this side compared to the other. The grind up Grouse Lake Pass was gentle and easy and the top offered beautiful views of Granite Basin. Dropping down and heading for Goat Crest Saddle was once again easy cross country terrain occasionally littered with snow fields to cross. The top was completely covered with snow with a small tarn in the middle. As I moved along the snow staying far away from the tarn I could hear the whole area cracking as I walked so the snow must have been undercut badly. Looking down once again at Glacier Lakes I decided the snow was not too steep for some glissading so down I went express style. Once at the bottom I followed the Western shore enjoying the wonderful beauty this time not completely clouded over. Once again I followed the same route down past the lower lake and then down the western side of Glacier Valley. Once I had passed the larger meadow my goal was to camp some where between the two meadows so I began looking all around for any signs of a camp site. I crossed the creek at times and picked up a faint trail yet still no where to camp. Finally I arrived in a spot that had a nice view of the lower meadow and decided this was an ideal spot for breaking in a new camp. There was room enough for at least 5 tents, good access to water, plenty of fire wood and I picked a nice location for the fire pit.

Day 36 A-1956 D-1050

At this point I was still listening to Lord of The Rings and as a result was thinking about scenes from the movie so as I was climbing out of my tent at sun rise I shouted out loud "AND THE SUN RISES! AAAAAAARRRRRR!!!!!!!!!" I looked up to see that I was not alone...A poor little fawn happened to be witness to my war cry only 30 feet away. It took off in sheer terror. A few moments later I see it come out of the forest still bouncing madly for it's life across the meadow through the creek and as far as I could see out of sight. Once I had picked up the trail again I made my way up toward the State Lakes where I saw a person camping which would be the last people sighting for the next three days. Moving past Horseshoe Lakes I began up the ridge towards Gray Pass South admiring amazing views of Goddard Creek. I stared down at it thinking about how I will be tromping down it almost two months from now. When I had crossed the pass it was close enough to lunch that I wanted to enjoy the view on Windy Point while I ate so I made my way across the ridge towards it. Roper had described it as a 30 minute flat walk but this was not true at all. Small rock humps cover the ridge and I took some poor paths through it making for difficult and slow going. After an hour I was on Windy Point laughing at the broken radio repeater but completely taken back by the over whelming beauty of the view. Even as good as the view was I found myself a bit disappointed since I was expecting more of a 360 view while it's a bit more restricted based on where you are. I decided I wanted the best overlook of the Middle Fork of the Kings so I made my way about 150 feet down the slope until I reached the end at a cliff with a nice place to sit. After enjoying the majestic tranquility I reluctantly packed my stuff and began back up. When I was back on the summit I took one last look and noticed a spot and thought to myself what a nice place that would be to camp out. I then looked to my left and saw a small patch of snow. I paused..."maybe!?" "should I?" hell yes I am doing it! This was one special place to spend the night and I was going to take advantage of this chance so I set up for the night. The view was so amazing that as I sat and read a book for awhile I would look up and audibly gasp at all that was before me.

Day 37 A-2042 D-2704

Once I made my way back off the ridge I began down and crossed Gray Pass North. Moving down was easy going but I found myself at the edge of a small gorge like cut with a raging creek. After moving up and down it I gave up on a place to cross and made the ford. The grind up towards White Pass was a nice peaceful area seldom tramped. It was slow going but generally easy and before I knew it I was on White Pass enjoying more wonderful views. Although snow cover was thick the crossing to Red Pass proved easy. Once over Red following the snow was the easiest way down so after doing as much standing glissading as I could I finally found myself at the row of shoots leading down to Marion Lake. Even from this distance I was completely amazed at the blue lake that was down there! The lake is literally more blue than the sky. Roper had described the furthest left shoot as being the easiest. What I learned later at camp is that there is another shoot to the left of the one I took which I believe requires you to climb up over a small hump and into it and it would have been much easier as the route I took was very steep and loose. Constant attention was needed to avoid a nasty fall. Once on the shore I was overwhelmed by how amazing this lake was! Even in the shade of the fading sun you could see the raw blue and to this date I have not seen any lake that comes close to Marion. Making my way around the lake and noting the plaque I crossed the outlet in tricky fashion and began looking for camp sites. I was amazed and horrified to see that someone had built a fire literally two feet from the water on the vegetation leaving a horrible black mess! My god I thought! If your going to make an illegal fire at this altitude why in the hell would you make it there! Once set up I went down to get some water and as I began to take out my filter I stared at the water and simply could not bring myself to filter water from this lake. I felt it was almost sacrilegious. After a nice but cold swim I did some fishing. I was convinced at first that there were no fish at all in this lake but while moving down the shore I finally spotted a couple swimming along. I caught one of them which was a fairly nice size but I threw it back and did not bother to fish anymore because there may be fish but not many and the ones I saw did not look very healthy.

Day 38 A-2871 D-2563

Moving out of the area I was looking forward already to when I was supposed to be coming back in two months. This would never happen though... Moving up Cartridge Creek I had picked a small gap in a hill to pass towards Dumbell Pass and as I crossed it I noticed signs of others doing the same. This was a common theme in many places I would go cross country. I'd pick my way through to only find someone else was making the same and in most cases good choices of route. Passing by a small lake I almost had to laugh at the massive swarm of fish in it showing how few people make their way here. Moving up Dumbell was slow and tiring but amazing views of Lakes Basin keep you company all the way. As I got higher I was amazed how every other lake in the area looked dark and yet Marion stood out like a gem with it's amazing blue. Finally making the top and beginning a steady snow slog I had planned to cross over a bit to the left instead of following the primary drainage to the bottom as I thought this was the proper thing to do. Right or not the going was very difficult and dangerous. At times I would take to extremely steep snow fields and slide a bit and then be back on horribly loose talus that took extreme care. Although the route down was horrible the amazing beauty was incredible. Once again I knew I was in a total gem of a location. Reaching the bottom I looked back up and thought "I came down that!?" If I had been approaching the route I took down I would not even consider going up it. Skipping along the shore line took me along time as I constantly had to stop and marvel at these beautiful lakes. While nearing the outlet I was forced onto a steep snow slope that took some time to move across as I had to cut foot holds. Once I was ready to begin down to solid ground I slipped and slid to the bottom. "That's one way to do it I guess" I thought and resumed out across the open area of the lower basin. Slowly I made my way up Cataract Creek Pass and as I topped out and began walking towards the edge all I could say is "oh shit". About 6 feet away from the edge was a small indentation in the snow the whole length of the pass which I took as meaning "cornice". As I approached the edge I stabbed at the snow hard with my trekking poles making sure I was not about to fall through and peered over the side. Before me was a completely vertical snow wall about 10 feet high or more which then curved back up into a knife edge bank of snow. Clearly going down this was impossible so I looked to the right only to see steep cliff sides. Picking apart the left side I found a place where the snow had just melted enough so that you could take off your pack and crawl under it. Moving down the rocks it was very steep and I constantly had the feeling of needing total attention if you wanted to get off the pass alive. At one point I had to take off my pack and lower it by rope and climb down. Once I was on steep sand I decided to try and take back to the snow which was the opposite decision of the only other set of tracks moving down the pass. Once on the snow I managed to glissade most of the way down until the going was easy once again. This would be the worst pass of the whole trip. After navigating my way through some difficult bush I was rock hoping along the lovely Amphitheater Lake. While Navigating a steep snow slope that led straight into the lake I slipped and almost started down hill. Crap I thought I need to pay more attention! The last thing I would want is to fly into deep water where I would be swimming with my full pack on! After crossing the outlet I found a decent enough camp and set up for the night in another amazing place. While I laid in my tent reading I heard a loud rumble of something falling and I sat up in my tent listening for a minute for anything further and then I heard waves crashing on the shore line. Wow I thought I have to get out to see this! But all I could see in the moon light was churning water. Awesome I thought! Closest I have come to the idea that a rock fall in a lake could wipe you out if it is large enough.

Day 39 A-1430 D-3091

While finalizing packing up I heard once again a loud rumble and I went running to the shore only in time to see the waves coming across the lake. As they approached my shore it was like a tsunami where the water sucked out and then the waves rolled over. This repeated several times as the energy of the waves continued. Awesome! I thought again and started heading out. The next section I made another major change. Two factors came into play. The first was simply that although the last few days of cross country were incredible I was ready for a break from it and the second was that while on Cataract Creek Pass I could see Potluck Pass and it looked like it had cornices on it so crossing it might be very sketchy. So instead of following the planned route of going up the Golden Stair Case and then resuming the Sierra High Route I decided to get on the Muir Trail to the Bishop Pass Trail. As I made my way down I immediately had to decide which side of the creek to follow as it plunged over a large fall. I decided to take the East side which proved to be the right choice. The going was easy shelve work and as I worked down them I noticed some horse manure. This was a strange place I thought to see this as the terrain was not exactly the place a horse should be. This is something I would see time and time again in the most unlikely places. Even among large talus fields. Continuing down was a mix of minor bush whacking and small talus slopes until one steep slope that took caution brought me to the entrance of a small gorge making it time to cross to the Western side of the creek. Shortly after this I picked up the faint remnants of the old trail. This was just in time to take you down a small mess of switch backs to a small lake where it was necessary to ford a creek. Once beyond the small lake and down some other switch backs the trail fades completely into a dense forest of both living and burned trees. From here I lost the old trail completely and never found it again. Although the terrain from Amphitheater Lake to the Muir Trail was not all that difficult it still took me more then 3 hours by the time I had forded the painfully cold Palisade Creek. After taking lunch in a camp near Deer Meadow I was back on trails once again. As I began down trail I of course began instantly running into people. In the next hour I probably saw 30 people. When I reached the Junction of the Middle Fork of the Kings I stopped by a camp site I used the year before and was surprised to see so much crap left in it. A gravity filter bag, a roll of TP and the fire pit was completely filled with trash. Once I had reached Grouse Meadow I made sure to go out and see it proper which I had failed to due the two years before. My goal for the day had been to camp near the Ranger Station and luckily the camp site I wanted was free. After getting set up I went to say hello to Rick and I spent awhile talking to him. He was the only Ranger that I talked to 3 years in a row.

Day 40 A-3994 D-3255

Moving up the trail to Bishop Pass was an easy task as the switchbacks were a beautiful grade. The view of Leconte Canyon was amazing as I slowly but steadily made the grind. By the time I had zig zagged through the beautiful Dusy Basin and topped out at the pass I must have engaged in conversation with over 15 people. Dropping down past all the amazing views I had to marvel at the amazing trail work done here and the massive rock slides that served to destroy it all. The grind down continued it's beauty with one lake after another. When I was about a mile from the trail head I talked to a guy for awhile and he offered to give me a ride down to Parchers Resort. Once he dropped me off I went into the store excited to get a good meal but was disappointed because the place had a restaurant that serves food for breakfast on only four days of the week, no lunch and the only night for dinner was Saturday and this was not it. Their selection of food was limited to a bag of marsh mellows a few cans of soup and some mixed bits of snacks. Their drink selection was one small fridge but had anything I would have wanted. It turned out I walked into the store 5 minutes before closing so if I hadn't got the ride I wouldn't have got anything at all. So grabbing the soup and chips for dinner I asked about showers and I got confusing answers which led me to believe I was too late to buy tokens but this wasn't true. The store clerk told me I could follow an old road to the nearest campground but as I made my way through the resort and onto an old road it turned out to be the wrong one so before long I was climbing through thick bush until I finally picked up the proper road. As I made my way into the campground it turned out to be very small and full. I was a bit dismayed as I had not seen any terrain that looked like I could camp. I turned back on the road to the resort and began searching some of the trails that went into the thicket. This whole area was a complete jungle of Willows and Aspens. Once again I found nothing and kept moving slowly down the road picking apart every inch of the terrain. Finally I saw a drainage heading off into the jungle and thought this might be my best bet so I followed it into the mess and found a spot just big enough to set up my tent. Sleeping in this thicket was both beautiful and eerie as a large moon casted a million shapes and shadows. Crickets chirping, rustling in the bushes, 20 extra bucks in my pocket and another night in the Range of Light comes to an end.

Edited by RoguePhotonic (12/12/11 11:45 AM)

#20181 - 12/12/11 01:42 PM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Brent N Offline

Registered: 01/20/11
Posts: 278
Loc: Orange County, CA
Keep these updates coming. I loved the pics of the mosquitoes by the way.


#20190 - 12/13/11 08:42 AM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Chris B Offline

Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 69
Loc: Denver, CO
Thanks for sharing, Rogue. Very detailed reports, great pictures; a pleasure to read. I really enjoy the updates - keep them coming!

#20885 - 01/21/12 11:56 AM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Once again this took forever but here it is.

Part 3/5:

Day 41 A-200 D-200 August 11

After spending a night in the jungle I didn't see any reason why I shouldn't save another 20 dollars and just stay where I am instead of getting a campground early so I left my camp and went back to Parchers for some breakfast. The place is different than any restaurant I have been to in the way that there is no menu at all. They simply ask you what do you want? Basically anything breakfast like they can make and the food was fantastic. My next goal was a shower and to my very great dismay after paying 6 dollars for my token and sticking it into the machine while all stripped down it did not work. It was one of those showers where only cold water works and by cold I mean one degree above freezing. Thankfully the people running the place were really nice and not only fixed it but gave me an extra token for more time. So now clean I picked up my resupply package and began to sort it and found that several packets of honey had exploded and sprayed all over my food! "That should be good for bears" I thought as even my TP rolls had small patches of honey. The major down side of resupply here was that they did not carry any butane canisters for my stove and besides the general use mine had had from the last section I also spent a good amount of time melting snow on Windy Point. They thought I may be able to get some from the store 3 miles down the road so after sorting everything out I dropped my food off at camp which made me a little nervous due to the fact that I am never able to get more then about 6 days of food in my bear barrel leaving allot of exposed food but there wasn't much I could do so I left it and set out down the road for the store. Once there I was only disappointed since they also did not have fuel so I would simply have to drag my canister out for the next section. I was able to pick up some goodies from this store so it was not a total loss. Walking back up the road Rick Sanger from Leconte Canyon came driving up from the opposite direction saying I should have got a ride from him. After a bit of a chat with him I resumed my walk and was picked up by a worker at Parchers that I had talked to.

Day 42 A-2636 D-3105 August 12

After another good breakfast at Parchers I made the walk up the road back to South Lake and began in once again. After a beautiful hike past all the same beautiful lakes and making some trail friends I was once again back on Bishop Pass Slogging down through Dusy Basin and down the major switch backs it was getting later and for some reason I was extremely fatigued. My goal had been to go back to the Ranger Station in Leconte but I was only able to make it just below the fire line.

Day 43 A-3909 D-2186 August 13

Once I had finished slogging to the bottom I began up familiar trails once again enjoying the beauty of Little Pete Meadow and then more properly enjoying Big Pete Meadow The hike up to Muir Pass was slow but not difficult. I was able to avoid any fords by the same locations I had found 2 years before. There was allot more snow in the area then when I had climbed Muir Pass on July 19th 2009 but like all snow I encountered on this entire hike it was hard packed so post holing was not a problem. Climbing nicely up a steep section and thinking I was doing extremely well today a hiker came power hiking up past me on the slope sometimes using all fours. A bit later I ran into his friend moving at a slower pace and hiked with him most of the way talking about photography since he was using a 5D2. Once on the pass it was the three of us spending the night in the hut.

Day 44 A-3090 D-3004 August 14

Although I was going to spend another night in the hut I did not feel comfortable with leaving my gear inside with all the traffic this pass sees so I packed everything up and began out towards Black Giant and leaving my pack behind a large rock outcrop that had old rusted cans probably from the construction of the hut. As I moved for Lake 11,939 I tried to lose as little altitude as possible but the going was slow due to the rock hard snow of the morning combined with deep snow cups. Reaching the lake I knocked a hole in the ice and topped off my water since once again I would have only one liter for this climb. The initial going was easy but as the slope got steeper the extremely loose talus and scree was already proving a real pain so I had planned to make my way up to the ridge and traverse across it to the summit, something that would be a big mistake... Once I had topped out I was treated to wonderful views as I began across the ridge but immediately the going was extremely taxing by how loose every piece of the mountain is. While climbing around a ledge both my foot and hand holds on the rock gave way at the same time sending me sliding slightly. The more I moved along the slope the more difficult it was and I began to lose all desire to even climb the peak at all. I really just wanted to quit as just getting to the slope below the summit seemed so far away! Despite all my suffering I kept pushing on. Rounding a large outcrop I stood on a rock and had the whole thing roll out from under me. I was thrown violently forward into a sharp protruding rock smashing directly into the bone on my leg. Both my ice ax and water bottle were hurled from my hands. Crying out loud in extreme pain I couldn't help but think this mountain was trying to kill me! Someone with weaker bones would have broken their leg. This has left me with a permanent scar on my leg. Now limping a bit I continued pushing to the summit. Only falling down once more I was below the final slope to the summit as the sweet smell of Polemonium Eximium (Sky Pilot) hit my nose as the slopes were covered in beautiful flowers. Along with Polemonium Hulsea Algida (Alpine Gold) also littered the slopes breathing full life back into my soul after all my fighting across the ridge. Making the last easy climb I found Black Giant under my boots. The summit itself was a garden in bloom and the view was amazing! After taking the rare self portrait I found that the summit register was like Goat's in the way that not many people sign it. Only a hand full a year and this year only 1 person and then a Sierra outing group had signed it. After taking in the view for an hour or so it was time to go back down and I wasn't going to take the ridge! Heading down I made my way to the first major snow field I could and began glissading down. Once or twice I nearly lost my ice ax and a few times nearly lost control as the snow had large slot style sun cups and riding them down was a difficult task. Without any other major trouble I made my way back to the Muir Hut after 6 hours or so. If I were to climb Black Giant again I would make my way above lake 11,939 where a fairly level section of terrain can be followed to directly below the summit. Then go straight up. Back in the hut I got set back up and a father and his two sons would be my company this time.

Day 45 A-2714 D-2638 August 15

While eating breakfast in the hut a man outside yells bear! What did he say I asked? A bear!? Up here!? I got up quickly to see a bear running at full speed up the main drainage of the pass. It then made it's way up the Eastern Flank of Mt. Solomons and continued up the slope until it crossed the ridge running South of Solomons at about 12,400 feet and not once the whole way did it stop running! Wow I said I wish I had stamina like that! Why that bear was up there and where the hell it was headed by going into Ionian Basin is beyond me. This bear story got around as even more then a week later while along the JMT if I mentioned the bear on Muir Pass hikers would tell me they heard about it. Moving down the pass I got to enjoy all the beautiful sights I have come to know. Beyond Wanda I lost the trail for a bit due to snow. Passing by the Lovely Sapphire Lake and taking lunch at the outlet I already was a bit pessimistic about the coming cross country. Although the areas I was about to visit I really wanting to see I was becoming lazy with what I call mule syndrome. The ability to walk through the mountains without having to think at all about where you are headed but can just enjoy the views as you mindlessly slog along. Cross country was not just physically harder but it was very mentally taxing as even when the terrain is easy going you still are having to constantly think about every step your going to take not only at the moment but planning your path hundreds of yards ahead. I honestly thought about just continuing down through Evolution Valley but after passing Evolution Lake I was beginning up towards Alpine Col. I quickly was able to follow a use trail which proved useful for winding up the shelves by the creek. Reaching the Darwin Bench was a lovely location but I have to admit I was in a very bad mood. Not because of going cross country but just in general. I spent many hours in the Sierra thinking about the meaning of life and the solutions to the universe and all the troubles that I face. Although I believe in the healing power of the mountains I do not believe they can heal all wounds and the burden of life was hanging on me as I marched along. I often wondered if I even deserved to be out here doing this because while so many people dream about doing a hike like mine their whole lives they never do and here I was grinding along casually. The reality I had come to know was that the great romance one associates with this sort of trip only lasts for the first time. After that these long hikes had no longer been "the hike of a life time" but just general every day life filled with the same emptiness that although a helper my friend the Douglas could not solve lol. The only thing I came to know for sure out here was that "life is not worth living alone" this I had learned on my last long hike. Most people would casually agree to this but not many people truly "know" it. What was I learning now I thought? Where am I going? Truth be told many days as I hiked along these thoughts filled my head. One thing I had to laugh about being out here though was that unlike most people that when they do long trips and give up for one reason or another they have a home to go home to. I on the other hand had nothing so no matter how irritated I might become or tired or beat up, being here in the middle of no where alone was as close as I had to anything so there was no quilting, no going home, no warm bed waiting. It literally is "do or die". ~ Reaching Lake 11,540 tired and angry I began around the Southern shore and before long came to a large snow slope going down into the lake. Damn it! I thought. It really was the last thing I wanted to deal with in my current mental state but up onto it I went. The going was very slow and precarious as I did what I could to kick/dig foot holds. I had just past the curve of the shore line by about 4 feet and was about to start down when I slipped and slid to the bottom. Had I not reached the other shore I would have slid off a 10 foot drop into the lake. Continuing past the beautiful Lake 11,546 I started up the last push to Lake 11,910. All the way here I was planning to go for a swim when I got to the lake but as I trudged along the snow a not very welcome sight showed itself as the lake was about 80% frozen still. The Eastern shore looked like the best way to go so I began around looking for a place to camp. Finally I found a patch of decomposed granite that was just large enough for my tent. A strong wind was blowing an icy chill making for a cold night.

Day 46 A-1608 D-3216 August 16

While topping off my water I had fun playing with the ice since the lake had completely frozen over again during the night. Setting out I was encouraged as Alpine Col was not a very big climb and while I studied the terrain I picked out and easy way up. Getting around the lake was a slow task as I had to climb through boulders the size of houses then cross rock hard snow mixed with hoping along talus. By the time I had come around to the base of Alpine Col an hour had gone by. The climb to the top was easy and before I knew it I was starting down the other side. I had been thinking back to when the woman below Glen Pass told me Alpine Col was the worst thing she had ever done in the Sierra. I couldn't imagine what she had been talking about. Yet anyway... As I began down the snow locked North side I was trying to follow in the foot steps of some hikers that had come before me but I couldn't go any further on very steep snow that was rock hard. I had to carefully back track to some rocks and pull out my ice ax. I began the slow and exhausting task of cutting foot holds in the ice. I worked my way out onto a steep and long snow slope and began to consider glissading down. I was a bit scared to do so because the snow was so hard. All around I considered it a bad idea but cutting foot holds down hill was a major task as well. It took me a minute or so to work up the nerve and I sat down and began glissading down. Although I did have a hard time keeping myself under control it went fairly well. I stood up and noticed my water bottle was missing. I looked up the slope to see it up above. Aww crap! I thought and took off my pack to go back for it. Once I had moved down to a cliff side it became apparent that this pass was not so easy after all. My choice was to either go to the right and pick my way down massive boulders to the bottom or to go to my left onto extremely steep snow fields. I decided on the snow and very carefully zig zagged across some slopes that were way outside my comfort zone. Finally the slope got a bit less steep and I glissaded down to walk able snow. Getting closer to the lake I began deciding what side of Goethe I should take. The Western shore was much longer but looked like better terrain. I couldn't see all of the Eastern shore but it looked like it had a short section of major boulder hoping then it got better so I decided to take the Eastern side. Big mistake! I immediately had to navigate steep snow fields where once again if you fall your going into the lake. Then the boulder hoping. The absolute worst mess of boulders I have ever had to navigate. It was a constant maze as most of the way the rocks were too large to hop along. At one point I had my body completely out stretched across rocks friction climbing my way up. Many more snow fields had to be crossed and by the time I had got to the outlet of Goethe Lake it had taken me 6.5 hours to go 1.8 miles. The harsh reality now dawned on me that I simply could not make it through this section with the amount of food I have. I weighed my options and decided I would have to take the Piute Pass trail down to the Muir Trail in order to get to VVR. Passing the outlet of Goethe Lakes I saw what looked like 14 inch golden trout but there was no time to throw a line in. Switching to the Western shore of the lower lake I made my way out around some small ridges and down into Humphreys Basin. After a difficult mess of creeks to cross I began in a NW direction and at one point I picked up a trail and began following it but then realized it was the wrong one so I began cross country again. I had a nice plan of where to meet up with the proper trail but as I was closing in on it I suddenly found myself on the edge of a small gorge that I could not get across. Damn it! I thought and began up it until I found where the trail crosses above it. Once back onto a trail I was left to slogging down into the forest where I camped a bit below the fire line. I would later regret not getting to do this section of the Sierra High Route as many people told me it was their favorite.

Day 47 A-2015 D-3861 August 17

Nearing Hutchinson Meadow I had some difficulty crossing the creek coming from French Canyon. I made some very difficult crossings and then could find no other way across some of the many branches so I just gave into fording it. Once at Hutchinson I was back on familiar trails. I stopped in the packers camp that I had spent the night in the year before to find that someone had stolen the small wooden sign marking it. I went over to the spot where the dead mule had been and was very surprised to find only a pile of bones left even though it had only been one year. Continuing down I looked for where the dead horse had been but couldn't find any sign of it. The rest of the slog down proved uneventful until I arrived at the Muir Trail Ranch. I had decided to make a stop in to buy some fuel and see what sort of goodies might be in the free bins. As I walked in I was surprised to see the couple I ran into below Glen Pass that had also met me the year before. This gave me the chance to tell her she was right about how horrible Alpine Col had been. After chatting it up for awhile and getting some stuff from the bins I set out to camp at the hotsprings. Like usual the area was packed with people and I got set up fast because I wanted to go take a quick dip in the cool lake since it had been so hot today. I had been warned not to cross the river as it was still very high. Apparently people had been crossing on a major log jam 10 minutes down stream. I decided that was too far and I began the ford. The river was indeed swollen and fast moving being about crotch deep on me and I am 6,3. With some care it was not very difficult but the water was absolutely freezing and the river was so wide that it took at least 5 minutes to get across. Climbing out I was in allot of pain due to the cold. After a nice swim in the lake and a quick dip in the hotsprings I went back to camp to eat dinner. After I was finished I spent some time talking with two PCT hikers that were WAY behind schedule for a thru-hike. They agreed to meet me at the springs so making the ford again I went and spent a nice evening watching a major dog fight in the sky. There were more bats then I had ever seen flying around at once and a mess of some larger birds were trying to catch them making for an entertaining show. Since it was getting late I decided I didn't want to make the difficult ford in the dark so I went back having never seen the two PCT hikers. Once back I found them just getting ready to leave camp to go. They then convinced me to go back for some night time soaking and to act as their guide to even find the springs. So for the 5th and 6th time I made the ford which was quite comical in the dark with the two hikers behind me screaming out loud at the cold water. I also thought it probably looked strange to people up stream seeing head lamps out in the middle of this raging river at night.

Day 48 A-?? D-3253 August 18

I got on the trail at about 9am and I noticed that the two PCT hikers had not even got out of their tents yet. They told me once they didn't get on the trail until noon which explains why they are so far behind. As I moved up out of the area suddenly a solid pine cone smashed down at my feet. HEY!!! I shouted! Douglas!!!! OSHA regulations clearly state that you must designate this a hard hat zone! Your going to kill someone! But he only laughed at me as I kept hiking on. The slog up was steep but easy and I was passing all the common sights I knew from this area. From the Senger Creek top hat tree, , up to Sallie Keyes Lakes, past Heart Lake and onto Seldon Pass. When I began grinding down the other side I already was feeling fatigued for some reason so it was a welcome cool down when I had to ford Bear Creek. As I moved up the trail I began looking for decent places to camp but after investigating a couple camp sites I kept moving on. This area was littered with sites many legal and many not and unfortunately I settled with an illegal site that was too close to water. Once again trying to fish below the fire line I could only catch little ones.

Day 49 A-2082 D-3448 August 19

One again I found myself with uneventful hiking through this area which I generally consider the least spectacular section of the Muir Trail. I took note of a very nice camp site I used two years before to find that the nice bench that had been built was gone. Probably used as fire food. Once I had topped out on Bear Ridge like clock work a great number of people began passing me that had come off the VVR Ferry. Once down I made the slog over to the Ferry and waited about 2 hours for a lift. I was happy to once again be back at the wonderful VVR.

Day 50 Layover August 20

There really isn't anything I can say about this day as I spent all the time hanging out with hikers, doing chores, eating good food and getting ready to head out once again. I did have to make a change with the coming section as I had planned to join an SCA trail crew at Tully Hole for at least one day of work but I had got an e-mail telling me they changed the project location to Duck Creek. My plan had been to meet up with them then take Cascade Valley to Iva Bell and beyond to Reds Meadow but now I would take the Muir Trail from Tully Hole instead.

Day 51 A-4898 D-2307 August 21

After enjoying a good breakfast with a hiker from Texas we both caught the ferry and were headed out again. It turned out this was his first time in the Sierra and it was funny to watch him hiking down the trail with his jaw dropped open when he was simply slogging through the forest. It was always nice to see people getting out and enjoying all this beauty. Moving up the Silver Pass Trail I took note once again of a nice camp I used two years ago and thought it a bit sad that the fire pit had been destroyed since it was in a nice location. From here I took the Mott Lake trail and began the slow climb up. The trail was not in great shape and once or twice I lost it briefly. Once at Mott Lake it turned out to be a very nice lake without a single person around. Although not remote it had the vibes to it like I was countless miles from the nearest trail even though one had taken me here. The South and Eastern shores looked the best so I made my way around and began up the North Fork of Mono Creek. I made use of the Western slope which had a couple class 3 bits but was generally no problem at all. I had a Tim Minchin beat poem stuck in my head as I reached the shores of a small tarn lake with ice still on it. Ross Finch Lake was in sight as I made the final cross over to Bighorn Lake. From here I could see that Rohn Pass would be an easy climb up and I made my way around the Eastern shore. A few tricky snow fields among boulders had to be crossed and then a couple steep grass slopes but generally the going was easy. Moving up provided beautiful views and it was like a class 1 walk up the smooth slopes. Finally on top the Northern view was amazing incorporated with the interesting geological features of Red Slate Mountain and near by striped ridges. I couldn't help but think what a nightmare scree climb Red Slate must be. The decent down had to be considered. The North side was almost completely covered in snow but I didn't feel like getting out my ice ax and sliding down so I picked a path that winds through boulder fields but this proved at times very sketchy with the hard packed snow. After a slow careful decent I finally reached the bottom onto level ground and began out across the basin. Countless small tarns littered the area and I slowly picked my way over to Cotton Lake where I found a couple really nice camp sites.

Day 52 A-2548 D-2909 R August 22

Moving out of the area and enjoying Cotton Lake for the last time I made my way down to it's outlet which offered a beautiful view of this lovely little basin. The decent had a few small shelves to find your way down but was not very difficult. When I reached the bottom I found a maze of water ways in what was practically a Japanese garden but I could not see any way to get across to the Western shore of Izaak Walton Lake without having to ford so I started considering the Eastern shore. In the distance I could see a sheer cliff wall but I could not see it's base due to the terrain so it was a gamble. That cliff may go all the way into the water and be impassible or I may get lucky. I took the gamble and started along the Eastern shore making some tricky water crossings. Unfortunately once I got far enough to see the terrain the cliff did indeed go into the water so I had no choice but to turn back. Once I was back on the Northern shore I was able to cross the maze of creeks without getting wet. I had planned all along to go up past Hortense Lake but for some reason I lost all desire to do so even though it was a minor detour so instead I took the outlet of Izaak Walton down. The route down proved to be a small mess of shelves and minor bush whacking. It was important to pick your way carefully leading up to when crossing to the Eastern side of the creek was important. The last drop down to Fish Creek was very steep and narrow which left me in a mess of bushes and little choices for crossing. After picking apart every rock I was just able to cross the creek while almost falling in. Now back on the trail I made the slog down past Horse Heaven and to Tully Hole. As I got closer I knew I didn't want to go down to where ever the trail crosses Fish Creek because it would put me beyond Tully Hole and I knew the exact spot I wanted to take lunch which was in a camp site I used two years ago but has since been destroyed by a downed tree. When nearly directly across from this site I saw a small tree down across the creek that was not much bigger than my shoes but I thought "I can make that". So very carefully balancing out across this thing I got directly into the middle of the creek when disaster began to strike! The tree was a fresh fall and the bark began to fall apart on me! The wood under neath was like standing on ice and I frantically staggered to keep my balance. Don't fall! Don't fall! I thought as the water beneath me was at least chest deep. I was shaking and I stared up at the terrain in a desperate attempt to regain my balance. Slowly it came back but even as I would set a point of my trekking pole on the log the bark would come loose and the tip would slide. This was no good I must turn back! Ever so slowly I tried to rotate my body back but it was no good! The bark broke and my feet began to slide off so in one desperate move I turned back took one or two rubber legged steps and was forced to leap from the tree. SPLASH!!! Luckily I had managed to stagger back and leap into more shallow water that was about thigh deep. Well I guess I am fording after all I thought as I moved to a more shallow section and waded across. Now having cement blocks for shoes I slogged up to the former camp site and stopped for lunch while I dumped the water out of my boots. As I began up from Tully Hole I asked hikers if they had seen an SCA trail crew and they had so at least I knew I would manage to find them. After passing the lovely Virginia Lake just a couple drops began to fall for about 10 seconds and that was all that happened that day. NOOO!!!! I said because I was trying to break my record last year of 24 days with no rain and it had been 22 days earlier in the trip with no rain and this was day 22! I suppose you could get away with not saying it rained but I guess drops so light you could not feel any for 10 seconds counts! Damn you rain!! Damn you! If this hadn't have happened it would have been 26 days with no rain. So meeting up with the trail crew it turned out they had to head out one day earlier due to their packers schedule so I would not be able to work with them but I could at least camp and have dinner with them tonight. So I hiked with them to Duck Creek and ended the day.

Day 53 A-1450 D-2241 August 23

On this morning I had one decision to make in my route. I had intended to hike the Mammoth Crest on my way back South later but now I was here. I could take it and down to Mammoth Lakes or just take Duck Pass out. I had never hiked either but the notion of food won my decision as I knew if I take Duck Pass that I could make it out by lunch so I set out and made quick work getting up to Duck Lake and then up to Duck Pass. The hike down proved slow though as I got caught up in talking to so many people who just couldn't believe what I was doing. Someone had told me the shuttle is at the end of the campground but as I hit the road I could see no signs of it. I decided to head West on the road because it seemed closer to walk to anything and luckily it wasn't very far to the trolley pickup. So after riding it around I got lunch and went back to the Sierra Nevada Lodge which I had stayed at the year before. It had only been 3 days back on trail from VVR but I decided to stick with the luxury rest of Mammoth like I had done last year.

Day 54 Layover August 24

Another simple day as I rounded up supplies and did some book shopping. This next section of my hike would be the heaviest in book loads as I still had Roper's Sierra High Route book and now I picked up The Last Season and Norman Clydes Close Ups of the High Sierra.

Day 55 August 25

Like the year before I had to decide exactly how I was going to leave Mammoth and I decided on the same plan as before and that was to just ride the bus to Reds Meadow and do some day hikes before heading out the following day. Now about 550 bucks lighter I found myself back at the bottom. I decided to save 20 dollars and to do some dispersed camping. I set up camp near the pack station and had some lunch then set out to see some typical sights. I went down to Rainbow Falls which was very crowded. I had a fun time watching all these young kids ford the river most of the them bare foot and on more than one occasion nearly be taken out. I then did a quick trip to the Devil's Postpile and spent some time talking to the Rangers before it was back to camp for the night.

Day 56 A-2358 D-500 R-T August 26

As I waited for the bus to take me to The Devil's Post Pile I talked to three guys that were taking the same route as me from here and I would end up leap frogging a bit the next couple of days. I have to say at this point I had found myself becoming more lazy out here. It seemed like I was always taking the easiest way I could based on where I was going. This time around it was deciding to skip Nancy Pass and go straight to Minaret Lake. I don't know if it was mental or physical but the backcountry had been starting to take it's toll on me. This of course did not give me any desire to leave but only to relax more instead of hard physical toil. The hike up was completely uneventful and a bit crowded with a number of day hikers. I arrived at the lake very early and decided to so some fishing which I could not get a single bite. After chatting with a number of people including the 3 guys from Reds Meadow the the storm began to break and rain fairly heavy but it did not last for very long.

Day 57 A-3464 D-3510 August 27

Most people that go from Minaret to Cecille Lake take the standard route of going around to the West side of the lake then up to the Southern shore of Cecille but I prefer a route of going up North of Minaret which drops you down on the Eastern shore of Cecille. After another easy trip up it showed it was actually better because it skipped most of the snow that lined the shores. Once I had rock hoped my way over to the Northern shore it was time to begin down. I had been worried that this decent would be completely snow covered and dangerous but the way was clear of snow until you are off of everything steep. Enjoying the stunning view I carefully picked my way falling down at least once. When I had reached the snow I began to make use of the slight cuts in the snow left by the 3 guys from Reds Meadow which were in sight ahead. The snow was very hard packed and proceeding was a delicate matter. Along the Eastern bit of the shore a fall could mean sliding down into a fissure in the lake ice. After careful picking I was tramping down solid trail again and enjoying the always stunning Iceberg Lake. As I began down towards Ediza I wasn't sure exactly where you were supposed to cut off cross country. At one point I began off to the West and decided to turn back when the terrain proved to be a maze of rock shelves. Instead I decided to just stay on the faint trail down to Ediza. Once there I was on familiar terrain as I had done a summit of Banner 2 years earlier. So crossing the inlet I made my way up the use trail until I picked a slightly arbitrary location to begin towards White Bark Pass. Skipping along the snow I kept drawing happy faces at random locations wondering if the 3 guys that I had passed would see them. The terrain proved an easy stroll as you skirt around and higher up above Nydiver Lakes. The whole area provided amazing views until topping out on the pass. Dropping down was a fairly easy task as once I had got beyond some steeper rock slopes I got back onto some of the softest snow I would encounter on the trip. No more than sinking in 3 inches or so but it was enough to make easy going. When I was at the bottom I felt great and couldn't help but run and slide on the harder snow. But it was time to climb again up Garnet Pass which was one of the easiest passes of the trip. Up over and down you go without complaint. Once I had reached the bottom and was hiking between some smaller lakes I began searching for a place to camp without luck. I was then surprised to see a Ranger hiking along in my direction with a bucket and shovel. What are you doing over here I asked probably sounding like an asshole that didn't want to see her which was not my intention... Picking up toilet paper she replied as she had a bucket full of it from people that had just thrown it on the ground. After some chat she said there were camp sites near by but all my searching couldn't find any. I made my way over to the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin and dropped my pack at a poor unestablished site and began hiking all over looking for a proper place but all I could find was a shoe so I settled in where I was.

Day 58 A-3363 D-3344 August 28

After some orange "drink" and poptarts I began heading up the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin. The whole way was a delight as the climb was easy and peaceful feeling. My energy levels were very high again and it wasn't until I was getting closer to the top that I even had to stop for breath. The final push to North Glacier involed boulder hoping on stable talus mixed with snow fields. Dropping down was at times steep until I was on the shore of Catherine Lake. From here moving to the outlet was a puzzle of boulder hoping yet over all very enjoyable. Like yesterday I was feeling great and really enjoying the hike which normally isn't the case for me. I enjoy the sights, sounds, feelings of everything around but the actuall hiking itself is mostly work leading me to the next beautiful place. After crossing fissure filled snow fields I arrived at the start of "complex" yet non techincal cross country travel. Careful study of each path down the shelves was the key and the going was quick and easy. After a number of beautiful cascades you arrive at a nice water fall flowing down to a small lake. Beyond this you encounter a mess of cliffs. A couple class 3 shelves and I was down without problem. After a short slog down hill I made my way over to a 400 foot cliff. This was one of the only locations that I thought Roper was not clear. He says look for a mess of white rocks and go that way. Then simply says this part of the decent involes complex class 3 shelves but as you move up beyond the white rocks you have at least a football field length of area to decide where to drop down. I kept going North to look over a small hump which showed a nice class 2 route down leading to a short use trail. After this I made my way down an easy bit of rocks with perhaps one class 3 move but generally nothing like what Roper had described. In the distance I could see a white patch among dark rocks and I thought it was a tent space but when I got there it clearly was not. Infact I could not tell what the hell it was. I then looked up to see an actual built trail which I took but it didn't go far when it went into a mine. I was surprised to see a mine in such a remote location. Then I understood what the white was on the rocks. Examing the area and slowly beginning to the West looking for the proper way I turn around to see a single hiker moving pretty fast in my direction. This of course was another surprise. After a brief chat we both begin down along the head wall of the North Fork. I could not come close to keeping up with this guy and not surprising because he was a PCT thru hiker. The terrain through here was a delight as it was narrow pathways yet very easy to travel offering beautiful views down the North Fork. While up high on the hill I see the hiker down on the floor below heading South. "Where is he going" I thought as he was not going for the official high route which he said he was doing. Continuing up now I made my way over to the first of the Twin Lakes. Oh my what an incredibly beautiful and complex area this was! Forcing myself out of being totally transfixed I began to make my way further up the hill and South as I was already high up on complex and steep rock outcrops and didn't want to go down to the shore line. This proved to be a mistake as I topped out surrounded by cliffs I could not get down. While up here I spotted the hiker down at the outlet crossing. He had made his was directly up the outlet which is a major mistake in my mind as he missed so much amazing beauty. While I watched him he began across the ford and became, like, well...rubber man. He was flailing all over and splashing into the water. "What the hell is wrong with him" I thought as the ford looked shallow and easy from up here. He looked like he was being attacked by a lake monster. He retreated back to the shore then walked back and forth like a cat looking at prey it can't figure out how to get. He then began out again splashing, flailing, looking like well... rubber man. He made it and went on his way. Now for me I had to turn around and work my way down some very steep rock shelves. At one point I had to sit down to get enough friction to make it down safely. Now on the shore I started working my way down the lake but it wasn't that easy. It was very narrow between the rocks and the water. Reaching a patch of snow I was lucky that the back side had melted just enough to squeeze through. Up some rocks down some rocks and before too long I was at the outlet myself. Once ready and still thinking about rubber man I began out and soon knew why! "OH CRAP!" I thought as I began to flail. The moss on everything in the area was worse then standing on ice. I desperatly fought for balance. Don't fall! Don't fall! AAH!! IT"S COLD!!! I was crotch deep and barely able to keep it together but after some scary moments I made it to the other side in agony from how cold the water was. Back on track I made my way up the hill and to the second Twin Island Lakes. After crossing the outlet I once again was routed in place by how beautiful the view was. All I could say was it is glorious beyond words and I did say it out loud which made me jump as a rock was unsettled behind me by rubber man. I thought this was odd because he was way out ahead of me and now here he was coming up behind me while I was talking to myself. The two of us then resumed along the rocks of the Eastern shore but he soon had left me in the dust. Looking across the lake I could see a large block of snow ready to break off into the lake. "Wouldn't it be cool if that fell off while I am here" I thought and made my way to the inlet where I found a camp site just big enough for my tent. Later while laying in my tent I heard a large rumble and crash. I sat up just catching sight of the snow block falling in. Sadly it did not produce a very large wave.

Day 59 A-2749 D-2413 August 29

After watching a coyote slip and slide across the snow on the lake it was time to leave the lovely Twin Island Lakes I made sure to keep careful attention to my route as Roper had described hikers becoming lost for hours in this area due to complex terrain. Skirting around the hill side and beginning up towards a small unnamed lake I had ended up a bit higher then I think the route describes but I still made my way easy except for the occasional icy snow fields. Leaving the area and skirting around the next hill still was proving extremely easy to follow Roper's instructions. I could not understand how anyone could become lost in this area when the going was so easy. Only one area was a problem and after a difficult time on some small cliff sides and extremely steep loose dirt I topped a small ridge and began a nice decent to a lower basin below. The decent was littered with wild flowers such as Mimulus Lewisii (Lewis's Monkeyflower) and the more allusive Fritillaria Recurva (Scarlet Fritillary). As I got lower I could see a man camped at the bottom and bathing nude. There seemed to be nothing remote about this section of the high route. Once at the bottom and across the creek I stopped for lunch. As I ate I noticed something odd about a tree near me. Closer inspection revealed that someone had nailed a bunch of 30.30 rifle shells into the tree for some reason. Moving up the drainage on my way to Blue Lake Pass was a pure paradise of grassy fields blanketed with Castilleja Miniata (Giant Red Paintbrush). Cross country travel does not get much better then this I thought! Reaching a small plateau that had a strange growth of trees I made my way over to them suspecting to find signs of human presence and indeed I did. Along with a number of unreadable writings on the bark I found yet another pattern of rifle shells hammered into a tree. As I began up the hill a bit I turned around and was routed in place by the very scene before me. Although not staggering in grandeur it completely over whelmed me. A total sense of serenity came over my entire being. My eyes fell shut, my trekking poles fell from my hands to the ground and all at once I had the most complete sense of tranquility I had ever felt in my life. If this had been a different era I would have dropped my pack and declared that my journey was over and that I was home. I slowly opened my eyes still in a surreal state when suddenly a mosquito made a kamikaze run straight into my eye. OH YOU FUCKING BITCH! I cried! And like being snatched from an alternate reality all at once it was time to pick up my poles and continue on my way. Not much further up the hill I ran into two guys on their way down that didn't even know that this specific area was hiking on the Sierra High Route. Topping the hill I walked along the lovely shores of Blue Lake and from here I began to pick apart the pass for a route up. I was a bit surprised at first glance that Roper had said how easy it was because the terrain looked difficult. After deciding on a reasonable looking route I began up. As I got closer to the narrow way I had picked I noticed two hikers on their way down the path I chose. We met up at a steep connecting rock face that was a bit wet. From a distance it hadn't looked as steep as it was which was a bit opposite than normal with terrain. They carefully made their way down sliding on their butts and I began to try to climb up but I was having problems. I could not get any sort of hand or foot holds on this steep rock. Finally I decided that with a very difficult cut across the face I could make my way onto a small ledge offering solid footing. Not for those afraid of heights as this ledge that was about 6 inches wide offered a good 100 foot fall. This worked out well enough and I was on my way up. The rest of the way proved a nice easy walk up with very little talus hoping and in a timely manor I was on Blue Lake Pass. The way down was a typical puzzle of footing down stable talus until you reach an unnamed lake at the bottom. From here I set off SW looking for an easy way down to Harriet Lake. A mildly steep drainage provided the way and I once again found myself on lovely mountain tundra that it seems only Yosemite provides. Although it was nearly September Lupine and Paintbrush covered the area. After enjoying some beautiful displays of Veratrum Californicum (Corn Lily) intermixed with Ranunculus Alismifolius (Water Plantain Buttercup) on the Eastern shore of Harriet I began around to the Western side. As I got closer to a small saddle that I planned on exiting the area by I started looking for a place to camp. I could not find a single established camp but found a decent enough spot to set up.

Day 60 A-1432 D-2088 August 30

Heading out of the area I had decided to take a small saddle to the SW of the lake which proved to be an easy and beautiful way to go as you pass by two small lakes. After passing the first which had some nice size fish I began down a drainage which was mildly steep. From here you could admire the large meadow lands below which had a trophy sized buck grazing on it. Once on the shores I went around the Northern side taking note of a small camp with an illegal fire pit. Dropping down through the forest I picked up the trail once again and was on my way down to the Triple Divide Fork. As I began up the Red Peak Pass trail I had been debating on my camping location. My original goal was Red Devil Lake because I didn't want to go all the way to Lower Ottoway Lake today and I didn't think there would be any more options after Red Devil but I ultimately decided to stay at the Merced Peak Fork because it was within the fire line. This had me at camp around lunch making for an easy day. I spent the rest of it reading and relaxing. That night as I sat by the fire I started to consider what I had always thought about bringing books in the backcountry. Should I burn the pages I have finished to cut weight? In the end after some thought I decided to do this which felt horrible. I ripped out all the pages of Ropes book up until the last section of the High Route and threw them on the fire.

Edited by RoguePhotonic (01/21/12 01:55 PM)

#20901 - 01/21/12 04:50 PM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
I forgot to add the rest of the photos that go along with this part of the report are here:

Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9

#20905 - 01/21/12 07:03 PM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7600
Loc: Fresno, CA
Rogue, your pictures are sooo good to see. I could spend hours gazing at them.

Here's one from Week 6 (#76/298)

Peak 11,440

#21404 - 02/11/12 08:10 PM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Part 4/5

Day 61 A-1683 D-1726 August 31

After a chilled morning I continued on my way up the Red Peak Pass trail. The area offered all it's wonderful views and as I got closer to the pass it was apparent that the area had nearly as much snow as it did on July 25th 2010 when I had last hiked it. I had already noticed more people on the trail then I had the year before which many attributed to the article that Backpacker Magazine had put out on the area. Winding up the red and orange trail I soon was crossing stretches of snow fields but over all had a better time following what little trail there was than I had before. The hard packed snow theme was nice this time around as I was post holing thigh deep the year before. Without much trouble I found myself on the top enjoying the views once again. After encouraging a couple that they should quit their jobs and hike the Sierra like me I was on my way down the other side. I made quick work on down and ran into my first trail crew member that I was hoping to see. Further down I ran into more members that had remembered me having dinner and breakfast with them the year before. They again invited me for dinner and told me to let the chef know. Once at Lower Ottoway Lake it was only about 2PM so I set out to do some laundry and bathe which turned out to be very enjoyable with the warm water near the outlet. I considered myself lucky to enjoy the great company of the trail crew once again and have a good meal since after 6 years in a row at this location they were relocating to North Eastern Yosemite.

Day 62 A-1103 D-4077 September 1

The grind down towards Glacier Point was a very long and boring slog becoming progressively hotter the further down I went. The whole way I was in a bad mood until finally I was closing in on the cutoff area with Glacier Point. My goal had been to camp as close as possible to it but as I closed in the camping options became slim. I followed what could have been game trails up and over hills without luck. Finally I decided to sleep on a rock outcrop that was about 20 feet above the river and probably only 20 feet from the trail. It was less than ideal in a legality sense but it would have to due. Illiloutte Creek was low and had a number of pools which offered good fishing. I spent allot of time and managed to catch 4 fish that were worth keeping. Finally I thought! I can cook over a fire this time! Since my camp was not even close to legal I decided a low key fire in a hole that could be covered up was the key. I had lemon juice packets, olive oil and a half a dozen types of seasoning so the fish were delicious! All it took was 62 days of fishing the Sierra to enjoy this simple pleasure. This would turn out to be the only location this was possible.

Day 63 A-1205 D-3331 September 2

Once I had reached the Panorama Trail I was on familiar trails again. To my surprise even though the trail was dry I found a good number of Thimble Berries which were still good for eating. After the last push up I was on Glacier Point again. I had that strange feeling walking out among a crowd of tourists feeling like an alien. All these people that drove up here and were all clean and smelled nice while I had hiked for 63 days across hundreds of miles and tens of thousands of feet of altitude gain and loss. Could they even know the struggle? Nah, in most of their eyes I was just another haggard, filthy, smelly freak. I ate a crappy pita from their fridge for an early lunch and enjoyed the view from Glacier Point. This was the first time I had ever been up here alone. That is alone from any company pushing me to go. This time I could enjoy it all I wanted. But time came to go and down the Four Mile Trail I went. The same beautiful views where still here and the hike down was mostly enjoyable although the number of day hikers was high and a small group of foreign hikers had no interest in allowing me to pass so I was hiking behind them almost all the way down. Once I had dropped down to around 5000 feet the gnats became almost intolerable. They swarmed in massive numbers straight up in your face making the rest of the way miserable. Once at the road and in major heat I set out for Sentinel bridge where a young boy perhaps 5 asked "why do you need those poles" referring to my trekking poles. "Well when you have hiked hundreds of miles for 63 days they really help your knees" I said. I don't think the poor kid could quite put that into prospective though. Crossing the bridge I was amazed how low the river was since I had last been here on June 10th. At that time the river was nearly touching the bridge and was running across the foot path into Leidig Meadow. So after some chat with a Ranger about where the hell I was going I made my way into the backpacking camp and got set up then hit up house keeping camp for a shower and laundry. Once again chatting it up with the local employees was the key as I asked the workers at the desk where I could charge things in the valley safely. They did not know any place that I would not have to monitor it but offered to allow me to use their office. Once I was back at camp for the night the Ranger checking backpacking permits came around and I had to sweet talk her a bit after explaining my situation about doing a layover day here so she agreed to let me stay an extra night since your only allowed to stay for one night while coming and then while going.

Day 64 layover September 3

After a crappy lunch of cheap but extremely expensive Mexican food I hit up the Post Office to send home The Last Season that I had enjoyed too much to burn on a fire. After that I hiked over and spent a while at Lower Yosemite Falls. The place was easily more crowded then I had ever seen it! I certainly would not want to drink the water down stream! The rest of the day was spent doing chores of resupply and recuperating. The chaos of the valley had me looking forward to getting back on the trail.

Day 65 A-5409 D-1801 September 4

Picking up the trail directly out of the backpacker camp I began out the Mirror Lake Trail in a still peaceful and quite morning setting compared to what it would be in a couple hours. Before long I was on my way up the Snow Creek Trail grind. A girl jogging down the trail had to "give me props because this one is a bitch with a pack". The heat was increasing and I had to go easy on my water because there would be no refill until the top. Nearing it and while I was talking to another hiker the girl came jogging back up. Apparently she had been camped at the top and decided she just wanted the exercise so ran to the bottom and back up. Some people are just WAY more fit then I ever will be! I took a great lunch under the Snow Creek bridge since I was packing some luxury food items. I only had two days before my next resupply at Tuolumne Meadows so along with good food I also packed a can of soda, a 20oz soda and a 16oz energy drink. This whole day was hot, slow and offered little in the way of views. While tromping along I met a young Douglas Squirrel that was very interested in me and I had a fun time playing games with the little guy before I had to keep slogging on. Finally after 5000 feet of climbing I found myself below Olmsted Point once again surrounded by tourists. A few asked where I had come from and were amazed I had climbed 5000 feet to get there. Yeah why hike when you can drive? Continuing on I made my way down the hill past lovely meadows for Tenaya Lake. On my way here I was a bit confused because for some reason my GPS had a marker saying Tenaya Lake Campground on the furthest South Western shore. As I neared the lake a couple came hiking up which I recognized. It turned out to be a couple I ran into one week before leaving for this hike when I did an over night trip into Paradise Valley. I had told them about me leaving for this hike in one week and I guess they had been thinking about me so it was strange meeting them again so randomly. Small world... Once at the lake it was clear there was no campground but I looked around a bit and found a camp site with a fire pit and decided this was a good place to camp. Or so I thought...

Day 66 September 5

While enjoying a great breakfast of some sausages and an energy drink a Ranger came hiking over to my camp. The exchange started pleasant enough and I said "this is a legal camping site isn't it?" "nope!" It isn't? I asked. "Nope!". But I thought dispersed camping is legal. Turns out Yosemite has a 1 mile from any road dispersed camping regulation I was not aware of. I began to explain that my mistake was from how in Sequoia but she wouldn't let me finish. "doesn't matter what Sequoia does!" I know but.. "Doesn't matter!" I was just trying to say my mistake was from when a Ranger told me in Sequoia you can do dispersed camping 100 yards from any road but she wasn't happy. I thought it was a bit funny when she wanted to see my permit and was going to show me exactly where it says on the permit that it's not legal but my permit was an old tattered paper that at this point had been soaked in a number of rain storms and was barely readable. I think she was starting to get the picture of being a long distance hiker and I was bound to make a few regulation mistakes but the fact that I had a pan full of fancy sausage and a heavy ass can of Monster Energy didn't help my image any. She then began to say that my permit was no longer any good because I had passed into Yosemite and that I needed to get a new one. This I knew was not true but I didn't want to argue because getting a new one was no big deal. She said that she was going to check in later with the permits office and make sure that I got a new one! She also looked at the fire pit which I had not used and didn't seem to believe me when I told her that I had not made or used it. She told me to break it up and try to make the whole camp site look like it was not here. I agreed because I was no stranger to rehabilitation work and actually enjoyed it so finally she left without giving me a ticket and I did my best to destroy the whole site. "front country Ranger" I thought as I left the area. She did give me one good bit of advice and that was that the shuttle comes to the parking lot near by and I could take it to Tuolumne Meadows. I had up until now planned to hike the 9 miles to Tuolumne but I thought the hell with it why hike 9 boring forest miles when I can catch a ride so hoping on the bus I made my way to the permits office where they informed me that I clearly did not need a new permit and that they would talk to that Ranger if she checks in on me. I then went to the store and got my resupply package which I found one of my Ritz cracker packets had broken open and every single cracker was smashed into small pieces all around in the box. I then began talking with another hiker who was as much of a Sierra enthusiast as I was and had also been out for some time. He was getting ready to head home for one week to switch out his gear for warmer stuff and then come back out. After a long talk then lunch we set out together for the backpacker camp and got set up. Later I set out across Tuolumne Meadows and sat and talked with some older ladies running the exhibit near Soda Springs. Then going to the springs I met up once again with the hiker and he was even a bigger enthusiast of the soda springs. He said he had been coming out and drinking the water for 50 years and we had some good talks about the water. He was acting as a tourist guide and talking to others as they passed through and getting them to drink the water. 3 out of 4 people we talked to we got to actually drink the water and most of them really enjoyed it. It was a nice feeling encouraging people to step outside their comfort zone and try something new and see people actually do so. After 2 hours of sitting and enjoying the peaceful place we both set out for camp. I also spent some time talking to a young guy from Australia who was out here climbing all over the Sierra. Right now he was base camping at Tuolumne for weeks and I would meet him a couple more times on this trip.

Day 67 A-2581 D-878 September 6

After saying goodbye to my new trail friends I got some breakfast at the grill and set out for the Gaylor Lakes Trail. I was a bit confused on where I was supposed to go by Ropers description so I decided to just walk along the road which was a sketchy task since there was no shoulder most of the time and large RV's went zooming by constantly. The Soda Springs enthusiast guy said he had been hit by a car on the Tioga Road himself in the past. Once there I began in and made my way up to the first of the lakes where the trail ends for lunch. From here the cross country was about as easy as it gets strolling up past Gaylor Lake and then up past Upper Gaylor. I had already planned to stay at the mine because I figured it would be too far to go for more legal spots and I also decided I didn't want to bother playing Sherlock Holmes for the legal locations near the mine so I just picked a nice spot and set up. The mine itself was fairly basic with no adits and only a hand full of shallow shaft style pits. Making my way East over a small ridge I found even more downed mine buildings and if you just keep going you finally reach a beautiful view point looking down on Tioga Lake and up at Mt. Dana. A cold wind was blowing. The storm was coming...

Day 68 A-746 D-2566 September 7

When I awoke on this morning something just did not feel right about moving forward. I'm not sure what it was but I decided to turn back and plan a new route. This instinct turned out to be a good call other wise I would have spent the next few days of major cross country fighting extreme weather. So I went back down the way I came to the Tioga Road and then crossed the Dana Fork and made my way back to Tuolumne Meadows. While at camp I had to consider what my plan was now as I had intended to loop out and back in about 8 days then begin south again so I had food to burn before picking up my next package. I decided to make an attempt at Cathedral Peak then do an attempt at Cocks Comb, spend the night on Clouds Rest and then I planned what looked like a nice cross country route up Echo Creek past Nelson and Reymann Lakes. Later while getting information on the technical climbs I found out that there was a classic Nelson, Reymann hike people take so everything looked good. I spent the evening back at Soda Springs talking to tourists about the water and getting people to drink it.

Day 69 A-2782 D-2163 R-T September 8

Setting out for Cathedral Lakes I made quick work up the steep sections of this trail. I was right behind two day hikers with no packs when a man coming down commented that I looked like a sherpa for the other two. Once I got to the lake I set up camp in the same location I had 2 years before and unloaded my pack for day use. I was a bit concerned because I had quite a bit of food that was not in my bear barrel including two bags of cereal. C'est La Vie I said and set out for Cathedral Peak. I made quick work starting up the slopes and took a quick lunch. As I climbed higher and could see the summit I was greatly encouraged by how well I was doing and that the peak did not seem very far away at all. My fast pace was slowed a bit though as the boulders became heavily mixed with pine trees making for puzzle work. Making it worse they were dripping with sap. Finally reaching the ridge I began up past large boulder slabs until I came to a 12 foot high crack that looked impossible to get up. It was time to change my mindset I thought because when your only a hiker you have a completely different outlook on what can and cannot be climbed. Since I had no technical climbing experience it was time to look at rocks different so examining the rock closely I found decent enough hand and foot holds and began climbing up. The move required allot of upper body strength to maintain a stable hold on the rock but I made quick work up. The top section on the other hand offered nothing solid for hand holds. Finally in a desperate move I had to lift myself up with only my arms and use a knee to get up. Moving on I then came to an extremely narrow section of rock with a pine tree growing on it. It was too narrow for my pack so I had to take it off and drag it behind me. From here I could see two climbers in full gear making their way down ahead. After skirting a few rock faces I was below them. One of the older guys was extremely nervous at the fact that I had no experience or gear and I was doing these things. He wanted to drop me a rope but I told him I was ok. I told him my plan was simple and that was if I reach a point I am outside my comfort range I will turn back. After I found my way around a difficult rock and began up higher towards the summit he yelled up to me that maybe they should call the mental institution as it seems there is an escaped patient! A couple more climbers were making their way down ahead and I talked to them a bit before dropping my pack for the final section. Climbing up and over a mess of rocks then across a face I found myself below the final 15 foot vertical sections. Two climbers where already on the summit belaying more climbers coming up from below. As I looked up I just thought oh crap! And I did not know if I could make it or not. For a moment I thought my journey was done but then I began carefully feeling the cracks in the rock and I found solid hand and foot holds so up I went being meticulous about each move until I was at the final pitch to the summit. Once again I had to make use of a knee and I was standing on the summit. Victory! I had made the summit in about one and a half hours from my camp. I sat down and enjoyed the view while I waited for the other climbers to make their way to the summit. Not a single other person was free climbing. Having them there I actually got a photo. Once they had all made it we all agreed it was time to go because the weather looked very nasty to the North and it was coming in. One by one they made their way down until it was my turn... Yes.. now me...I admit I felt scared. Climbing up was one thing but now it was the moment of truth, climb down! Making my way over the side and back onto the cracks I yet again made my way meticulously down and did very well. Over all the double cracks provided nice holds and before I knew it I was down , back at my pack and leading the whole pack down the route I had come up. This did not last long though as no one wanted to take the ledge I had to get over here so I went the rest of the way alone. Coming back to the first technical crack I lowered myself onto it's face and began searching for hand holds and couldn't find anything. And then disaster began to strike. I slipped and began to fall...It was like a slow motion fall where I slipped and my body was going and there was nothing I could do about it. I began to turn around in preparation for where I was about to plummet down to. But then I was saved by my well placed right foot. It did not give way and I had enough strength in it to hoist myself back up onto the face and then made a quick drop onto a more stable hold and to the bottom. Wow I thought looking at my surroundings. I almost took one nasty fall! It was completely my fault as I had been moving too fast. From here I was excited as although I was not down yet I had got past all the technical areas. I had actually done it! It began to rain as I made my way quickly down avoiding the pine trees. By the time I got back to camp it was raining steady and I cooked dinner in my tent. I couldn't stay there though as an amazing sunset started to set in. I was running back and forth while it rained steady on me taking pictures of beautiful rainbows and the sunset over the lake. It over all was a magical moment ending a very good day.

Day 70 A-622 D-638 R-T September 9

As I moved out of the area I came across a guy camped just off the trail and two very cute female Rangers were hassling him about his camping location. Someone had told me that the only Rangers that check your permit are female Rangers and when I thought back I could not recall a single time where a male Ranger had checked my permit. Staying true they wanted to see mine. You do I asked? It's all the way at the bottom of my pack. Yep they certainly did. This has been the only time of the whole trip I had had my permit in my wallet after Tuolumne so it was now at the VERY bottom. So pulling off my bear barrel, pulling out my sleeping bag, my pot, my fuel, two bags of cereal, baggies of other crap I was finally able to dig it out. Yep here is my tattered piece of paper written by an apathetic Ranger more than two months ago. Stand in wonder!! I made the mistake of telling them I was thinking of sleeping on Clouds Rest. You can't sleep on Clouds Rest though! Yes I know... Technically an official trail runs over the summit which means you cannot get 100 feet from the trail. After both the pleasant and unpleasantness both the hiker they were hassling and I set out together. Nearing Cathedral Pass we parted ways and I began down the drainage for Echo Lake. The weather was already looking ugly and it was clear my plans were no good. I had planned to go to Matthes Lake to go for Cockscomb but the weather was not going to allow for that or for a night on Clouds Rest so now having even more days I stretched out going up Echo Creek making for easy days for now on. Something that was good due to the weather. So after easy going I arrived at Echo Lake and set up in a nice camp. I did some fishing and caught one nice trout but it was far too early so I threw it back thinking cool I can have some fish cooked on the fire but this was not to be as once I got serious about fishing the wind was blowing big time and I could not catch any more. The rain came and went for the rest of the evening.

Day 71 A-913 D-1235 R-T-S September 10

Dropping down the Cathedral Fork I was in a good mood skipping along through the forest with an up beat song playing in my headphones. I couldn't help but notice all the dead trees of the area though. This whole area and beyond was half dead forest for some reason other then fire. I made my way to the trail and down about 2.5 miles before it was time to cut over to Echo Creek. I made the mistake of going a bit too high and had to make my way down some very steep boulder faces. Once on the creek though it was a delight as the late season level of the creek had me walking along it on nice smooth granite only having to climb around the occasional tree. Making my way up a mess of beautiful granite faces filled with pools it began to sprinkle lightly. Reaching the top you enter a dense forest briefly before emerging at what I now call Echo Meadow. I had only just arrived when it began to pour on me. I had no time to look for any sort of established camp site and climbed up onto a section of hill. It had a great view of the meadow and an over all good location for a camp. The only down side is the creek was about 75 feet away in two directions. Considering the rain I called it home and got set up. I ate lunch in my tent while it continued to poor. Once it finally stopped I got to work on establishing a nice fire pit. I set out and fished almost every section of of the meadow but could not catch anything but little ones so it was no trout for dinner. I had just been getting set up to start cooking by the fire when it began raining again so it was back into the tent while it rained off and on. Later that night a few bits of snow came down but nothing major.

Day 72 A-1560 D-665 R-T September 11

Leaving the meadow was mostly easy travel but did involve allot of more dense forest travel and the occasional climbing through bushes along the creek. I took note of the rare patch of Twin Berry as I moved along the creek although I did not know it at the time. Nearing an area where two drainages come down from the East I found an even larger bog than David had fallen into earlier in the trip. I wanted to go out and poke it to see how deep it was but I was not about to get any where near the thing. I told many people this that if you see bright green moss you stay away! As I got closer to Nelson Lake I had planned to make my way up by moving North then East to avoid where the terrain gets allot steeper but once I got to the area I decided to keep following the creek. At times you have to climb fairly steep grass covered hill sides but then you enter into a very cool gorge with fun rock hoping. As I hoped along I kept whistling the more serious theme to Lord of the Rings. It was clear though that navigating this gorge early season is not possible. Nearing the top I came to a large rock face and I had to drop my pack, climb up and then pull my pack up by rope. Then lift the pack onto another rock. In quick fashion you are all at once out of the gorge onto smooth terrain. Not far away I took note of a use trail going down in the direction I had originally planned to come up. I took the scenic route! Reaching Nelson Lake it was extremely calm allowing for a nice shot of the lake. 5 minutes later and the wind was blowing steady. Nelson turned out to be an extremely beautiful lake that I could put on the list of being lakes worth coming back to. As I strolled away from the lake enjoying the beautiful meadow it began to rain once again so I sat beneath a tree for lunch. As I climbed up towards Reymann the storm raged on with the same lightning and heavy rain I had known for the last 4 days but as I got close to Reymann the rain let up. Moving up the outlet I was suddenly shocked by a cairn garden on the beautiful cascade below the outlet. I hadn't seen anyone in two days and this extreme sight of human presence was strange. Despite this I had to marvel at how beautiful the over all area was. Another Japanese garden I thought. Moving along the North shore of Reymann I began looking for a place to camp but I could find nothing at all. Finally once I had moved to the Eastern shore I found a nice established site to stay in. While in camp I spotted two hikers moving along the Southern shore and I knew it was the same two guys I had talked to at Echo Lake so I went around and met them. They were deciding on what to do for the day and were thinking about hiking all the way out to Tuolumne Meadows tonight. They pulled out a stove and made some tea and gave me some. Good timing as the clouds engulfed us making for a very chilled day. Then it began to rain so it was time for us to part ways. Me to my tent and them to where ever they dare to go. Once back in my tent the worst 3 hours of tent living began for me. It was raining very hard and because my tent was already so heavily saturated and had not been seam sealed the rain began running in steady. I had to line areas of my tent with clothing and what ever I could to soak up the water. If that was not bad enough a new phenomenon began that I had never had or considered. It was very cold out and due to this condensation was forming on the inside of my tent steady. Then as the rain drops hit the tent it would flick water onto me. So for 3 hours it rained non stop both outside and inside my tent. My sleeping bag was soaked and I was miserable. Finally just before sunset the rain stopped and I was able to get dinner made. The night was extremely cold with high winds and I was just barely able to stay warm hoping for morning.

Day 73 A-1063 D-2346 R-T September 12

The morning was extremely cold and a thick layer of frost covered everything. I laid everything I could out in the sun and watched the steam rise off of it. Once ready I began up the hill out of my camp. Due to the terrain I think most hikers cross the saddle to the East of here then go North and back West to drop down to Elizabeth Lake but as I got higher up the steeper route to the North looked just fine and it would be faster so I went straight up. As I got higher I noticed patches of fresh snow that had fallen during the night and once I had topped the ridge I was offered a beautiful view showing that most of the Sierra had got a nice dusting. Mt. Dana had snow at least 2,000 feet below it's summit. As I crossed the many snow fields on this ridge it was clear that the snow had fallen in extremely cold conditions as all the new snow was more like sand then snow. Dropping down the easy terrain populated with extremely fat Marmots I arrived at a nice little unnamed lake. Dropping down it's outlet proved to be easy all the way to the bottom when you arrive at the meadows surrounding Elizabeth Lake. I had intended to go eat lunch at Elizabeth Lake but I needed to use the restroom and I realized that I could easily make it down to Tuolumne to get a burger for lunch so I decided to keep on slogging to the bottom. Once I had got to the bottom I didn't know exactly where I was in the camp ground and began off to the West which was a mistake. I got to learn just how big Tuolumne Meadows campground actually is! Finally I crossed over to 120 and found my way back to the grill. While I was eating I had been talking to another hiker about backpacking and was over heard by two guys near by. They asked me about my hiking and then said they were here doing trail work for the PCTA. This peaked my interest as all the work I do is for the PCTA. While one of them introduced himself and the man next to him he said "this is Paul". "Paul Cardinet!?" I asked. Yep it was him. I only knew of him but had not met him before. turns out they had a whole crew base camped in Tuolumne Meadows campground so they invited me for dinner. I got set up with my wet gear and did some laundry which of course would not dry for the next few days. I met up with the Australian guy again and declared that I had survived. I had little else to do for the day but sit around and relax before I spent the rest of the night hanging out with the trail crew. The rain came in about 7:30PM and continued into the night.

Day 74 Layover R-T September 13

The main thing I had to figure out on this day was what the plans were with David. I had been getting low on money and I had two checks sitting at home. I gave him a call and he was ready to get out for another hike but shorter so he could bring me my money and get back onto the trail. He had to wait for an unemployment check but would meet me at Reds Meadow in 3 days. My original plan from here was going to follow the JMT back to Reds Meadow but I thought why take the same trail when I can do something new so I planned to take the Parker Pass Trail. The rest of the day was just resupply, relax and another good dinner with the trail crew.

Day 75 A-3707 D-2880 T September 14

It was another freezing morning as I hoped on the shuttle to the Mono Pass trail head. The bus driver was a big talker and I was the only one nice enough to engage her in conversation and respond to her statements. Once again I was entering a heavily traveled trail by the masses yet never traveled by me. The trail however proved uneventful and not extremely scenic until I was closing in on Parker Pass. The wind was blowing an extremely icy chill and I had to keep on my rain coat while I hiked. Nearing the pass I could see that Parker Peak and my general route had a pretty solid layer of new snow from the storm. Parker itself was about as easy as they come for passes and I was dropping down slightly on it's South side still covered in decent sized snow fields. Now it was time to switch back climb once again. As I made my way up Koip Peak Pass I began to feel more fatigued but the beautiful views kept me company on the way up. Once I had reached the snow it was only about 6 inches of fresh snow making for easy work up the final push. Once I had made it up and over the scene of the South side was like a painting and I made slow progress down with all my stops to enjoy the view. At this point I had been running from the storm as it slowly made it's way over me. Thunder had long been booming but I had so far avoided any sort of rain. The trail on the way down had several enormous wash outs but were not too difficult to get around. Before too long I was moving along Alger Lake where I found a decent place to camp. No rain fell today which was a welcome break after 6 days in a row of rain. I fell asleep watching the massive flashes of lightning coming from the desert.

Day 76 A-2214 D-4299 R-T September 15

While I wrapped things up at Alger Lake a pack of Coyotes began their typical howls and yips but in this location it was a surreal sort of moment as the sounds echoed back and fourth throughout the whole area. The call of the wild set in but it was time to continue South. Most of the day was fairly uneventful hiking as I crossed over Gem Pass and began slogging to the bottom. I passed a group of hunters heading to Alger Lakes for the opening of Deer season the following day. They claimed Alger Lake had "world" record fish in it which I seriously doubted. As I made my way up and over Agnew Pass I was once again running from the storm. The Ritter range had a total beast of a cloud mass over it and lightning flashes and booms came steady from it. By the time I was grinding down the final switch backs to Agnew Meadows a light rain was falling but did not last for long. I had planned to find some location off in the woods near Agnew to spend the night but after I had used the bathroom I started talking to a man who also had just come out of the backcountry and he offered to give me a ride to Reds Meadow and I accepted. I was here a day early as I had planned to hike the trail to Reds but oh well I thought. Once again the night ended with flashes of lightning coming from the East.

Day 77 Layover September 16

I called David and informed him of what number I was in at Reds. He had to wait for the mail and would not show up until probably midnight. I ended up going back to Rainbow Falls for awhile and then I went down to Lower Falls which I had never visited and made friends with a girl that was probably 9 and her over active dog Waldo. Once I had thrown a stick for him it was all over and no amount of throwing could wear him out. After spending a couple hours relaxing there I went back to camp and closed the night.

Day 78 Layover September 17

Waking in the morning David had been a no show so I called him again and the check he was waiting for did not come so he would have to try again tonight. My money had been depleted at this point and I did not even have enough money to stay another night in the camp ground. I ended up filling out a card but never put money in the slot. It would be too hard for David to find me if I tried to give him instructions to a dispersed camp site.

Day 79 Layover September 18

David did indeed arrive late last night but there was a catch. The unemployment check he had been waiting on did not come as they sent him paper work about his new card he would get in a few days. This meant I had to loan him 260 dollars of the money he brought me. The second catch was that it was now Sunday which meant closed banks for me to try and cash a check. A task that is not easy for someone with no bank account on any day of the week let alone Sunday. Rolling into Mammoth we struck out at a number of locations until I tried Vons which did cash one of the two I needed. For what ever reason they simply would not do more then one. Once failing every where else David thinks we should drive to Bishop to try a Vons there. We do so and fail due to their integrated database. After failing at every single other option in Bishop we decided to spend the night in a camp ground along Bishop Creek. When there we did some fishing on the newly stocked creek and are able to catch a couple nice sized trout to add to dinner. Later that night I put all my food in the bear box and thought David would handle his stuff.

Day 80 A-126 D-2249 September 19

Come morning it was almost a comical sight as he had his bear barrel with no lid on it sitting out with his food in it, a whole sack of other scented items sitting on top of the bear box and a mess of other small items. He had got lucky and no bear stole all his stuff but it just amazed me at his lack of thought on such matters with all the time he had spent in the mountains. Once back in Bishop I went to a Bank of America and amazingly enough they cashed the last check and did not even charge me anything. Something I was never able to repeat again at any other location. Driving back to Mammoth we picked up the last supplies we needed and hit the trail for Iva Bell. On our way we met a strange enough guy who was filtering about 5 gallons of water for his camp. He was hardly able to handle the altitude even as low as it was in this location. He had only been 4 miles from the trail head when we saw him yet later I would learn David ran into him again still trying to make his way out late the next day. In typical fashion the rest of the way was fairly uneventful other then the fact that while dropping down the switch backs to Fish Creek we were in the last amounts of useable light. My flashlight was deep in my pack which I did not want to bother getting. By the time we were closing in on the bridge crossing I was following David in total darkness. We began looking for a camp site but David had poor skills in this area. After 80 days on the trail I had a keen instinct to where exactly a site would be located and I finally got too irritated by David's searching that I pulled out my light and set off to find a camp which I located in less then 2 minutes. I spent the night laying out since thankfully the mosquitoes were starting to die off. I was certainly happy to be back on the trail after 3 days of layovers and actually riding in vehicles.

Edited by RoguePhotonic (02/11/12 09:04 PM)

#21408 - 02/12/12 08:06 AM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Forgot the photos to go with this section again:

Week 9
Week 10
Week 11

#21460 - 02/14/12 01:14 PM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Chris B Offline

Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 69
Loc: Denver, CO
Great update as always, Rogue. I especially loved this picture:

The glow from the sun contrasting the granite, the clouds, the deer. I could sit in that place for hours just relaxing and enjoying the beauty of creation.

#21465 - 02/14/12 02:21 PM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: RoguePhotonic]
RoguePhotonic Offline

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
I actually debated even using that photo. It looks more like a painting then being real and I hardly did any post processing to it at all. Glad it worked out anyway.

I need to finish up the last pictures and end this trail report. It's only been over 4 months! I'm glad I broke it up into 5 parts and not one giant report.

#21500 - 02/17/12 06:01 AM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: Chris B]
CaT Offline

Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 694
Loc: Blacklick, OH (formerly SoCal)

That is one incredible picture of the deer in the foreground. Just amazing! It does look like a painting.

Well, it's only fitting that perhaps it should take you as long to post your 95-day trip as it did to do the trip itself.

If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracle of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
- Lyndon Johnson, on signing the Wilderness Act into law (1964)

#21501 - 02/17/12 07:22 AM Re: 95 Days in the Sierra [Re: CaT]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7600
Loc: Fresno, CA
Isn't that picture of Lembert Dome, right in Tuolumne Meadows?

Pretty cool, if it is -- the picture is taken just off the Tioga Pass highway.

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