Archive for the ‘CA Sierras – G’ Category

Saturday, June 26 Miles today: 24.3 Total: 760.3

Saturday, June 26th, 2010


All the dramatic clouds of yesterday evening must have blown away during the night–we woke up to clear skies and a very pleasant morning.   We hoisted our still horribly heavy packs and headed for Diaz Creek— we needed water.  Along the way we got a good laugh out of a “sign” that was written in marker pen on a cow skull by the trail.  But we were so distracted with admiring the scenery and spotting “old friend” landmarks from our day hikes in the Cottonwood Pass area, that we missed the unmarked trail to the creek. Oh well— we decided to ration water and go for Chicken Spring Lake.

It was still quite a few miles to the lake, and the PCT of course wanders all over the place, with lots of uphills.  I am still not back to full strength since my round of giardia/whatever, and that means I did a lot of huffing and puffing on those uphills, and could not hike as fast as usual.  Snow on the trail was never a problem, but we noticed plenty on the mountains around, including a lot of snow cornices.


We reached Cottonwood Pass around noontime, and I was totally wiped out.  A couple of very friendly older guys were there, and they kindly took a picture of Bill and I together.  Then one more mile of climbing took us to Chicken Spring Lake, where both Bill and I just plain collapsed for awhile till I got myself together enough to make us some freezedried beef stew for lunch.  The plants at the lake were just barely starting to show buds, and there were a few snow patches. 

After a good rest, we started off again, saying, “Now we REALLY are going into the HIGH Sierras!”  Sure enough, it wasn’t long till the trail was totally buried under a snow cornice, but we managed to scramble over it without a problem.  The views of course became more and more awesome–high, snowy mountains, meadows far below, big puffy clouds.  The long rest stop for lunch plus having a hot meal had made both Bill and I feel a lot better, so we were really enjoying ourselves.   We marched happily along the miles of downhill toward Rock Creek, and just before we reached it, there was a note tacked to a post, inviting the hikers over to the summer ranger’s house for free food.  Free food?  That is truly a siren call for any hungry thruhiker!

So we followed the faint path off through the woods, across a little creek, and finally came to the totally cute little ranger cabin.  The ranger ( a young woman) was there, with her husband, her little boy and several other friends.  The “free food” turned out to be an almost empty hiker box.  Oh well! I asked if we could see inside the cabin, and the ranger said “Sure!” so I went in and had a look.  It’s very cozy, but I was surprised to see that there was nowhere to sleep.  The ranger explained that they never sleep in the cabin unless it’s raining, but camp outside in a tent.  That seemed odd to me, but I guess they must have their reasons??   Anyway, back we went through the woods to the PCT.


Back ontrail, and headed for Rock Creek, we met another ranger who said the snow line is at 11,500 feet and rising daily!  That was good news–it means we only have to deal with snow when going over the passes.  But shortly afterwards, came a discouraging development— we met a sad young thruhiker couple who were heading south after turning back at Forester Pass. The wife said Forester was totally terrifying and she just could not make it to the top.  So they were turning back, planning to go to Horseshoe Meadows, where the wife could go to town and wait till her husband had finished doing all the scary high passes.  Then she would rejoin him.  This bad new really worried me.   If an obviously young, strong woman could not make it over Forester, what about me?  All I could do was say, “Well, I will do my best.” (And pray a lot!)

At around 7 pm, we had reached Rock Creek, which had a campsite with bearbox.  There were only a few mosquitoes, so we made a nice comfortable cowboy camp with snowy mountains all around.   Tomorrow….we tackle Forester Pass.

Walk to Lórien: Redhorn pass of Caradhras blocked by snow


Friday, June 25 Miles today: 24.3 Total: 736

Friday, June 25th, 2010


A lot of clouds came in last night and before we’d finished breaking camp at 5:00 am, they started dripping. ( Nothing serious, as it turned out).  A minute’s walk took us to the edge of the Beck Meadow branch of Monache Meadows.  It’s an awesome sight–a vast green meadow with white Sierra peaks on the horizon.  As we entered it, the “bit of drip” from the clouds turned into hail!  I had my umbrella up, so just stepped under a tree to wait and see if the hail would become a problem (it didn’t), but poor Bill had stuffed his raingear way down at the bottom of his pack (he didn’t consider the bit of drippiness to be worth putting on a rainjacket) and it was a major project for him to rummage everything out, find the raingear and put it on, then repack.  By the time he was done, it had pretty much stopped raining!  

Our first goal was  “breakfast at the swallow bridge!”  so we chugged right along up and down through the woods, till we were out in the meadow again and could see the Kern River down below.  As I expected, when we got to the bridge, there were lots of thruhiker tents!  Camping by the bridge is not a bad idea, because so many swallows means there are NO mosquitoes!  We could eat our breakfast in peace and watch the swallows feeding their babies who were tucked in nests under the bridge.  Most of the other hikers were just starting to get up. 


The PCT took us out across sagebrushed meadows (no cows this time–we did see plenty of cows in 2005).  Huge yellow primrose-type flowers were blooming  along the trail.  We headed up Cow Canyon, where we got lost in 2005 because the cow trails and the PCT looked so much alike.  No problem this time–the PCT route was very distinct.  It does crisscross Cow Creek several times, and that was part of what confused us in 2005.   The creek was running well and was very pretty.  But oh, man, it’s a long, long climb, all the way up to 10,500 feet.  Our packs are so heavy that we had to stop and rest more often than usual.

Finally we reached the big downhill to Gomez Meadow.  The mountains here are very rocky and have many dramatic cliff formations  that look sort of like a mini-Yosemite.  We’d planned to get water at Gomez Creek, but oh bummer–it wasn’t a creek, it was a marsh, and the water looked gross.  We sighed and pushed on to Death Canyon Creek, which turned out to be a gorgeous place! Not only is the creek clean, but there’s even a “swimming hole” (well, bathtub size, actually) right near the PCT.  If it were a warm day, we would have jumped right in, clothes and all, but today has been cloudy, windy and chilly.   We settled for taking a nice Snickers break instead, and we took on 3 liters of water each–we were worried about dehydrating at this higher altitude.  I groaned when I put my pack back on and faced the killer climb out of Death Canyon, back up to 10,700 feet.


But even though the climb was hard, it was worth the effort!  The rock formations along the trail grow more and more impressive, and the trees look like enormous bonsais with reddish-brown bark.   Views at the top are unbelievable— thousands of feet down to the Owens Valley. We had to hike “overtime”— past 7:00pm— along the steep mountainsides before we could reach a saddle with flat places to camp.

 The mosquitoes were waiting for us, and the clouds looked a bit threatening, so we rigged both tarp and net tent.  It’s a nice quiet forest here, out of the wind, and not too chilly.  It felt great to be inside away from the mosquitoes, but I thought about the snow patches we’d started seeing by the trail and wondered what it would be like in lots of snow.  Tomorrow we also face our first “snowmelt creek” crossing at Rock Creek.  It will be my first High Sierra early season creek crossing, and I am a bit worried about it.  Boy does it feel good to be horizontal!  Bill and I are both totally tired out.

Walk to Lórien: Climbing up base of Redhorn


Thursday, June 24 Miles today: 17.7 Total: 712.7

Thursday, June 24th, 2010


Well, I guess we’ve switched from being “hiker trash” to being “trailer trash” because we really enjoyed our one night in the cute tiny trailer at Tom’s place. Breakfast time saw more hikers coming in and lots of hikers leaving to tackle the Sierras (once they finished their pancakes and coffee!)  The main conversation topics were 1)”What I plan to do when I reach Canada” and 2)Microspikes vs. instep crampons for the Sierra snow.  One of the hikers, named “Jackalope”, has an ice axe he made himself from a wrecked titanium racing bike.  It was very ingenious, and we told him he should have entered it in the “Homemade Gear” contest at the ADZPCTKO. But he’s a very modest guy, so he said no.

After breakfast, Bill started reading a true spy tale by a Brit named Peter Wright.  I took awhile working on the loads in our packs, trying to make the food bag weights equal.  I’ve noticed that with many guy/gal hiking teams, the the guys end up carrying WAY more weight than the girls.  Bill and I don’t do that.  He does carry a little bit more weight than I do, but not much more.  I also worked on solving the puzzle of why for the last couple of days my right shoulder has been sore.  Could be that it’s protesting having to carry more weight in order to give the sore right hip a rest?  Anyway, I rigged a setup that may help.

Then we went to the store to hang out for awhile till the chuckwagon opened, and I ended up helping a couple who had just come in. (They recognized us from reading our blog.)  I hustled the wife in to sign up for laundry so she wouldn’t have to go through what I went through yesterday.   Then we got a big juicy double burger and cheeseburger and lemonade and sat on the porch figuring, “Well, this is it–our last meal before we head out!”  We enjoyed talking to the other couple–they came all the way from Florida to do the PCT!  And they are loving it!

24june5couple After lunch, we headed out for the Kennedy Meadows campground, where the plan was to meet with Miwok and his dad (who were camped there) and visit for awhile before we got back on the trail.  But there was no sign of them anywhere.  We walked through the whole campground, looking for them, and no luck, so we signed the trail register and included a note to let Miwok know we’d tried to find him.  Then we started out. 

I felt very excited and very scared and weirdly enough, very peaceful, all at the same time. All the hikers had been talking about “big snow”, “river crossings”, etc, and I was wondering “Can I do this?”. Bill and I prayed as we began for safety and wisdom all along the trail, and up we went, following the Kern River as it wound its way through banks edged with willows and roses and wildflowers.  It’s really pretty here with the roaring river and the trees, flowers, etc.  We met a very disappointed fisherman, though.  “No luck at all,” he sighed. 

24june6trailUnfortunately, we eventually found ourselves in ANOTHER burn zone with no regrowth.  Bummer.  We stopped for supper after crossing Crag Creek.  The trail was slowly getting more “Sierra-ish”, with rocks and rock formations, and much more rocky on the trail itself.  After another hour, at around 6:30 pm, we were at the edge of Beck Meadow and decided to stop, even though it was early.  We figured that this was a good camping place because it had  lots of trees, flat ground, and a little creek to rinse dirty socks in. Perfect!  And the mossies, though plentiful, were not outrageous.  So we set up the tarp & net tent, washed ourselves and our dirty socks in the creek and nipped into the tent before the mossies could get us!  (I should mention that when I say we “washed”, that does NOT EVER include soap of any kind.  We never take any soap products with us when we backpack, ever.  We don’t want to mess up any mountain lakes or creeks!)

Since it was still relatively early, we were able to enjoy watching the sunset, and spent quite awhile discussing our water plans for the next day.  I generally do this every night once I’m in my sleeping bag.  I look at water sources, how far apart they are, and make calculations as to where to get water and how much water to take.  We do not like carrying extra water if we can avoid it!)  Then it was time to lay our heads down for a lovely quiet evening in the woods.  I wondered sleepily, “When will we hit our first snow?”

Walk to Lórien: Winding up into hills near Redhorn