CA – Eastern Sierra . . . where’s the snowline?

It was late May 2019, and I wanted to see for myself what 200% of normal snow levels looked like. My first stop was Alabama Hills for this view of Mt Whitney. I couldn’t help but reminisce about my first time playing among these rocks (link) as well as my unforgettable ascent (link) and descent (link) of the tallest mountain in the continental US.

My friend Nancy (WhyNot?!) and I wanted to explore canyons off of Highway 395 we hadn’t previously visited. The first was out of Big Pine on the Glacier Lodge Road.

While we may have wanted to adventure deeper into this cirque, we decided to check out the nearby waterfalls instead.

The trail was in great shape.

We found lots of water.

Next stop was Lake Sabrina (pronounced Sa-BRINE-a) at the end of Highway 168 out of Bishop.

With everything still pretty wet and snowbound, we decided to skip hiking the trails this trip.

From Tom’s Place (I’m guessing named for nearby Mount Tom), we drove Forest Road 12 to Rock Creek Lake.

We hiked the road a bit.

We made it to the Little Lakes Valley trailhead which only made me want to explore further.

Instead we walked around Rock Creek Lake.

It was a little early for wildflowers, but we found a little color.

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 28-29, 2019

Tips:

  • Great dispersed camping can be found at Alabama Hills and Buttermilks.
  • I spend a lot of time at near freezing temperatures and have found not all fuel to be equal. On my latest jaunt I ran out of the better quality fuel and had to buy Coleman brand, yes it was crazy expensive in a tiny resort area but I wanted hot coffee! I’m happy to report on a 34 degree morning it worked perfect. I’ve learned to store my fuel upside down and warm (in my sleeping bag) in cold weather. I shake the canister, while holding it upside down, before attaching to my stove. It’s much easier to find Coleman brand in small towns so I’m thrilled it’ll be an option in the future.

Resources:

Links:

Photo credit: Nancy

 

 

 

CA – Alabama Hills – Geocaching for Arches

Alabama Hills is probably most well known for it’s leading role in many films.  As for me, I was there for the views and geology. 

To make my exploration a bit more more fun, a friend recommended the booklet, Arches of the Alabama Hills by Orlyn Fordham, which I found at Lone Pine’s outdoor store, Elevation Climbing. The author provides an overview map, suggested itineraries, and for each of the 72 arches detailed descriptions, photos, and GPS coordinates.

The easiest to find arches are along the Arch Trail, a popular and well marked short loop trail. It’s always rewarding when geocaching, to warm up with a successful find!

Mobius Arch

Lathe Arch

The author rated many of the arches on a scale of 1 (small, difficult to locate, common, non-descript appearance) to 5 (large, good view, very accessible, very photographic, appealing). As a Cherry Picker, of course I wanted to start with the best of the best.

Whitney Portal Arch

This was the view I was hunting. 

After clambering around on many rocks trying to obtain this view with 100% failure, I dejectedly headed back to my car. Yes, I found the arch, but I wanted the view. So . . . reaching for the booklet to find my next destination, I noticed the last sentence in the description, “an aluminum ladder has been left at the arch to get in position to take an interesting picture from the east with Mt Whitney in the background.” Well . . . I’d say the joke was on me for not reading the entire description. Of course, the ladder was long gone. While creating the links for this post, I noticed the current version of the booklet is 2013, the one I had was 2011. Wonder if this description has been updated? Hmmm. So a tip to the wise, if you want the photo, bring a ladder or rope!

Heart Arch

By far the Heart Arch was my favorite. The only disappointment was that the heart lost it’s shape as you neared the arch and thus no cool photo looking at some distant object framed with a <3.

Eye of Alabama Arch

Stevenson Arch 

Bikini Top Arch 

Extra Credit:

Scarlet Milk-Vetch

Baseball Barrel Cactus 

Possibly a Red-Tailed Hawk

Sure can’t complain about waking up to this view. 

Date(s) Hiked: 2/24-25/16

Road Trip Day(s) #5-6

Jan’s Tips:

  • I used my mapping app, Trimble Outdoor Navigator, to locate the arches. This app, like most others, has a place to enter GPS coordinates. The trick is finding the correct format for the provided coordinates. There are also converters available online if your app doesn’t provide for the correct type of entry.
  • Might as well stick to the Alabama Hills theme and partake in some of the best food around at the Alabama Hills Cafe in Lone Pine. It gets an A+ rating from me for customer service, prices, outstanding quality and variety.
  • Dispersed camping is permitted in Alabama Hills. There are plenty of other less primitive camping and lodging opportunities nearby.
  • Showers are available for $5 at the Whitney Portal Hostel.
  • Link to more Jan Jaunts in the Sierra

Resources:

Mt Whitney – Seriously? (Part 4)

Links to Part 1Part 2 and Part 3

Day 4 – Tuesday, 6/7/16 (continued)

I’ve been up since 3am. I’ve hiked to the highest point in the lower 48 at 14,508′. I’m elated. I’m exhausted. I’m ready to get horizontal.

But first things first . . .

2:40 pm – After descending the 1.9 miles from Whitney summit, we arrived safely back to our packs at Trail Crest (13,519′). The group eats, drinks, and celebrates before donning our packs for the descent. There are a few in the group who were itching for pizza and beer in Lone Pine but for that to happen we’d need to descend another 8 miles and 5,000′.

3:40 pm – It’s go time. OR. NOT!!!!

Finding this snow chute was not my idea of fun and definitely not how I wanted to end my day. Going back the 30 something miles to Horseshoe Meadow wasn’t really an inviting option either.

In preparation for this trip, a friend taught me the basics of self arrest and glissading with an ice axe. The practice slope angle and snow conditions were perfect for this CHICK-en!Unlike my practice slope, there was nothing perfect about this reality slope. This was my OH SHIT moment! I don’t like out of control speed. I’ve never liked roller coasters or amusement park rides. Snow conditions were crappy. Glissading would be FAST and trying to walk down was asking for a broken leg. Neither option was even close to optimal. As I sat on the ledge watching wipe out after wipe out, I tried desperately to manage my anxiety. I wanted to cry and throw a temper tantrum. This was quickly turning into what I call Type III fun, a rarity in my world. 

I waited until the last of our group had started down before taking my turn. I tried a variety of methods. First removing my microspikes and stowing my poles in hopes of a controlled glissade. I was wearing my Frogg Toggs rain pants with snow gaiters, vapor barrier bags over my socks, and gloves to protect my hands. With ice axe in hand, I sat down and could feel gravity wanting to take me down. I used my feet as brakes, planting one then the other. I was not committed to the glissade and did not have my ice axe secure in both hands as I was taught. Instead I planted the ice axe with my right hand as I took a sitting step with left foot, right foot, left hand. I was able to repeat this method a few times before . . . the slip sliding began . . . and before I knew it, I’d flipped to my stomach, the ice axe long gone and I was fruitlessly digging into the snow with my hands and feet trying to slow and stop my flying descent. Eventually somehow miraculously I stopped. Slowly I regained the sitting position. SHIT not only had I lost the ice axe well above me on the hill but I still had a LONG way to go before I’d be off this friggin’ snowfield. I donned my microspikes and using my hiking poles I attempted a walking descent. Progress was painfully slow. Our group was spread all over the hill. Some had figured out the glissade. Others were floundering like me.

6:00 pm, I’m off the slope and subsequent snow traverse. Hallelujah!! I’m ALIVE and uninjured, sore, tired but unscathed. WHEW, I’m sure I left one of my nine lives on that slope, plus a brand new ice axe for hopefully someone in need . . . as they say, the trail provides.

Needless to say, night #4 would be spent at the first available camping area, Trail Camp, where we’d stare at the snow chute and rid ourselves of those nightmares. There is no way I could have eked out another 6 miles to make it to the Portal. I’d been up for over 16 hours, and I’d pushed my body beyond what is even close to reasonably normal. There was no adrenaline left in this engine. It was time to eat, drink and get horizontal. 

If you think my experience was an anomaly, think again. My friend, Rockin’ of Lady on a Rock, a much much more experienced mountaineer than me, had an even scarier experience in April 2015. Read about it here.

Day 5 – Wednesday, 6/8/16

As exhausted as I was, I didn’t sleep well. I was up at first light to share the best sunrise of our trip with One Speed.

And then we watched the sun kiss the mountain and that innocent looking snow chute.

We watched as hikers began their hopeful ascent, and return disheartened before making it more than a few steps up the chute.

The Magnificent 7 lived to hike another day. Let’s get this done and find some breakfast!

As we descended, we encountered many backpackers ascending, each filled with anxiety and questions. “Are the switchbacks open?” “How are the switchbacks?” We’d answer, “there are no switchbacks, only a snowfield.” Their look was one of disbelief, as if we’d misunderstood their questions. Surely, the switchbacks are open. Sometimes you just have to experience it yourself to understand.

Lone Pine Lake, was I really there just a week previous on an acclimation hike? LINK

One more glissading run to give us back that confidence and giggle we’d lost the previous day.

Goodbye mountain

My parting gift, the snow plants (Sarcodes sanguinea) I’d seen on my acclimation hike a week earlier were now in full bloom.

How much did my wag bag weigh? One pound! Pack weight at the end of the trip was 25 pounds, much heavier than my normal starting weight. Oh the weight of bear canisters, microspikes, cold weather gear . . .

We came, we went, we conquered. New friends and old friends. Memories to last a lifetime.

Since there is no overnight parking at the Portal for those with a Portal entry permit, we all had to hitch to Lone Pine or call a shuttle service. It was noon and with our restaurant of choice closing at 2:00 pm, we didn’t have much time. First vehicle was able to take 3 of us. YIPPEE! It was a nice family from Fresno, mom and three sons out for a mini-vacation. We shared great conversation while waiting our turn to follow the pilot car through the construction zone before finally making it to Lone Pine where my car was parked. From there, we quickly drove toward Horseshoe Meadows Campground to retrieve the other two vehicles . . .  but with stomachs growling and impatience growing, we were delayed once again.

Meanwhile our comrades successfully caught rides to Lone Pine and grabbed showers at the hostel. And just in the nick of time, my group arrived back in Lone Pine at 1:45 pm to join everyone for a celebratory meal at Alabama Hills Cafe.

We all looked a bit worse for the wear with our sunburned faces and blistered lips, but look at those SMILES! (Photo courtesy of One Step)

I stayed the night at the Dow Villa Motel in Lone Pine and after an Epsom Salt soak, I witnessed my first Sierra wave cloud sunset. WOW!

Link to 2 More Miles Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

Resources:

Mt Whitney – I’m Coming for YOU! (Part 3)

Links to Part 1 and Part 2

Day 4 – Tuesday, 6/7/16

Unlike most who use Guitar Lake as base camp, which allows for quick departure and a light pack ascent, we are planning to continue our journey after ascending Whitney. Therefore, we must pack camp prior to departure. Packing in the dark is never fun and certainly not nearly as efficient but nervous excitement of my day negated the need for the snooze alarm and lollygagging. Selecting a departure time was challenging for our group. With temperatures barely reaching freezing at night, if that, and best practice to be off the snow by 10am to prevent post-holing and sloshy, sloppy dangerous snow walking. Most of the PCT thru-hikers were leaving camp between one and three a.m., hiking in the dark and reaching the summit 4-5 hours later, many with the goal of being there for sunrise. Since our group had little snow hiking experience and would be carrying full packs, we decided it would make the most sense to start hiking at first light. Safety First!

4:45am – We’re off . . . just about 15 minutes later than goal time . . . not bad for a group of 7.

5:45am – Great to watch the sunrise as we slowly climbed the snowfields in search of the magical switchbacks.

6:30am – YIPPEE, we found the switchbacks!

6:45am – We were told there were just a few snow/ice patches on the switchbacks.

8:15am – LIARS! (or maybe short-term memory issues, or maybe high-altitude deficiencies). There were plenty of steep icy snowfields to cross on these traverses. One slip and you can see what would happen . . . down, down, down . . . We were happy to have our microspikes and crampons.

I switched to my ice axe on some of the traverses. I have a history of slipping and wasn’t ready to take any chances.

8:45am – still climbing . . . you can see this trail would be nerve wracking for many even in the summer without snow.

Looking down at Guitar (right) and Hitchcock (left) Lakes from where we’d started just a few hours earlier.

9:15am – The final switchback before Trail Crest, which is the junction between the Mt Whitney summit and the Portal.

9:15am – We made it to Trail Crest at 13,519′! It took us about 4.5 hours to hike the 2.6 miles with nearly 2,000′ elevation gain. At this junction, we’d leave most of our gear and head for the summit.

10:00am – Once again LIARS! We were told no snow/ice on the trail. By now of course we were skeptical and prepared. I’m ever thankful I don’t have any height or ledge phobias.

10:00am – Does the lake look like a guitar now?

10:10am – Our destination is in sight! To the right of the top mound.

The roof the Whitney Hut marks the spot. Doesn’t look very far does it? Another 15-30 minutes? LOL

Peek-a-boo windows make for good distractions from the constant focus of one foot in front of the other . . . careful placement.

10:30am – definitely a guitar shaped lake

12:00 noon, SUCCESS!!! 14,508′ the highest point in the lower 48. It took me about 7.5 hours for these 4.7 miles with 2,960′ elevation gain. I was extremely pleased with my performance. My asthma didn’t seem to affect me and I didn’t have issues with altitude nor trail conditions.

12:45pm – Our happy team celebrates before heading back down. Oh how I wished I had all day to enjoy the views. Weather was perfect, winds were almost non-existent. I would have spent night at top. Sadly the group before us had been smoking marijuana in the hut so I couldn’t even take time for photos.

Descent time! (photo by One Speed)

2:00pm – Wait I thought we were going down? Just another example of our group’s stellar teamwork.

Top of the world! Ski time?

I preferred walking on the dirt or rocks, while others preferred the snow. I didn’t mind the ledges while others who were bothered hugged the inside edge. Pick your path, pick your poison, it’s a lot of that Type II fun.

Thanks to One Step (Dee), you walk a few moments in my shoes.

With it taking us 2.5 hours to hike the supposed 1.9 miles to the summit from the trail junction, we didn’t believe the sign so I tracked it on the way down. As it turned out we were just slow 🙂 But the good news was we made it down in a little over an hour, 1.5 hours faster than our ascent.

Little did I know that the hard part of my day was just beginning . . .

To be continued . . . .

Link to the rest of the story:

Link to 2 More Miles Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

Resources:

Mt Whitney – I’m Coming for YOU! (Part 2)

Link to Part 1

Our itinerary is for a 5-day, 4-night trek starting at Horseshoe Meadow, ascending over Cottonwood Pass to connect with the PCT, then continuing on to Crabtree Meadow where we’ll depart the PCT for the Mt Whitney Trail and then exit via the Portal. This will be about 8,000′ of elevation gain over 40 miles. 

Day 1 – Saturday, 6/4/16

With a fairly leisurely hiking schedule our first day, we were able to take our time getting ready and on trail.

The group name, Magnificent 7 was a big improvement over the first suggestion, 7 Dwarfs (although with that name it was entertaining to assign characters).

My pack had a few extras this trip including a bear canister, microspikes and an ice axe.

Cottonwood Pass at a little over 11,000′. Looking down at Horseshoe Meadow where we’d started the day. Trail was free of snow unlike a week or two previous when according to our new PCT friend, Reject, it was a scary crossing requiring microspikes.

Soon after Cottonwood Pass, the trail joins my beloved PCT, at about mile 750.

Do you see my peek-a-boo friend?

Got food?

Chicken Spring Lake

Camp night #1 was about PCT mile 753. I use the Gossamer Gear Polycro ground cloth. Boy was I surprised to find I’d brought a pack liner rather than a ground cloth. Hmmm, what to do? well yes that solar blanket will work.

I’d had a great day of hiking. The climbing was steady and I was pleased with my performance in the elevation and heat. HOWEVER, when I got to camp, I started feeling quite nauseated. It took several hours of lying down with my umbrella providing shade and my buff providing damp relief before I felt like I could sit up. One of my dinner options was mashed potatoes and I was happy for that bland meal which I was able to keep down. I suspect I’d over hydrated. I’d been hiking bigger miles and normally drink a liter at water crossings. I also was using AquaMira as my water treatment which is new to me. I’ve always used a filter but my Sawyer froze while on the Arizona Trail and I decided I didn’t want to deal with that problem this trip. Thankfully, I felt fine in the morning.

Day 2 – Sunday, 6/5/16

Everyone was in good spirits and raring to go. What a great way to start day #2!

Taken at Siberian Pass

My first steps on trail in Sequoia & Kings Canyon NPs.

First major creek crossing. Since I wear trail runners, I typically just walk through the creeks vs going barefoot and risking injury. If it’s really cold though I might take off my socks and remove insoles before tromping through, as I did in this instance.

At 4pm, the group was resting and making a decision of how far to proceed. Initial decision was Guyot Flats however if no water we’d need to continue on to Crabtree Meadow.

Tree colors and shapes were mesmerizing . . . when will it fall?

Who knew root balls could be so beautiful?

Our first glimpse of Mt Whitney (the pointed mountain in the far back of photo).

We camped at Lower Crabtree Meadow . . . . with dinner entertainment provided by deer and marmots.

And watched the mountains around Whitney bask in the last of the evening light.

After fitful dreams of my Whitney ascent, I awoke at first light to this taunting silhouette.

From my tent I watched as the round orange ball peeked above the mountain to shine it’s rays into our peaceful meadow.

With few miles to make, it was easy to laze around watching the deer and marmots play.

Good morning!

Day 3 – Monday, 6/6/16

We missed our morning group shot.

It’s a foot bath! Ahhhhh. . . .

Teamwork comes in all flavors, whether a little help with boot laces, crossing a creek or snowfields, filtering water,  . . . our team excelled in this skill.

Timberline Lake (the last area outside the Whitney Zone, which means the use of Wag Bags until near the Portal). WAG (Waste Alleviation and Gelling) are poo bags that must be carried out. Gross but necessary above tree line in heavy use areas.

Looking down at Timberline Lake

The final time we’ll see Mount Whitney until we are upon her shoulders.

Our first on-trail snowfield

Welcome to Guitar Lake; Mt Whitney is up there somewhere.

Spring melt is in the works. I actually saw a few hikers take a quick dip in these ice covered waters.

Night #3 was filled with anxiety as we prepared to ascend Whitney in the morning.

Before settling in for the night, we’d been advised to scope out where we’d be hiking in the wee hours of the morning as the trail is snow/ice covered and non-existent with few if any footprints to lead the way.

 

To be continued . . . .

Link to the rest of the story:

Link to 2 More Miles Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

Resources:

Mt Whitney – I’m Coming For YOU! (Part 1)

A couple months ago, online friends Paul and Dee of 2 More Miles invited me to join their group on a Whitney summit trip. Since I’d bailed before Whitney on my JMT/PCT trip last summer, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to conquer this objective. As my friend WhyNot?! would say, WHY NOT?

Several in my group had a history of altitude sensitivity and with my asthma I was more than happy to begin our trip with a couple of acclimation hikes and nights at higher elevation. Arriving fairly late on Wednesday, June 8th, we spent our first night at the Lone Pine Campground (about 6,000′).

On Thursday, we drove up the Whitney Portal Road and hiked to Lone Pine Lake (about 10,000′), lollygagging our day away at 8-10,000′.

I believe the waterfall in the center of the photo is the outflow from Lone Pine Lake.

This waterfall will be a pleasant sight as we descend from Whitney in a few days.

Not quite my first visit to the John Muir Wilderness, but my first steps on this section of trail. And for those that don’t know, this is the $5 skirt I’ve been adventuring in for the past few months.

Good log walking practice. There were a couple of lengthy separations that required a tiny leap . . . that’ll be interesting with full packs.

Lone Pine Lake. There was a little snow around the banks, but very little given this 10,000′ elevation location.

We spent Thursday and Friday nights at the Horseshoe Meadow Campground. With an elevation around 10,000′ and overnight lows around freezing, it gave us an opportunity to acclimate to both as well as make final decisions about gear for the trip. On Friday, we hiked from the campground up toward Mulkey and Trail Passes.

My first steps into the Golden Trout Wilderness.

The motto of the trip might be “what happens on Whitney stays on Whitney” as my new friends mime “see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil.”

Not a bad way to spend the day as we meander our way up through Round Valley.

To be continued . . . .

Links to the rest of the story:

Link to 2 More Miles Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:

Resources:

PCT – CA Section H . . . as in Happily Humbled

Dates Hiked: June 29 – July 10, 2015
Direction: Southbound
Section H: Crabtree Meadow to Tuolumne Meadows
-Miles: 175.5 (plus mileage for resupply & exit trails)
-Elevation: Low Point 7,480′, High Point 12,963′, Gain 30,646′, Loss 28,455′ (plus adjustments for taking the JMT alternate and any resupply/exit trails)

As a southbounder, I’m going from right to left on the chart.

The high sierra went on my bucket list as soon as I saw the amazing photos in PCT hiker journals several years ago.

Due to logistics, I decided to hike this section south. I parked in Lone Pine (the Dow Villa Motel has long-term parking for guests), then took the Eastern Sierra Transit bus to Lee Vining where I picked up the YARTS bus to Tuolumne.

My friends told me the scenery would overshadow my concerns about a successful hike, but many times along the way I found myself asking WHY. WHY? WHY!

  • Why did I CHOOSE to challenge myself with the most physically difficult section of the PCT? Remember, I’m not a climber, I have exercise/altitude induced asthma, and I’m not 20 or 30 or 40 or . . .!
  • Why did I CHOOSE to start this hike with thunderstorms forecast for the next few days?
  • Why did I CHOOSE to carry so much food (rather than more frequent resupplies)?
  • Why did I CHOOSE such an adventure over joining my friends in Tahoe relaxing at the cabin and beach?

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words . . . so you can judge for yourself.

Tuolumne Meadows

Lyell Canyon

The pink mountain heather was prolific.

White mountain heather became one of my favorites of the trail.

It doesn’t take many miles to clear Yosemite National Park and Wilderness. As of this date, the Ursack (rather than a bear canister) can be used in the surrounding wilderness areas.

At Donahue Pass, it’s worth dropping your pack and scurrying the short distance up Donahue Peak for a 360.

Water was plentiful, lakes and rivers invited a swim, waterfalls and cascades provided music . . . mosquitoes were not too bothersome but my clothes had been treated with Premethrin which made a difference given others were complaining mightily of bites.

First glimpse of Banner Peak, IMPRESSIVE!

Clouds provided plenty of reflective drama, as well as a welcome cooling for the climbs.

Thousand Island Lake (notice the thunderstorm clouds; lightning made first appearance around 2:30pm)

Allergies? There was plenty of pollen around (photo of Garnet Lake).

Early morning at Garnet Lake

How can you not love these furry creatures?

These flowers look very similar to the pink mountain heather, but the vegetation looks much different.

Leaving Yosemite, the forest shows it’s real face. In one section, I actually lost trail and had to use my Trimble app to navigate my way back to the trail.

Cheery flowers make up for the dreary forest.

There is a convenient alternate trail to reach Red’s Meadow (food, laundry, camping) and Devils Postpile.

Devils Postpile

Best part of the side trip was GARBAGE!

I believe these are snow plant flowers

There was a large swath of old burn areas, but the bright green ferns added texture to the headless trees.

I was surprised by the lack of scat and tracks on the PCT/JMT. This was the only bear scat I saw, and it was a recent deposit. I suspected during the night trail pooper scoopers cleared the trail, much like on a parade route. It also seemed there might be an invisible electric fence protecting the trail corridor from wild animals.

Purple Lake

Sierra Columbine (Aquilegia pubescens)

Virginia Lake

Silver Pass looking north at Chief, Warrior, Squaw and Papoose Lakes. Love how my shadow photo bombed this pix.

Water, water, water!

Marie Lake

Selden Pass looking down at Marie Lake

Celebrating Independence Day on Selden Pass (another hiker shared his flag for this pix).

Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) was my resupply location. I was hoping beyond hope that maybe they’d have a room available. It was Day 6 on the trail and a shower plus real food sounded great. But alas, it was not to be. I arrived at 2:30 and was booted at 5. Thankfully MTR offers a large camp area and hot springs nearby where me and around 100 others spent the night celebrating July 4th. I could have used a day off, but this environment was not quite what I had in mind. I left with 9 days of food in my Garcia bear canister and a pack weighing 26-27 pounds. This would get me to Crabtree Meadows, plus a day of food to summit Whitney, and two days to exit via Cottonwood Pass to Horseshoe Meadows followed by a hitch to Lone Pine. There was a slight chance I’d get a Whitney Portal permit once I reached Crabtree Meadows.

This also marked an exit from John Muir Wilderness into Kings Canyon National Park.

The granite became softer and more sculpted. The trees changed to more sequoia’s (?) and water was the predominant feature.

Aspen trees were quite a surprise.

I spent much of the day taking breaks along the San Joaquin River and Evolution Creek.

Evolution, McClure and Colby Meadows along Evolution Creek provided opportunities for watching wildlife.

It was a great night to watch as storm clouds transitioned into a colorful sunset.

Evolution Lake

Who put this rock here? It just doesn’t belong . . .

I love when others add a little humor to our stone friends.

Wanda Lake was HUGE, but oh so windy. Met a gal camped there who said it’d been windy all night.

See the pyramid? That’s the top of Muir Hut. It sure motivated me to motor the rest of the way up this hill.

Almost there

When I arrived, I was excited to find not a soul around. I could have sat around an pondered for a while, but within 10-15 minutes a few other hikers arrived to interrupt my solitude.

Notice how the architecture of the hut mirrors the mountain in the background.

The ceiling of the hut is a marvel.

This little guy had a yellow underside.

This was my second fawn sighting. The first I startled and it tumbled down a hill onto the trail. It was quite young and it took a while to untangle those gangly legs and get them walking again. Mom was not far behind and safely got the fawn off trail.

The “Golden Staircase” leads to Palisade Lakes. This climb was a burner. Met a CCC crew rehabbing the trail, which gave me a good excuse at each turn to stop, thank them, and BREATHE!

The view from the top of the Golden Staircase down into the valley from which I’d just come.

Looking up toward Palisade Lakes and Mather Pass

This helicopter flew up the canyon and then dropped into a canyon opposite Palisade Lakes. I worried about a rescue but later found they were dropping a resupply for the CCC crew working on the Golden Staircase.

Lower Palisade Lake (notice thunderstorm building and I still have Mather Pass to cross today (11:15am)

A lot of amazing trail building in this granite-dominated landscape. LOTS and LOTS of stairs or steps, sometimes tiny like here, sometimes giant 2-3′ steps, really tough on short-legged gals.

Upper Palisade Lake

Today’s rock art, am I a whale or a shark? Am I friend or foe?

From Mather Pass, looking north toward Palisade Lakes

From Mather Pass, looking at the much more rugged peaks to the south.

Good morning Marmut! So cute, but so cunning, definitely opportunists.

Loved these sculpted peaks

Lake Marjorie

Transitioning to this red rock on my way up Pinchot Pass was a highlight of this trip.

Red rock plus green grass equals MAGIC!

Only saw these flowers in two places. High up on Pinchot and Glen passes. Definitely a bright spot hidden among the granite.

It had been a rough evening, with flash floods causing us to move our tents, which now mucky with damp contents, needed to be packed up. It’s hard to get motivated to keep going when clouds are low and visibility is limited. It does provide a different kind of beauty.

I was feeling optimistic by 8:45am when the skies seemed to brighten.

Within an hour, it had snowed, hailed, and showed us her mighty power with bright one-second-distant lightning and long growling thunder. Oh Mother Nature, stop throwing these tantrums!

When the lightning stopped, it was time to get back to hiking, especially since I was in an exposed area and wanted to make it to some tree cover before Mother Nature threw another tantrum.

Dollar Lake was a welcome sight, but with skies clearing it was time to hike on.

I sheltered a couple more times while Mother Nature continued her tantrums. I even had to set up my tent when one storm lasted several hours and I was too chilled to wait it out. I believe this is the infamous “Fin Dome” on Upper Rae Lake. Time is 2:15 and with the storm clearing it’s time to high tail it up Glen Pass.

Looking up at Glen Pass and the fresh snow, it was time to take advantage of this window of opportunity before another storm rolled in. Sadly 15 minutes from the top, the clouds dropped and I had zero visibility for photos. It was a race down the south side before another tantrum was unleashed.

I decided to exit the trail via Kersarge Pass into Onion Valley. I awoke to this beautiful view of the Kersarge Pinnacles and Lakes.

I was anxious to get to the trailhead in hopes of a ride. This photo was taken at 6:45am when the trail was still filled with a light pack of snow.

I didn’t have any information about the Kearsarge Pass Trail except distance. I had no idea about length or elevation of climb. The previous night I’d hiked until I found water. By then it was sleeting again and time to find a campsite.

I was at the pass at 6:45am, made it Onion Valley trailhead where I found a ride to Lone Pine and was checked into the Dow Motel by 9:30am.

Priority #2 FOOD at Alabama Hills Cafe! Priority #1 was a shower, 12 days of grime . . . ahhhh clean hair was the best!

Then time for a little laundry. I’ve learned to pack Oxyclean to soak my clothes both at resupply stops and at the end of a trip. This stench could not ride in my car 🙂

I left this section incomplete by exiting at Kearsarge Pass. Forester Pass and Mt Whitney will need to wait for another day.

I’m working on my gear list and will add that as a separate post.

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