I'm headed on a long circle from Onion Valley over the K-K Divide, and then on to the Muir Crest. I haven't been hitting my goals with any accuracy lately, and this trip may be another of my big-eyed, but ill-planned routes, we'll see. I'll give a sketch of the so called plan via the passes, and see how it evolves as I age along the trail:
As I had hoped in my earlier post above, this time I did manage to haul my now actually 60 year old self along on the long route I had planned. Rough weather put just a small dent in the distance to be traveled. I subtracted the "Discovery Ridge to Trail Crest" day hike, which was going to include a climb of Mt. Muir on the way, but I got to climb Mt. Muir anyway, by tying it in with the Mount Whitney day. I stuck to backcountry areas for much of the way, and so, I was happily alone for eight days of the twelve day journey. I climbed one new peak, and three new routes that I have long desired. Also, I finally caught up to our native golden trout again, and 3 other trout species, whom I gratefully ate to keep me going. Besides the four climbs, new passes, and the fine fishing, the highlight of this long trip was all the wildlife I saw as I passed through these wild and empty places. I carried a good set of binoculars on my chest, and I'll never be without them again. I had so much fun and fascination watching creatures- from those elegant mountaineers-- the Sierra bighorn sheep, to the outrageously energetic and playful alpine chipmunks! Having the binos changed the tenor and the pace of my trip. Hoping to see animals, I would stop at every new rise to glass over the land for wildlife. When you see something first with your eyes, and then put the binos on it- say, a pika, it's great, but it's a different and even more amazing experience to glass slowly through a seemingly empty valley, and suddenly find some great, antlered deer in your vision! This happened to me three times up in the Tyndall and Center Basins. Up in the Williamson Basin I found the bighorn sheep I sought, and another time the barren rockscape of Arctic Lakes Basin beneath the sharp side of Mt Russell was brought to life by a pair of prancing coyotes, cruising the lush creekside for errant marmots. One marmot hopped up on a rock not 30' away, and began shrieking at them.Onion Valley (8/9) Kearsarge Pass- Thunder Col- Russell-Carillon Pass- Whitney-Russell Pass- (*maybe) Discovery Ridge to Trail Crest- Rockwell Saddle- Shepherd Pass- Junction Pass- North shoulder of University, ... return to TH on 8/19.
A favorite quote that I carry with me in the backcountry goes something like this: "Nature without wildlife is just scenery."* That idea inspires me to find the local wildlife that brings a place to life. And so, the trout; the ever-present birdlife; squirrels, snakes and frogs; and the few big, exciting animals I got to see, really made my trip wonderful.
I arrived in Onion Valley in the evening (8/8), and was so keen to get off that I hiked into the night with the old headlamp. People were all in camp, so I passed almost no one on the way up. By 10:30 I was 3 miles in, and perched above Heart Lake. My night-time photo efforts are shite, so I've got nothing. I did see darkling beetles, aka "stink bugs" on the night trail, followed by a 3" black centipede, then the weird eye-shine of a .... it was a big bloody wolf spider! I guess 8 eyes make for good eye-shine even in a tiny creature. Other than that, I saw the usual bunch of bats. At 8 A.M. next morning I was up on the first pass- Kearsarge, for the something-teenth time, and still in love with the view of the Great Western Divide.
Here I am as light as (I) can be: 35lbs. for 12 days, including No Water; but 8 oz. medicinal brandy, and 4 oz. olive oil and soy for future fish meals.
K.pass in the late summer. I entered, and unwittingly, exited via Kearsarge Pass. Kearsarge Pass lies above the town of Independence on the eastside, and is just 4.7 miles from the TH at Onion Valley.
Below is a comparison of the same spot from my ski trip in May of a very snowy year.
A great sight on the far side of the pass-- the magical mountain East Vidette seen in late summer, and below in spring.
No friendly dog companion this time; the trip was nearly all in SEKI National Park. (On the spring trip Bearzy here followed me into the Park, even though I told him "No!")
Blue Grouse, now called the "Sooty Grouse." I saw 8 during the whole trip, some with chicks.
Flowers are still about; here is the sunflower Helenium, and the purple monkshood below.
I soon got to East Lake, which is so beautiful that one of you should build a hidden cabin on it... or a pit house, or live up in a tree, and send posts to us from there-- What a great place to be!
Here's the outlet, near where I camped. There's a busted bear box that I made to work, and nobody else- the beginning of 3 days and nights alone.
I fished in the A.M. on the east side of this paradise, looking up at the peaks, and catching enough of these to eat for breakfast-- are these the Brown trout you told me about John? They're not very brown; why not call them: "Spotted yellow trout?"