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95 Days in the Sierra

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95 Days in the Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sat Nov 05, 2011 7:20 pm

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.



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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby maverick » Sun Nov 06, 2011 1:23 pm

Fun read, and looking forward to the other 4 installments.
Though after Day 17 it felt like the whole trip was about David's lack of ability, and
really gave the TR a negative tone, which took away some of the excitement and thrill
of this trip.
Really hope the mood changes, and it becomes the story of the your wonderful trip in the
Sierra again, and not about you bashing your friend.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Nov 06, 2011 2:12 pm

Lol well he went home on day 25 so I wont have to bash him after that. People bashed me for saying how annoying he is (he's my dad) but I think the story outlines some of why I do so.

I think there is a strong chance that I will go out for another 100 days next year and I am not sure I will plan a section for him this time.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby TahoeJeff » Mon Nov 07, 2011 10:20 am

Rogue, I haven't read all of part 1 yet, but I will. And I'm going to check out the rest of the saga as you present it. I know some here gave you a hard time a while back, but you went out and "walked the walk"!
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby Flux » Mon Nov 07, 2011 1:35 pm

Most Excellent !!
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby Cloudy » Mon Nov 07, 2011 2:29 pm

Yes, so a far a good read except for the companion-bashing which I hear will only last until day 25... I've hiked over most of your trip so far but not nearly as snow-covered so it's neat to see everything still snowy. I like my lakes non snow-covered though :-)
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby TahoeJeff » Mon Nov 07, 2011 4:56 pm

As I skim, I see "A-xxxx D-xxxx" at the heading for each day. What does that mean? Arrive, depart?
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon Nov 07, 2011 8:26 pm

A= Accent D= Decent.

Total number of altitude gained and lost recorded by my GPS.

If you see R-T that means rain and thunder happened on that day. I only have one day with R-T-S which of course S is for snow.

The thing about David is I might not bash him so much for lack of experience if his attitude was better. He talks a big game about adventure but when he gets out there he complains the whole time and does not want to have any real adventure.

It's gets annoying hiking with someone who the whole time is complaining how much it sucks and he doesn't seem to have any interest in learning anything more as I guide him.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby DAVELA » Mon Nov 07, 2011 10:23 pm

RoguePhotonic wrote:A= Accent D= Decent.

Total number of altitude gained and lost recorded by my GPS.

If you see R-T that means rain and thunder happened on that day. I only have one day with R-T-S which of course S is for snow.

The thing about David is I might not bash him so much for lack of experience if his attitude was better. He talks a big game about adventure but when he gets out there he complains the whole time and does not want to have any real adventure.

It's gets annoying hiking with someone who the whole time is complaining how much it sucks and he doesn't seem to have any interest in learning anything more as I guide him.


Excellent trip n pics.

Dude,you should take it easy on your dad on open forums.Youre lucky your dad makes an effort to go on trips with you.He might talk a big game but knows full well he cant hold a flame to you and is just trying to psyche himself up.He probably fears your ability.Many people have issues and a stormy past with their parents but if you can actually end up hanging out together in later years thats a good thing.Maybe plan just 7 day segment with him next time.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby oldranger » Tue Nov 08, 2011 9:43 am

Re: your dad

Do you not see the irony in your leaving a can in the firering then criticising your dad for leaving a foil packet? Then criticising him for talking a big game but changing his attitude when on the trip? Review your blustery attitude last spring with the adjustments you made in the first part of the trip!

I think you and your dad are pretty similar from my read.

Also why not relieve him of 10 lbs of gear/food to balance your abilities. My son does that for me and I still can't keep up with him but it makes for a more enjoyable trip.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby Flux » Tue Nov 08, 2011 12:03 pm

Another thing to note about hiking ability and pace. You had a chance to acclimatize and build strength. I take it that your father was coming straight up from low altitude and hitting the trail and this puts him in a bad imposition.

Also consider that max heartrate is 220-Age roughly and that makes a huge difference when you can sustain an extra 20-30 BPM or so. Your body was already in the process of making more red blood cells and you can pound harder. Your poor dad is sucking wind and his frequent stops are strictly due to the fact that he simply can't get enough oxygen and his heart is racing. Add in the thinning air at 11,000 or so and then it's even worse over 12,000 or so. Alot of people note a big change over 12,500 ft. you slow your pace and that's all you can do.

Being 40 and weighing over 220 makes me a lousy cardio guy. I am way slower than I was 20 years ago when I first hit the trails of the West. I also hike with folks who live at altitude and I can never keep up, they just have the extra blood and their physical activities at altitude make them way more fit than I. I always get there though!

We are hardest on the people close to us, this I know. No judgement here, just things to keep in mind. I hiked with a guy who burned it up the trail. I say that you don't HIKE with him, you just CAMP with him.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby copeg » Tue Nov 08, 2011 4:19 pm

Now that's a report! Thanks for taking the time to write your trip up and post all those nice pics.
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