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95 Days in the Sierra

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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby whrdafamI? » Sat Nov 19, 2011 10:10 pm

Backpacking with a guy you hate? That just doesn't make much sense. Highly illogical behavior. But when they have money and then they bring it to you that makes it alright?
Better to have it and not need it than it is to need it and not have it!

Get busy living or get busy dying.



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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby SSSdave » Sun Nov 20, 2011 11:30 am

Started reading this weeks ago when first posted, but quickly found issue with what I was reading, didn't have time, and instead decided to abort and spend some time later after others had made inputs.

RP >>> "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...
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. "

Recalling earlier threads on this board I wonder how much of your attitude is due to a resistance to considering advice of others when that is critical and differs from your own ideas. Resistance most of us have to some extent which is healthy though maybe more so for you. On public web boards what we post is sometimes misunderstood, taken out of context, narrowly considered, regardless of how well one might present their position. Part of reducing such is to craft one's inputs carefully so narrow minds, especially those with attitudes, cannot easily run off in false directions.

Unfortunately there are numbers of people whose daily communication contantly drips with emotion regardless of the subject under discussion. Their ingrained behavior is such that they can't relate much of anything without emotions coming out. Common with juveniles growing up though most grow out of that. For instance casually discussing within a group something like whether one ought ever wear an orange shirt to work should not be something others ought to get emotional about beyond a smile and some good natured joking. However an overly emotional person may become angry at others that simply disagree with them about that trivial issue. One often sees that behavior between two married people that are constantly emotionally nagging and complaining at each other. A wise approach is not to respond in kind as such people expect but rather in ways that calm and inhibit further responses.

RP >>>" I always wore long sleeve shirts and pants in the Sierra to protect from the sun and mosquitoes."

Wise indeed.

RP >>>"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."

As a young man, learn from that dilemna to plan adequately so as to not to put yourself in that position again.

RP >>>"At this point it had been raining for nearly 2 hours and I was soaked and ready to stop...
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...
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...
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."

The above shows inexperience with the broad range of Sierra thunderstorms possible. An experienced backpacker paying attention to the atmosphere can almost always readily avoid being caught in such situations by making conservative choices well before a storm is imminent. Waiting until rain starts may already be too late. Being cold and wet especially while solo when that includes one gear is more than simply uncomfortable, it may be a genuinely dangerous situation. Regardless of how supposedly weatherproof a pack is, it is wise to carry a waterproof pack cover on extended trips. You state you learn from experience. Will read then may comment on more later and see if that was so.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Nov 20, 2011 3:23 pm

Backpacking with a guy you hate? That just doesn't make much sense. Highly illogical behavior. But when they have money and then they bring it to you that makes it alright?


Lol very true. I am just too nice and I let him go because if I don't he will not go hiking at all the whole season. He didn't bring me money on the week he came. That was my uncle. I work for him in construction and he still owed me 1100 dollars when I left for my hike so he brought it to me on the same day that David came up.

Later in my hike around day 80 I was running out of money but I had checks at home so since David was wanting to once again get out and do a short hike and again I am too nice I let him come and bring me the money I needed (my money). I could have had someone else bring it but I let him. Of course he borrowed 260 dollars of the money he brought which I have yet to get back but that part of the trip will come much later.

Recalling earlier threads on this board I wonder how much of your attitude is due to a resistance to considering advice of others when that is critical and differs from your own ideas. Resistance most of us have to some extent which is healthy though maybe more so for you. On public web boards what we post is sometimes misunderstood, taken out of context, narrowly considered, regardless of how well one might present their position. Part of reducing such is to craft one's inputs carefully so narrow minds, especially those with attitudes, cannot easily run off in false directions


This is true but we have to remember that people resisted giving information I wanted for the alternative of simply saying "don't do it". My attitude of course was I am going to go and do it either way so I was just asking for the best information to help me along the way. An example of this was when I was planning a month long cross country hike across Death Valley National Park I was on forums seeking information about springs. I would see a spring on the map that I wanted first hand information on what I could expect if anything from that water source. In response many people just bashed me and said things like "if you had gone there in person you would know what it is like". My response is what kind of crap is that? Why would I be planning to hike through all these areas if I had already been there? That's why I am asking others.

The above shows inexperience with the broad range of Sierra thunderstorms possible. An experienced backpacker paying attention to the atmosphere can almost always readily avoid being caught in such situations by making conservative choices well before a storm is imminent. Waiting until rain starts may already be too late. Being cold and wet especially while solo when that includes one gear is more than simply uncomfortable, it may be a genuinely dangerous situation. Regardless of how supposedly weatherproof a pack is, it is wise to carry a waterproof pack cover on extended trips. You state you learn from experience. Will read then may comment on more later and see if that was so


I do agree completely this time in saying inexperience. I had become spoiled by Sierra weather the last few years and as a result had not even considered the idea of my pack getting soaked. I had some where around 17 days of rain on this trip when last year I had 4. Carrying a trash bag to put my gear in is now standard issue gear for my long trips. A pack cover is nice but it wont stop rain from running down your back and into your pack.

As for knowing the storm is coming I was well aware of that and am pretty good at predicting it days in advance but rain is simply a fact of life when hiking. It's true that generally I shouldn't let myself get soaked like I do although I almost always enjoy it.

All I have learned is one reason I am pretty set on going out again next year. After 3 years of doing this I have got everything so dialed in that I know I can do so many things better next year.

Two pieces of gear I learned would be essential are the trash bag of course and micro spikes. Not once any where did I do any post holing. Even in mid September this year all the snow fields I crossed were completely hard packed. When I crossed Red Peak Pass it was almost exactly one month later then it had been the year before and not only was there more snow this time but the year before I was post holing thigh deep. This time it was completely hard packed. More times then I care to remember I was on steep hard packed slopes where one slip meant sliding into the lake in water so deep you would be swimming. On Darwin Bench I slipped and fell and slid right down to the shore line. So as I said micro spikes will be standard gear now also.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby Jimr » Mon Nov 21, 2011 1:32 pm

Soaked and freezing and all you came up with was bring a trash bag? How about a poncho and pack cover? Standard equipment in my book.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Mon Nov 21, 2011 3:50 pm

I do agree completely this time in saying inexperience. I had become spoiled by Sierra weather the last few years and as a result had not even considered the idea of my pack getting soaked. I had some where around 17 days of rain on this trip when last year I had 4. Carrying a trash bag to put my gear in is now standard issue gear for my long trips. A pack cover is nice but it wont ,stop rain from running down your back and into your pack.

I like your attitude, and your enjoyment of storms reminds me a bit of John Muir. As for inexperience, there always seems to be something else to learn. Some of the best lessons are the hard won ones.
I do think a pack-cover would help (and it comes in handy as a dry place to unpack gear into). I have a Mont Bel gortex single layer jacket (and pants) that has a hood, so between the jacket and cover, it does the job. Some pack covers have a built-in hood, so you might look into that. Unless you have some rain-pants to go with it, a poncho is not so good. I found out in the Army that a poncho just funnels all the rain into you pants and boots.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon Nov 21, 2011 5:43 pm

I wasn't soaked because I didn't have rain gear but because I just didn't care. I have a 500 dollar rain shell I bring with me but more often then not when it starts to rain I just say the hell with it and enjoy a nice shower. I also had rain pants for that first storm as my standard pairs of pants were both water proof but of course I had to switch them out. The last two years I packed my rain pants for a month and never used them so I stopped bringing them.

I'd still prefer all my gear in a trash bag in my pack then a pack cover. It will make sure my gear stays dry and if I am bush whacking I don't have to worry about the cover ripping off.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Nov 21, 2011 6:55 pm

I agree- trash bag inside the pack is better than a pack cover. The only detail I would add is that I use compactor trash sacks because they are a lot tougher than regular trash bags. The compactor bag has on occasion doubled as a ground cloth under my tent.

As for rain, I tend to get soaked even with a rain jacket. Unless it is very cold, I now only wear raingear and underware and pack away my insulating clothes so they do not get wet. As long as I keep moving I stay warm enough.

Once I got caught on Colby Pass in a horrific surprise lightning storm. I would not say that you can avoid storms all the time, even if very experienced. Looking up to the pass from the east side, it did not look bad. The huge black mass of clouds on the west side was hidden. At the top I had to decide which way to go- decided to try to get to Colby Lake before the rain, but did not make it. By the time I got down to Colby Lake I was seriously chilled and soaked. I stopped and cooked a hot meal on the trail, and that did the trick. Then I continued on to Big Wet Meadow and camped (bivy only, no tent)- made a big fire,dried out and warmed up. That trip was my first experience with a wetter than usual Sierra summer. It basically rained for 5 days, each day getting progressively worse with longer duration rainfall. Of course, the day I got to the trailhead, it was suddenly gloriously clear!
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby justm » Mon Nov 21, 2011 7:15 pm

You seem a bit reckless, and I didn't like the hiding the stew can either, but sure have enjoyed your trip report and photos, looking forward to reading the next segment. You've got guts and willpower!! Thanks for the report! ( I hear you about the rainstorms, can be refreshing!!) :nod:
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:42 pm

Sorry it took so long but the image work is what takes all the time.

Part 2/5:

Day 21 A-600 D-600

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

Day 22 A-1629 D-3337

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

Day 23 A-613 D-2005

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

Day 24 A-292 D-1506

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

Day 25 A-3257 D-318

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

Day 26 A-1845 D-437

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

Day 27 A-2327 D-2065 R

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

Day 28 A-1596 D-2568 R-T

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

Day 29 A-696 D-536 R-T

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

Day 30 A-3566 D-5537 R

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

Day 31 A-975 D-4000

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

Day 32 Layover

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

Day 33

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

Day 34 A-3236 D-183

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

Day 35 A-3018 D-2727

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

Day 36 A-1956 D-1050

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

Day 37 A-2042 D-2704

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

Day 38 A-2871 D-2563

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

Day 39 A-1430 D-3091

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

Day 40 A-3994 D-3255

Moving up the trail to Bishop Pass was an easy task as the switchbacks were a beautiful grade. The view of Leconte Canyon was amazing as I slowly but steadily made the grind. By the time I had zig zagged through the beautiful Dusy Basin and topped out at the pass I must have engaged in conversation with over 15 people. Dropping down past all the amazing views I had to marvel at the amazing trail work done here and the massive rock slides that served to destroy it all. The grind down continued it's beauty with one lake after another. When I was about a mile from the trail head I talked to a guy for awhile and he offered to give me a ride down to Parchers Resort. Once he dropped me off I went into the store excited to get a good meal but was disappointed because the place had a restaurant that serves food for breakfast on only four days of the week, no lunch and the only night for dinner was Saturday and this was not it. Their selection of food was limited to a bag of marsh mellows a few cans of soup and some mixed bits of snacks. Their drink selection was one small fridge but had anything I would have wanted. It turned out I walked into the store 5 minutes before closing so if I hadn't got the ride I wouldn't have got anything at all. So grabbing the soup and chips for dinner I asked about showers and I got confusing answers which led me to believe I was too late to buy tokens but this wasn't true. The store clerk told me I could follow an old road to the nearest campground but as I made my way through the resort and onto an old road it turned out to be the wrong one so before long I was climbing through thick bush until I finally picked up the proper road. As I made my way into the campground it turned out to be very small and full. I was a bit dismayed as I had not seen any terrain that looked like I could camp. I turned back on the road to the resort and began searching some of the trails that went into the thicket. This whole area was a complete jungle of Willows and Aspens. Once again I found nothing and kept moving slowly down the road picking apart every inch of the terrain. Finally I saw a drainage heading off into the jungle and thought this might be my best bet so I followed it into the mess and found a spot just big enough to set up my tent. Sleeping in this thicket was both beautiful and eerie as a large moon casted a million shapes and shadows. Crickets chirping, rustling in the bushes, 20 extra bucks in my pocket and another night in the Range of Light comes to an end.
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RoguePhotonic
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Dec 12, 2011 5:24 pm

Thanks for all the effort of this great report and photos. The wait was worth it! Marion Lake and Amphitheater Lake were the best! I am looking forward to seeing more photos on your web page.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby mokelumnekid » Tue Dec 13, 2011 12:50 am

What WD said! I can well imagine that Cataract Creek Pass was the worst of your trip and it can be vexing even in a normal or low snow year. Too bad you couldn't spend more time in Lakes Basin.
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Re: 95 Days in the Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:31 am

Yeah Lakes Basin was amazing. I have begun planning the next hike and I may put an extra day in for exploring that basin.

As for photos I have all photos up to week 5 on FlickR and week 6 is almost done. Week 6 ended when I went back over Bishop and to Muir Pass.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/roguephotonic/sets/
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