Clouds were forming again as I left Kennedy Meadows
Back to the trail
Nice bridge over the Kern. I'm a big fan of bridges.
Last year this had been on fire. Now it was on fire with flowers.
This is my first pair of these shoes. They are already worn out. I have another pair waiting in Lone Pine and I'll pick up a third pair in central Oregon. I will outgrow them, though, and have to buy some different shoes with a 4E width in Seattle. These shoes were great. I had no foot trouble. The Seattle shoes were not as good.
It had poured rain as I walked through the flowers and the fire zone. I had gotten very wet because I waited too long to put on my rain chaps. I was worried about the snow I could see ahead. I would be walking into that snow. I was worried I might get hypothermia.
I think this is Monache Meadow
Here is the "swallow bridge" over the South Fork of the Kern. I stopped here to eat a hot meal. I was wet and cold, but the rain stopped and I dried out.
I think this is Cow Creek.
I had my rain pants on now, and it started to rain again. I set up my tent under this tree hoping for safe haven from the cold rain. It had been raining now off and on for about a week or maybe a little more.
In the morning, the trail was covered in snow once I reached around 9 or 10,000 feet. I had been warm, safe and dry in my tent last night. I also used my bivy sack because the tent walls were wet.
Fortunately there were footprints to follow, but they were kind of icy and difficult to walk in.
I stopped to dry my tent in the sun and instantly this cloud formed to block the sun.
Last year I had found this knife sticking in this log. It was still here. I left it here.
I descended out of the snow.
Four little snow plants in a row.
Walkway over a very soggy meadow. In between the grass, the water was probably a foot deep.
Even though it was not raining on me, it was raining somewhere.
I think this is Langley Peak. Much snowier than it was last year.
I went out Trail Pass trail to Horseshoe Meadow. I planned to resupply in Lone Pine. I don't know what that blue spot is. I think it's a defect.
Langley Peak again. I've climbed Langley but not Whitney. From Langley you can see all the hoards of people on Whitney.
Ice had formed on the plants over this small creek.
This is Steve. I met him in Mammoth. My plan had been after reaching Lone Pine to jump ahead to Bishop and complete the Evolution Valley segment I had skipped last year. The high snow and stormy conditions caused me to abort that plan and take a bus to Mammoth instead. I decided maybe to walk from Red's Meadow to Tuolumne Meadows. In Mammoth I met Steve and shared a campsite with him. He was homeless and penniless but the happiest and most contented person I have met.
Snow continued to fall on the mountains around Mammoth. I took the bus to Red's and met some hikers who had hiked some of the High Sierra and had horror stories to tell of the snow. I took the bus back to Mammoth rather than hike in the snow.
I took a bus from Mammoth to Tuolumne Meadows, hoping that the lower elevation in Section I would be better for hiking. I missed Section I last year and my goal this year was to complete it. This picture is of the Mobil Mart in Lee Vining. It is supposed to have the best food and live music on US 395.
The famous Mobil Mart in Lee Vining is the best kept secret of the Eastern Sierra. I didn't get any food or live music. All I got was a potty stop on the bus trip to Tuolumne Meadows.
Now in Tuolumne Meadows, I didn't know what to do so I went for a little hike.
I saw a map on a sign on the trail and it looked like I could make a 20 mile loop of Lyell Canyon, Vogelsang and Rafferty Creek. So I hiked up Rafferty Creek, but up here around 9000 feet I came upon snow. It wasn't too bad and I followed footprints and could see the trail well enough.
Within a few tenths of a mile of Vogelsang, I turned back here because I had trouble walking on this snow. I postholed and fell down and was afraid of slipping on the steep angle. I also could not see the trail and did not know if the trail went straight or switchbacked. I had no map so I thought turning back was the best course of action.
I think this is Booth Lake. It's on the way down a trail to Yosemite. After not reaching Vogelsang, I thought maybe continuing the Rafferty Creek trail down to Yosemite might be more snow free.
Another small lake. You can see by the drops on the lake that it is now raining a bit.
I gave up on the trail down to Yosemite. It, too, was snowbound and I started losing the trail. Rather than struggle without a map, I headed back. Here is Booth Lake again.
I made camp in a cozy place on the Rafferty Creek trail.
I had my own private waterfall to drink from. It was a small waterfall.
In the morning I set out my tent to dry and a curious bird was very interested in it.
I passed by this fabulous swimming hole wishing desperately it had been summer instead of still winter.
I returned to Tuolumne Meadows and wondered what to try next.
I took the free shuttle to Olmstead Point and saw Halfdome.
The weather was still pretty bad.
The view from Olmstead is really nice.
Back I went to Tuolumne and when I arrived at the store, I met Lenny, my friend from Santa Barbara. We decided to tackle Section I together. I had purchased a topo map from the Visitor Center and had planned to hike a lower altitude route through the area and rejoin the PCT after about 30 miles of low altitude hiking. Lenny liked the idea because he had done the whole High Sierra and wanted a break from the altitude and snow. While in Tuolmne Meadows campground we met Chuck and invited him along, too. We three set off the following day to Glen Aulin.
Lenny had broken one of his trekking poles. He called the broken one his ice axe. He had found it handy to have a shorter pole and had used it for self-arrest. He had harrowing tales of his hike through the High Sierra in all that weather and snow.
The Tuolumne River was amazing.
We passed Glen Aulin and the junction with the PCT and instead stayed on the trail down through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Eventually we would reach the 5000s in elevation from Tuolumne Meadows' 8900.
Lots of falls on the river.
This may have been Waterwheel Falls. It was hard to tell. I think the river was overflowing so much that it didn't have the normal waterwheel effect. We loved hiking down this trail.
Lenny stops to look at the view on this cliff.
The power of the river and the spray from the falls.
This might have been Waterwheel Falls.
The river just roared.
We stopped here at Return Creek to have dinner. We were grateful there was a bridge. The PCT guide book warned about the dangerous, unbridged Return Creek crossing. We were glad to be down here with a bridge.
As we descended, the trail became a route through primeval forest
Waterfalls dropped into the canyon
This waterfall was near where we camped for the night.
Here is my tent sent up where we camped. It was raining when I set it up, then the rain stopped. It was balmy and warm here. We had no condensation in the morning. We had a little fire in the evening. All three of us were so happy to be here. We loved it down here at this low altitude.
In the morning we continued our descent.
We dropped toward this side creek. I was very nervous about what would be around this corner.
We had to cross the creek here. I was afraid to walk the rocks on the edge there. I waded to my crotch a little off-screen to the right. Lenny walked along those rocks where the waterfall appears and only got wet to his ankles.
We began a relentless climb after a few more hours of descending. Near the top of our climb, I saw this bear guarding a deer carcass.
Aspens. I guess I didn't take any pictures of our camp site near the bear. We camped about 15 minutes away from him. We stopped early to camp because Chuck realized he had lost a green bag full of important things like his wallet, passport and phone. He ran back several miles all the way down the horrendous climb we had just completed to retrieve it.
Bear claw marks
In the morning, we dropped into Pleasant Valley and had to cross here at Piute Creek. Above this were waterfalls and rapids. Below this were the same. I took this picture after having swum across here. My bear can allowed me to float with my pack on. I paddled on my back frantically and arrived on the bank with my stuff mostly dry. Chuck did the same thing. Lenny found a log over the rapids and didn't even get his feet wet.
We climbed out of Pleasant Valley.
We had to go down this snowy slope to drop into Bear Valley. We would have to climb and drop again to get to the PCT.
A nice lake not on the PCT.
I think this is our last descent into Kerrick Canyon where we rejoined the PCT.
Here we are at the junction rejoining the PCT. Just beyond view is Kerrick Canyon creek. We crossed that nicely on a log. Then climbed up and over into Stubblefield canyon where Chuck and I got very wet crossing that creek (I floated away again for another swim.) We walked a few more miles after Stubblefield and camped in a wet meadow.
In the morning we hiked on to Wilmer Lake. Here it is.
Wilmer Lake was a really nice lake. We saw a huge trout.
We crossed the outflow of Wilmer Lake easily up ahead there on an I-beam bridge.
Then the PCT expected us to cross the river here. It's a National Scenic Trail in one of the most popular national parks in the whole world. Would it hurt them to put a bridge here for crying out loud? They send me stuff asking for money to save the PCT from logging. I say chop down some trees and build a bridge or a ferry boat or something. There was no way across this. We had to walk upstream for miles cross-country.
We walked upstream along the creek, Falls Creek, for miles going cross-country and looking for a safe crossing. We eventually reached the outflow of Tilden Lake and the trail to Tilden Lake. We followed the trail a ways and found a reasonable crossing of Tilden Lake's outflow, then went back down to Falls Creek and found this easy crossing. When I got to the other side I did a dance and sang, "I'm not going to die!" I had been so anxious all morning about crossing that dangerous Falls Creek. What a relief!
Now we would make a gradual climb through marshy meadows to Dorothy Lake Pass.
Dorothy Lake was frozen.
Finally we crested at Dorothy Lake Pass. That's Lenny and Chuck.
Lenny throws a snowball at Chuck.
We descended cross-country most of the time from Dorothy Pass in the snow. When the snow thinned out, we followed the trail, crossing more thick streams, but nothing like the other raging rivers. Walker River trail was smooth sailing and we motored along quickly and got a lot of good miles in. We began climbing toward Sonora Pass and chose this meadow to camp in before the final climb.
In the morning, we prepared to climb to Sonora Pass. Lenny was going to try the PCT route. Chuck and I were going to take the Leavitt Lake detour.
Approaching Emigrant Pass.
I made a wide arc around this snowfield. When I reached those trees on the pass, I was on a dirt road. The Leavitt Lake detour was supposed to follow a dirt road on a saddle. I was on a dirt road on a saddle, but I was very confused. My map did not make sense. The dirt road was not on the map but I could see it clearly heading diagonally up that mountain through vertical snowfields. It was too scary to follow that road. I had lost Chuck, who had appeared right behind me and then vanished. I never saw Lenny. I didn't know what to do. I searched around this whole saddle and could not see a reasonable way to proceed.
So, without a reasonable way to proceeed, I dropped over Emigrant Pass into this valley, hoping it was the right way to Leavitt Lake. I started cross-country but quickly found a trail to follow.
By the time I found this cabin, I had realized that I was not headed for Leavitt Lake at all. I was headed for Kennedy Meadows Resort.
I dropped a long way to Kennedy Meadows. The trail was packed with people and horses. I had to look at all these horse butts for a long time before there was a place for me to pass.
At long last I reached the store!
Plenty of Dove Bars and It's Its to eat here! Lots of other good stuff, too. I should have investigated more.
After reaching Kennedy Meadows Resort and having some ice cream, I hitchhiked to Bridgeport. It took three rides. I wanted to get there quick to reassure Chuck who I knew would be worried sick about me. I found him and indeed he'd been ready to call Search and Rescue. I decided to walk up to a nearby hot spring to soak and spend the night. This is the view on the way.
Here is the Travertine Hot Spring where I soaked. Eventually three women joined me and we had a nice time chatting and soaking in the tepid water. Once in a while, hot water would flow into our pool. It felt good to get clean. Later I packed out of the area and made a stealth camp in the pinyon pines where birds made strange noises at dusk and dawn. After Bridgeport, I felt I had had enough excitement and took a bus to Reno. My mom picked me up and drove me to her house in Lake Almanor where I spent some time visiting with family and waiting for mail to catch up to me. Section I was complete. It would soon be time to complete some more missing pieces of last year's hike.