Independence to Mammoth

Independence to Mammoth

May 29, 2014

Start: Independence Resupply Side Trip Mile 0.0 (of 7.5)
End: Charlotte Lake Side Trip Mile 0.5 (of 0.5)
Distance: 7.5 + 1.0 + 0.5 = 9.0 Mi
Cumulative: 817.0 Mi

The hike back in today wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be. My pack didn’t feel that heavy once I got it on and buckled, though it was a beast to get on my shoulders in the first place. It felt way worse coming out of Kennedy Meadows. Maybe the way it was packed? I suppose it could be all in my head. Either way, I’m not complaining.

Jumped in lake number 5 today: Kearsarge Lakes. I was planning on jumping in at Charlotte Lake, but I knew I wouldn’t get in until pretty late, since I didn’t leave the trailhead until about 330p. At least this way, I could dry off while I hiked the last few miles to camp. It worked out well, because I didn’t get here until around 8p.

I ran into Zippy, Shredder, and Mountain Goat on the trail this afternoon. Turns out they shared a room in Independence last night. That would’ve been so fun, but I didn’t even know they were in town, though apparently they said hey to me when I was on the phone with Cassie. Guess I was a bit distracted. Hopefully I’ll see more of these guys in the coming days and weeks. I really like ’em. Great group.

May 30, 2014

Start: Charlotte Lake Side Trip Mile 0.0 (of 0.5)
End: Halfmile 0806.0
Distance: 16.5 + 0.5 = 17.0 Mi
Cumulative: 834.0 Mi

Didn’t even bother setting an alarm this morning. It was so nice to just wake up and not be in any hurry.

Glen Pass was cool, but I got there a little later in the morning, so the light wasn’t all that great. Think I’ll try to time the next few a little better, so I can get nicer photos. The more I see of the high country, the more I feel like I wanna come back and thru-hike the JMT in like 5-10 years. It’s unreal out here, and it would be cool to trek over some of the highlights (so far) from this summer. But until then, I wanna have some great photos to reminisce over.

Descended all the way to 8,500′ from about 12,000′ coming off of Glen, then I climbed up to about 11,000′ where I’m camped tonight. I’m just a few short miles from Pinchot, because I wanna get two passes tomorrow, both Pinchot and Mather. It’s cold and windy up here, mostly snow with a few spartan campsites. No trouble finding water, though. The snow is melting fast out here. Early start tomorrow; should be a bit uncomfortable the first few hours.

Halfway through the “12 in 12” Project! Found a sweet rock outcropping over Rae Lakes this side of Glen Pass earlier today. Jumped right off into deep water. Best one yet. So cold; so fun. Six down, six to go!

May 31, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0806.0
End: Halfmile 0830.5
Distance: 24.5 Mi
Cumulative: 858.5 Mi

Pinchot and Mather were both fairly straightforward, though I did lose the approach trail to Mather. Had to cut cross-country to pick it up just below the switchbacks. Still a bit of snow up here. Pieced together a route up the headwall that included some switchbacks and some switchback cutting. Basically just followed footsteps up. I was feeling good today, totally cruising. I was the first of our group to top out on Mather, which was kind of cool. Petty victories are fun too.

After jumping in Palisade Lakes, I took lunch to dry out. Zippy joined me. After he left, a curious marmot came over. My food was already packed, and I was just about ready to go. He was eating a few crumbs Zippy had dropped. And he was a curious little fella. I started snapping photos. Usually I can’t get good wildlife pictures with this wide angle lens, but he was more than accommodating. More than once, he got right up to my camera lens, like within a few centimeters. A few times he was so close, I couldn’t even focus on his face. I could’ve reached right out and touched him. Pretty cool stuff, if ya ask me.

June 1, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0830.5
End: Halfmile 0853.5
Distance: 23.0 Mi
Cumulative: 881.5 Mi

Started hiking at 330a. Had a ten mile approach, and I’d been told that this would be the snowiest of the passes, including 5 miles down the other side. Don’t wanna posthole if I don’t have to. Spent much of the morning hiking adjacent to a creek swollen with snowmelt. Listened intently to the thundering cascades, rarely glimpsing one and even then only just thanks to the dim starlight and the feeble reach of my headlamp’s beam. The final 1,000-1,500′ of climb was totally blanketed in snow. There were tracks every-which-way. I picked my way to the top. If you look carefully at the center of this photo, you can see GRaPeNuT do the same. This was one of my favorite passes, right up there with Forester. The views were unbelievable, the snow was majestic, the lakes were frozen. It was something. On the way down, I was taking a break and saw a coyote trot carelessly across frozen Wanda Lake. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea they came this high up. I was so struck that I didn’t even take a photo. Incredible.

Evolution Lake makes number 7. After lunch, I descended steep switchbacks down a canyon wall dropping into Evolution Valley and ultimately fording Evolution Creek. Anyone wanna guess the name of the dominating peak that rises above Evolution Lake? Yep, Darwin Peak. Obvi.

Made camp around 5p and enjoyed having some sunlight for a change at the end of my day. Not planning a pass tomorrow, so I’ll get going whenever I get going. Should be a relatively easy 15 miles.

June 2, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0853.5
End: Halfmile 0869.5
Distance: 16.0 + 2.0 = 18.0 Mi
Cumulative: 899.5 Mi

Took a side trip to Blayney Hot Springs today. It was about 2 miles off-trail, so I figured YOLO. Had to ford a pretty serious river. The water wasn’t all that high, but it was fast. I got about a fifth of the way out and felt like I might get swept away with each step. Even my trekking poles were getting pulled downstream. And it was going to get way worse before it got better. I debated for a few short moments there in the current, then turned back, which is the moment I came closest to losing my footing. Broadside to a strong current is way not fun. Made it back fine and ultimately found a huge log-jam at a bottleneck upstream. Ditched my pack and picked my way across. Found the hot springs after some easy scouting and spent a good hour soaking in the slightly warmer than luke-warm water. At least I had the place to myself. Worth it.

Wasn’t planning to tackle Seldon Pass, but it was so inviting, even at the late hour of 530p. The camping on the south side wasn’t too promising and it looked like weather might be building, so I just followed another group of thru-hikers up and over. Figured it was best to just get it behind me. There wasn’t very much snow on the north aspect. We postholed a few times and were setting up camp within 20 minutes of topping out. Easiest pass yet, by far.

June 3, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0869.5
End: Halfmile 0886.0
Distance: 16.5 + 6.0 = 22.5 Mi
Cumulative: 922.0 Mi

Started off the day right: forgot my camera battery at the campsite…nearly 3 miles back…uphill. I’d taken it out, because my second battery was about to die. I didn’t wanna have to stop later, so I was just gonna slip my third into my hipbelt pocket. Instead, I pulled it out and left it on the ground. I was distracted, because Mountain Goat and Shredder caught me this morning. I was so excited that I just wanted to get going. Does that make the dreaded number three? There was my phone, then my poles, now my camera battery. That’s it, right? I’m good to go from now on? Good.

I ditched my pack and literally jogged up the side of the mountain to retrieve my battery. Thankfully, it was exactly where I expected it to be. I turned around and jogged right back down. It added 6 miles to my day, because I totally missed my pack and ran right by it on the way down. I got down to the Bear Creek Ford and had to backtrack again…UP the mountainside. Sheesh. Not my day, I guess. But if that’s my biggest struggle right now, I’m doing just fine.

After today, I can understand a little better how frustrating it is for my mom. Usually, I’m better about this kind of stuff at home, because I have systems and to-do lists, there is some consistency. But out here, I’m flying by the seat of my pants. Turns out I’m not so “on it” when I don’t feel grounded. Even in my travels, I usually have a base, whether it’s my car, the company rig, or a yurt. There always seems to be something. Out here, it’s just me and my pack. It still counts as a “base”; I just need to be better about utilizing it. And I am. I’m improving all the time.

With my extra miles, I covered almost 23 today. It was supposed to be an easy day! Nonetheless, I made camp around 530p tonight. I’m posted up right at the crest of this sweet waterfall. I had to ford its outlet just a quarter mile ago, and now I’m eating dinner and listening to it roar off the side of a cliff. There is literally one flat spot, barely big enough for one cowboy camper. That’s me. Sometimes it’s really nice being a solo backpacker. The group thing is cool sometimes too, but I like feeling free to do my own thing whenever the urge strikes. Not sure where Mountain Goat and Shredder are camped, but they’re not far. I’ll see ’em tomorrow.

June 4, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0886.0
End: Iva Bell Alternate Mile 10.0 (of 22.0)
Distance: 7.0 + 10.0 = 17.0 Mi
Cumulative: 939.0 Mi

I ran into Mountain Goat on the way up to Silver Pass this morning, and Shredder shortly thereafter at Squaw Lake, which I promptly jumped in. We’d all tentatively planned to take an alternate route to camp at Iva Bell Hot Springs tonight. I wasn’t totally sold. I figured if I didn’t run into them this morning, I’d just stay on the PCT. All told, the alternate will bypass about 20 miles of the trail and add 5 to my trip overall. That’s a long way to go, especially since I didn’t know anything about it. Shredder has been there before, but only once and it’s been a while. His words.

When we arrived at the Cascade Valley Trail, I veered right with the two of them. YOLO, right? We passed lots of cool cascading waterfalls and a few trail junctions. Shredder seemed (relatively) certain, and there were some arrows from hikers who had been recently. Hiking on pure faith for 10 long miles, though I guess we weren’t technically lost. We just didn’t have maps or beta. We could always backtrack, if we got desperate. It was mostly flat with a few short uphills, then we dropped way down into a valley. We had arrived, though I never would’ve known if not for Shredder. I would’ve hiked right on by it. We bushwhacked for about 10 seconds, then the first of two pools was laid out in front of us. There were supposedly three more up the ravine some place, but I couldn’t find them and instead stumbled upon a different one when I went looking. Who knows how many secluded pools there are up there. Eight? Ten?? This is a cool place, a locals’ secret. There are only a handful of other folks here, so it’s like having our own private retreat. Pretty rad.

June 5, 2014

Start: Iva Bell Alternate Mile 10.0 (of 22.0)
End: Iva Bell Alternate Mile 22.0 (of 22.0)
Distance: 12.0 Mi
Cumulative: 951.0 Mi

Though I closely noted our route into and out of Iva Bell Hot Springs, I won’t divulge that information here. After all, it is a local secret. I don’t wanna ruin the pristine nature of that place. I’m just glad we got to experience it. If you guys are nice to me, maybe I’ll take you there one day.

I had a morning soak before the sun came up, then hit the trail with Mountain Goat. Today is town day, and we love town days. They’re the BEST! We made Red’s Meadow Resort before 11am. I finally scored at a hiker box: unopened bag of Famous Amos cookies; unopened pack of organic beef sticks; and a bag of quality trail mix. #FTW

Went in and bought soda and ice cream, then headed down to the Rainbow Falls TH to catch a hitch. We got one and were on our way within 10 minutes. We really didn’t wanna walk; it’s like 10 miles up and over a ridge to town. Mammoth is a cool place. I realized I’ve been here before briefly when I was in NWSA. We came here to meet our climbing guide, then we went climbing somewhere not far from town. Great outfitter.

Got food at a local BBQ place, then I found 10k. He said I could shower at his hotel, which I eagerly agreed to do. Afterwards, I headed down to the library to “run” some internet errands. I’ve been here ever since. Looks like I’ll need some time tomorrow too. I wanted to get back out today, but that’s not gonna happen. Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll get out of here tomorrow afternoon. Maybe. But then again, maybe I’ll get sucked into the Mammoth Vortex. It’s a dangerous game, town stops.