John Muir Wilderness – Mono Creek

DSC_4969-PANO
Pioneer Lakes in Pioneer Basin

Photo album -> HERE

Day 1 – Tuesday, August 29

IMG_7021

The first day would be a long day. Not that hiking in about 8 or 9 miles would be long, but simply getting up at 430 AM would make it that way. I slept at work to save about 30 minutes of driving and was out the door at 5 AM. I picked up a coworker about 20 minutes later and off we went. We had to drive to Lake Thomas Edison, meet up with the rest of the team, and then catch the ferry.

IMG_7020

The drive up was quiet traffic wise. The sun didn’t begin to rise until after we went over Kaiser Pass. This is when we saw some wildlife moving about. A doe and one fawn flew out in front of us. Within another 5 seconds a second fawn almost crashed into us sliding down the hill. Thankfully everything was okay and the adrenaline pushed out any sleepiness we had left.

It was around 745 AM when we arrived at the campground by the Mono Creek trail head. Here are team was waiting and so was the stock. The mules and horses were eating their morning breakfast while we unloaded the gear from our vehicles. This time the livestock were going to carry in our gear and we only had a day pack with us. Inside consisted of water, snacks, lunch, and a rain jacket for me. Once we were all set, we made our mile hike down the road to the ferry at Vermilion Resort.

It was a quick hike to arrive at the general store. We checked in and was told to head down to the boats where the ferry would be leaving at 830 am. We said thank you and made our way there only to find we were the first ones. Relaxing along the shore line until 845 am, the ferry driver arrived along with about a dozen people. The ride over was full of backpackers going back onto the JMT or PCT. I believe we were the only ones heading up the Mono Creek trail. Anyway, the ride was refreshing and quick. It saved us all about 5 miles of walking as we docked on the other side 15 to 20 minutes later.

Departing the ferry, we started hiking right away. In a few short minutes we passed the John Muir Wilderness sign. The trail was well traveled and we had a few fun shots with a fallen tree along the way. There was no sense in rushing to our destination as we had to wait for the livestock to make the way around the lake. They likely were not going to start till around 10 or 11 that morning.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was so excited and pumped on the hike. Every step was exploring something new and untraveled for me. My energy levels were up and many photos were snapped along the way. Some parts of the trail went through riparian areas were causeways were built to minimize damage. It was not long and we would make it to our first trail junction. Here we had made it to the PCT and JMT. We made a left heading in the direction of Silver Pass.

Shortly after making a left turn, we had our first “major” creek crossing. The water was still flowing quite well too. Thankfully Stephanie remembered one of the wilderness rangers comments about a down tree nearby the trail crossing to use. We did find it and made our way across no problem. It wasn’t long and the first steady uphill climb would begin.

DSC_4579-PANO

There were some switch backs and definitely good rock trail work. It wasn’t long at all and the first “step” in our uphill climb was over. We took a small break to make sure everyone, that being all 4 of us, were caught up and good to go. I forgot my cell phone was still on and started to receive notifications. AT&T is the only thing that works at the lake and apparently some points on the trail. I quickly shut it off, but it was good to know if I need to make an emergency call. Anyway, onward and upward!

The trail took us over some bedrock outcrops, exposed areas, and then back into some of the forest. It was here that our second trail junction would come into view. It was now time to leave the PCT/JMT and continue onto the Mono Creek trail towards Mono Pass. Most of us were hungry for lunch at this point, so heading up the trail about 400 feet, we stopped in a aspen stand. The down aspens were used as seats while we ate, chatted, and played “this day in history” trivia. It was an enjoyable time and well needed. My breakfast was at 440 AM so it was definitely time.

Now that lunch was over, this would be our last step of an uphill climb. Now, down get me wrong, we were always going uphill on the trail, but to actually feel a “pull” uphill for a consistent amount of time there was only a couple spots. This was that second one and once at the top, it was a great view.

Now it was time to descend back down to the bottom of the valley. It was a nice grade and really not bad on the knees heading down. Views to the south would open to views of towering granitic rock, talus, and waterfalls. The clouds were starting to come together to form an overcast day. It was around noon and we all figured it would likely sprinkle if not rain later on in the day.

Back down to the valley floor about 10 minutes later, the trail paralleled the valley. We continued our hike uphill at a nice grade. The trail took us through so many aspen stands and by some very old red fir trees. Stephanie and I didn’t see it at first, but Steve behind us told us “there is a bear.” We both quickly came back to see it running up the hill side. I could only get the top of his head before he disappeared into the brush. This was the first large mammal we would see on this trip.

IMG_7037

Continuing our hike we heard what sounded like a waterfall. Deciding to go check it out, Stephanie and I ventured down to Mono Creek. There we found a nice series of step pools and one small fall. The creek had been cutting down through bedrock so it provided a great panoramic view with clear water. We posed for a couple photos and then it was back up the trail.

DSC_4634-PANO

Our hike continued to take us up some short climbs, through patches of aspens, and eventually into some clearings. We had heard of avalanches this past season with all the snow. The steep grade around us definitely would be conducive of these events so it was not hard to believe what we were being told. When we arrived at our first large clearing, it was clear a large avalanche occurred here previously as the conifers were all gone. This past years avalanche bent all the aspen trees down. It was quite impressive to see and walk through. Plus it made for some nice scenic photos!

Soon after the clouds decided it was time to share moisture with everyone down below. The sprinkles were light, but I did put away my camera and started to use my phone more. Stephanie grabbed out a small poncho. Fortunately it didn’t really pick up to a down pour or even a light rain, which was nice. In about 10 minutes it was over. We passed the turn off for Second Recess Trail, which mean we were getting close to our camping area. Passing the trail junction we would soon have to cross Laurel Creek.

As we were crossing over Laurel Creek, there were carvings in the aspen trees. I didn’t think much of them until Steve pointed out the dates. These were carvings from 1887 and 1921. Wow! How cool to see that, but at the same time a bummer trees were carved up. They were surviving just fine though, so that was cool. We continued across safely and started to make another climb uphill to get over a small talus made ridge.

IMG_7055

The trail went through another old avalanche area. Old conifer trees lined the outer edges while aspen trees had taken over. This years snow also created a smaller avalanche in size as the trees were once again intact, but bent over. The clouds had cleared away and opened up. Looking back from where we came it was a beautiful view of the valley.

The trail continued onward. We knew we were getting close too. There was no designated camping area or even a sign. It was a mark on a map and so we didn’t have to proceed much further. The trail went from a dry forested walk to a wet meadow like area. It was here we would venture across the meadow and up to a nice dry flat. Evidence of a fire ring and past horse use was visible. It was decided that we were either at the spot and, if not, not going any further until the pack train caught up with us.

IMG_7061

About 1.5 hours later, the pack train arrived. The rest of the crew and all our gear for the week had made it in one piece. We were told that this was the spot and it was good we didn’t go any further. There was a lot of gear to unload for 6 people in addition to all the gear for the horses and mules. Camp took a bit to setup but it was a nice spot.

IMG_7063

I camped near Mono Creek, which had a nice deafening roar to it as it rushed by. It was not a bad spot surrounded by tree cover. In fact, down by the creek was a nice side pool to wash off for the day. We all would eventually use this spot to freshin’ up.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before long the sun was beginning to set. I took my camera out and played around with some HDR photography. Eventually it was too dark and the food was smelling really good. It was burritos that night with all the fixings. There was even guacamole and salsa for chips. I had two huge ones full of fresh veggies. The food was so tasty too. Some time was spent around the camp fire before concluding day 1 of our trip.

Day 2 – Wednesday, August 30

DSC_4707-HDR

It was sunrise and I was the first one up…at least out of the tent and moving. As such I decided to grab my camera and try a few sunrise shots. Grabbing my tripod I made my way out of a camp to a small clearing nearby. I enjoyed taking a few sets of photos before heading back. I was starting to get hungry!

IMG_7077

Arriving back in camp, some people were getting ready for the day. The kitchen was up and going with coffee to follow. My breakfast was oatmeal, so it did not take long to make. While everyone waited for their breakfast to cook, we talked about the day ahead and what needed to get done. The clouds were choking out the blue skies, so we definitely planned for rain. It was not long and we were out on the trail.

Due to the cloud cover, it was a bit humid out to start the day. Thankfully, being early in the morning the temperature was cool. The trail was a gradual uphill climb to where we needed to do work that day. I was imagining what we would encounter at the work site when within about 5 minutes of hiking we came in contact with a solo hiker. He talked with us for about 10 minutes while fiddling with his power bar. Thus for the rest of the trip we referred to the guy as “power bar.” The sun was starting to break through a little as we said our goodbyes.

DSC_4729

The clouds must have not liked the idea of the clearing skies, so as fast as the sun was there it was soon gone. No matter, I enjoy the cooler temps when hiking anyway. Thus the hike continued in the cool and humid morning. The clouds continued to get a little darker too as time when on.

The temps were increasing and soon the light jackets we had on were taken off. We crossed a creek and there was a willow branch full of caterpillars. The whole thing was black and moving. Had to grab a photo before moving on too. Once across the creek we passed by a turn off to Hopkins Lakes and crossed over some large rock outcrops. It was shortly after this point we felt a drop, then another, and another. The time had come for us to get on rain gear.

I put my main camera away and started to the use the phone. It was protected from the elements unlike the DSLR. Anyway, the clouds dropped a refreshing amount of rain as we continued. However, it was short lived. I think it lasted about 10 to 15 minutes tops and that would be the last bit of rain we would experience for the rest of the day.

We arrived at the work site and started to examine what needed to be done. The issues were the same, but the magnitude varied. Continuing to walk up the trail we documented issues and solutions to the problem. Eventually the group split up as there was more maintenance work needed further up the trail. Myself and two others continued hiking up towards Mono Pass. Here we found a sign stating we were above 10,000 feet. I posed for Diana showing “10” as it was a memory from our Mt. Whitney Trip 7 years prior. We then continued up to the next trail junction with the trail to Pioneer Basin. It was now time for a snack before proceeding onward.

The clouds were breaking apart during our food break revealing Fourth Recess to the south. It was breath taking and only seemed to draw us further up the mountain. The long switch backs on the way up was another site needing work and we took notes on that too. We couldn’t help but stop for visuals into Fourth Recess. One could see the water fall and remnants of the glacier tucked way back in the mountains. It wasn’t long before we arrived at our next junction; Golden Lake Trail.

Deb informed Stephanie and I that she was going to turn back to check on the group we left behind. She also told us we could check out the trail up to Golden Lake and I could get a water quality sample there. Both Stephanie and I were happy to head up in that direction. It was only about a mile to the lake too. We were soon off the main trail and on a more “primitive” trail to Golden Lake.

IMG_7099

The trek up there was peaceful and quiet. Plenty of solitude if you wanted to head up to this lake. The small valley was full of wildflowers. The trail weaved around through the riparian vegetation that filled the valley floor too. The original trail was mostly there, but user created trails intersected a few times causing minor confusion. However, we ultimately ended up at our destination in about 30 minutes time.

IMG_7101

The clouds were gathering and getting darker upon our arrival at Golden Lake. The wind was hollowing along too. The ridge line to the east of the lake was the final ridge that separated flows from entering the San Joaquin Valley to the west and those flows entering into the Owen’s Valley area to the east. It was a beautiful and cold place to be. I quickly grabbed my water quality sample and Stephanie walked the perimeter for her surveys. I finished mine first and headed in her direction to see if I could help. When I arrived, I had never seen her so happy as she could not wipe the smile off her face. Apparently, she had never been here before and always wanted to. Thus, this slight detour made this wilderness trip that much better. Unfortunately, we could not stay here for long as thunder started to boom in the distance. It was time to leave.

The trek back down to camp was all downhill. We hauled out of the Golden Lake valley and back to the Mono Creek Trail. The clouds were not as dark at the trail junction, but looking back they were definitely not friendly looking at Golden Lake. Anyway, the clouds drove us back down into the Mono Creek valley where we spent some time documenting trail conditions.

IMG_7162

Another 1.5 hours passed and with work done, we hiked back to camp and enjoying the scenery. We had heard another coworker, Sarah, was going to be joining us that night. She too had never been into this part of the wilderness and wanted to see the work we were doing. Both Stephanie and I were expecting to see her when we got back to camp.

IMG_7171

Heading back to camp was not hard as the trail was a nice grade back. The clouds were letting the sun and blue sky through providing great opportunities for photos of the valley. The wind further cleaned the air and kept some of the mosquitoes down for a bit. Thankfully only certain areas, the moist ones, had the hordes of mosquitoes. Once out of those wet areas there we not that bad.

IMG_7176

Arriving at camp we found Sarah had made it safely. She enjoyed her solo hike in and had her tent all set for the next couple of days. We had packed most of her gear in the day before, so she enjoyed a lighter day pack. Soon dinner would be served, which was the Chinese Chicken Salad, and we sat around the camp fire to enjoy the meal. Stories were shared of the highlights of the day with one another as well as stories of past wilderness trip fiascoes. It was very entertaining and another great way to end day 2.

Day 3 – August 31, 2017

DSC_4810

Morning came with the sounds of birds singing in the trees. It was near 6 AM when I crawled out of my tent. I grabbed my camera and looked at the sky. There was not a cloud in sight. Changing my sights to the meadow nearby, no wildlife was grazing that morning. I imagine with our camp gear, horses, and mules, we were going to be keeping wildlife at bay. As usual the group started following suit on arising that morning. Breakfast was made and devoured. Excitement for the next day of work was upon on and we were moving out rather quickly. Today’s trek was to Pioneer Basin.

It was a beautiful morning. The damp dew was burning off in the grass and small brush. The temperature was slightly chilled, but perfect for hiking. We would be returning to our base camp each day, so all we needed to carry was a days worth of supplies which enabled us to move rather quickly.

The trail was the same for part of the morning. Our hike went east along the Mono Creek Trail where we crossed Hopkins Creek again, rushed through the mosquito areas, and reviewed our trail findings with Sarah from the previous day. It was only an hour or so when we arrived at our junction with the trail up to Pioneer Basin.

Our morning snack was soon consumed at the trail junction. We reviewed a couple maps for general knowledge. There were several lakes along the way and the first one was known as Mud Lake. We would arrive here first and this is where the regularly maintained trail ended. The maps were folded and a slight downhill trek ensued. Five minutes later, we were heading uphill.

The trail could use some erosion control work, but otherwise it was easy to follow. A steady uphill climb was at hand. The further up the trail we went, the better the views of the Mono Creek valley below and all the recessed canyons to the south. We chatted on and off during our hike and soon found ourselves at a vista point.

DSC_4854-PANO

The trees began to recede back opening up a view to the south. This was the beginning of Pioneer Basin and the view to the south was beautiful. We could see a part of Mud Lake up ahead, but wanted to get a few group shot photos at this point in our journey.

Besides a more formal or serious group photo, we all had some fun doing different poses. Who says you cannot have a bit of fun, right? Laughter was a part of the photo taking because what each of us did was spontaneous. Now with even bigger grins on our faces, we headed down the trail another 200 yards to Mud Lake.

IMG_7188

DSC_4889

Mud Lake has a great view into Fourth Recess to the south. Some time was spent it before moving further up into Pioneer Basin. We met a group of people who had been camping here for the past several days. In fact, I believe they were doing some type of research as they had laptops out there to document their finds. A pleasant group of people, which we did talk with two of them for some time before moving onward.

IMG_7199

After saying our goodbyes, we hiked for another 10 minutes. Pioneer Creek flowed nearby and the valley opened. It provided another vista point to grab some more photos. The clouds were starting to come in, but not in a worrisome way. They added to the scenery and photos!

We found a place to get across the creek and continued hiking further up into Pioneer Basin. Our goal was to arrive at Pioneer Lakes, collect the info we needed, and make our way back out. The trail on the way up was easy to follow. It had been used for some time and was trenched in rather well. It is an unmaintained and non-system trail, so it is just kept up with user traffic. Lunch time was near so we took a break to eat on the rocks and enjoy the view. It was here that Steve was going to head back and check out a few things while the three of us proceeded onward.

DSC_4962-PANOIMG_7206

I believe we hike for another 20 minutes and arrived at the base of Pioneer Lakes. A snow bank covered the south side creating a “wall.” There was a small cascade of water over the rocks. We walked along side it and quickly climbed up to our first views of the lowest of Pioneer Lakes. It was a great sight to see for sure and worth venturing into.

DSC_4965-PANO

IMG_7208

The trail began to fade away, but we could see our destination. Crossing over the outlet, we made our way to the northwest and crossed into one of the main lakes. The large boulders enabled all of us to get some great panoramic shots of the lake and surrounding landscape. It was time for a snack break and I needed to filter some water. I was doing well today  on staying hydrated, thus my nalgene bottles needed to be refilled.

DSC_4985

The Nalgene bottles were filled along with Stephanie and Sarah’s too. Nobody really wanted to end our break and leave the area. It was so peaceful there. Noise levels were only comprised of the wind blowing. The suns rays were warm and the grass so comforting to nap on. It was very inviting, but we knew we could not stay. We took a group photo before descending back down from which we came.

Our packs were on and with one foot in front of the other, we left Pioneer Lake. The trail appeared again and guided us all downward. A nice field of paintbrushes surrounded one of the lower lakes. Heading south and out of Pioneer Basin provided another perspective we had not seen yet, so that was a nice addition.

DSC_5001

The clouds were getting larger, but still quite late in the day to cause us concern. The wind blew across us as we silently said goodbye to Pioneer Basin. We soon met a gentlemen on the way out wanting us to take a photo of him. We obliged and would email him his photo upon returning to the office. He was very grateful and, saying our goodbyes, we proceeded down the hill.

The trek was all downhill back to camp, so there was no difficulty there. We chatted along the way about anything and everything. We laughed and shared concerns. Nothing out of the usual for those who have ever hiked for awhile on the trial. You have a lot of time to get to know each other better and this was no exception.

DSC_5013

About two-thirds of the way back to camp, we heard a cascading waterfall. Recalling from the day before, Stephanie and I wanted to check it out. It was a nice view and a perfect spot for a photo. It only took a few minutes and then we were heading back towards camp.

The mosquitoes were more dispersed this time around. Sure they were in the wet areas like the previous day, but I think the sunshine encouraged them to spread out a bit. We swatted at them occasionally, but they kept us moving. I didn’t want to donate anymore blood to their cause and neither did the ladies with me.

DSC_5026

Soon we were at camp and cleaning up from our days hike. It was nice to rinse off the gunk for the day and put on “clean” and dry camp clothes. The cold river water helped cool me down enough so that I wore my ski cap and down jacket. We enjoyed another amazing dinner and wonderful time around the fire. Another evening of getting to know one another, share stores, and laugh the night away until we succumbed to sleep.

Day 4 – September 1, 2017

DSC_5031-PANO

Today was going to be the last day out in the wilderness for two of my coworkers. Sarah and Stephanie were going to head back down the trail, ferry across Lake Thomas Edison, and then back down the mountain. However, Stephanie had it in here to check out one more area with me and catch up with Sarah at the Ferry later. We quickly ate our breakfast, grab our gear, and headed out early. Our destination was hiking down the trail to the Laurel Lake trail junction and proceed north towards Red and White Mountain.

The sky was a little hazy. We saw smoke the evening before making its way towards us. Although we didn’t smell any, the sky had lost part of its deep blue color. We would likely find out where the smoke was coming from when we got out (Railroad Fire). Anyway we hiked about a mile west along the Mono Creek Trail. Being downhill, it was smooth sailing. We crossed over Laurel Creek and found our turnoff shortly afterwords.

Now it may be that the previous days were long miles or maybe the “sierra shuffle” at each night didn’t allow us full recovery. Whatever it was, the hike up out of the canyon was steep and tiring. It only would take us 20 minutes but it was a big push. Both of us were thankful it was early morning. There was very little to no shade on this trail. You were exposed to direct sun, but the views were great. Was the strenuous climb up and out of the valley worth it? Yes, of course it was!

IMG_7240

The trail leveled off and brought us to a large meadow. Laurel Creek meandered along at this point where it was a rapid crashing and high flowing creek on the way up. We could see that blue sky the high country is famous for once more. Our destination would be at the back end of the valley; Laurel Lake.

IMG_7241

The trail disappeared beyond our first vantage point. We recalled both the gentlemen yesterday and another coworker of ours saying the “real” trail was on the eastern side of the valley. Many users just blow right by it and end up having to cross country. Well we too had to do the same, but it was worth it. However, this did slow us down a bit as we made our way further up the valley.

DSC_5070

We walked up the western side of the valley the entire length of the meadow. We could not find any easy way to cross the creek. Eventually we did find one and helping each other, we made it safely across. Unfortunately the trail was no longer visible on the eastern side as well. We spent a little time climbing around until we found some type of trail and continued north.

DSC_5073-PANO

IMG_7242

Having a snack break we both were surprised how tired we were. Maybe we just need some more food, so I ate my trail mix. It seemed to work, but we still were moving slower. Checking the time at this point, it looked like we were not going to make our destination that day. Stephanie needed to turn around by noon in order to make it down and out to the ferry that afternoon. However, we pushed onward seeing how far we could get before we had to turn back.

The trail kept marching us uphill. We would find parts of it, lose it at other times, but we always found the missing links. The trail started to hike up a steep rocky section. We marched along through the rock zigzagging until we made it up and over. The view was great and it was only a mile away from our destination. A snow bank was to the east. We sat down here and indulged in more food. Unfortunately the time was up. Stephanie needed to turn back. We were so close to see Laurel Lake. It will have to be next time around. However, before leaving we did make sure to grab some photos.

DSC_5094-PANO

On our way back down to the Mono Creek Trail, I decided to GPS the trail back. We connected the missing sections rather well I thought. This helped us proceed along and made the time go quickly. We eventually entered into the meadow again, but this time on the eastern side. The trail was nowhere to be seen until we arrived outside the meadow and into a flat area. A large camping spot was there with camp furniture. Here we found the trail, crossed Laurel Creek, and found out where we had missed the “real” trail to begin with.

Now the steep part of the trek up was the steep part on the way down. We had to take it slow. The pounding on the knees and joints was not pleasant. A solo hiker was on their way up around noon. The timing was great as we found shade and let him proceed upward. The smoke was thicker in the sense of making the deep blue sky more of a light turquoise. The winds were pushing it up into the valley and, unfortunately, not allowing for the best photos. The views were still nice though.

IMG_7245

Arriving at the trail junction, we made sure each other was good to go. Stephanie departed to the west and I headed back up to the east towards camp. I would stop and check out a few work items along the way before calling it a day.

DSC_5113-HDR

We were now down to five people in camp that evening. Dinner was Rib-eye Steak with corn and lots of other goodies. A great farewell dinner to our time in the wilderness. I tried to capture some HDR sunset shots, but it wasn’t going to work just right. Being a clear sky that night, I tried out a new lens and some photo ops. I know next time that I will use this lens in the future, but will adjust accordingly.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before it was too dark, I moved my tent in closer to the group. I had learned the past few nights that what I had thought was flat was not actually so. Thankfully my last night would end up being a decent sleep. I would need a good sleep as I was going to hike out with all my gear…well 95% of it…and try to get back to the truck by 2 PM. I would end up home around 6 PM that way instead of around 10 PM. I was in for a surprise.

Day 5 – September 2, 2017

DSC_5165

Morning came once more for Day 5 of my trip. I had finally slept better this night than any other night. More than likely it was a change to the “flatness” of my sleeping area, but I think it just takes me awhile to get used to new sleeping arrangements. Anyway, today was the day to head out and go home. The group said it was alright if I packed everything and headed out. It was around 730 or 8 AM when I departed the group and made my way west on the Mono Creek Trail.

It was a quiet start. Not very many birds were singing at this time. There was not even a breeze in the air. Just the cool morning temps and the rising sun. I didn’t see anyone on the trail for a bit until I came across one of our team members who started out earlier than myself.

DSC_5169

He knew he would be slower, even with just a light day pack on, so Mike left early. I had caught up to him and chatted for a few moments. I gave my thanks for his help this week and was glad to get to meet and know him. I soon departed and continued on my brisk hike along the trail.

I arrived at Laurel Creek again, crossed over using the down tree, and was safely across. I made sure to grab a photo or two of the historical carvings left in the aspen tree. Dates back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were still present on the tree. I imagined what it was like back then when early hikers made their marks here. I do not think they thought we would be taking photos over a 100 years later. With that complete, I was back to keeping up a fast pace.

The hike was going well and I did see someone else. There was a small group camped out where the trail can take a person up to Second Recess. Here there was about 6 guys and soon a few horses. I thought I recognized a few from the day before and after Stephanie departed. Anyway, I continued on down the trail and recalled how several days ago I was heading the other direction.

In remembering where I had come, I recalled one uphill climb that lay ahead of me. It would not be a hard climb at all, but it had a few long switchbacks before getting to the top. Thankfully with plenty of time to adjust to the heavier load on my back and warm up my legs, the climb was not too bad. My paced slow down, of course, but it was consistent. Before I knew it, I was at the top and once again heading back down. Soon I would join the PCT and JMT for a small stretch.

Hiking down to the trail junction, I passed by our lunch spot on day one. It brought back the memory of sitting there enjoying the snack. Then something caught my eye to my left. I looked and saw a bear…canister and some gear stashed off the trail. At first I thought something happened to a person camp. Just as fast as that idea came to mind another one trumped the idea. This was a stash for a threw hiker along the JMT (most likely anyway). I didn’t see any other signs of trash kicked about like it was raided by an email. Well I needed to keep going towards the trail junction and made a left.

The trail was downhill for a bit. It went over solid bedrock and then quickly back into a brush field of manzanita. I met a couple coming up and wanting to go north on the JMT/PCT. It looked like day one for them for sure and I know I smelt like day five haha. I wished them well and headed downward. Another group of three were coming up the switchbacks. A quick hello and that was it. They were focused and, truthfully, so was I.

DSC_5201

The trail eventually came to a junction where I needed to go right. This is where the Mono Creek Trail went while continuing left stayed the course along the JMT/PCT. I met a group of three guys who again smiled or said a quick hello. The surprise followed these two shortly after crossing a creek.

DSC_5202

Once walking over a large down tree to cross a strong flowing creek, I met a foreign couple. The gentlemen said he had just got off the ferry. He was not sure if I could catch it as they were late to begin with that morning. I told him thank you and quickened my pace even more. I think I had to cover another two miles, but I thought at a 3 mph or faster paced there was a chance. Along the way I met more people and was polite. One asked if I had seen his girlfriend up ahead. Once described to me, I said I did and to keep going. She looked like she was doing just fine. The guy smiled and proceeded onward. Now off to that Ferry!

It is always amazing to me how fast one can hike when you are determined. I was having minor muscle pain but pressed on. I watched the time and as I got closer with every step, I so desperately hung on to the ferry being there. By the time I made it to the John Muir Wilderness sign, I was over an hour off from their normal departure time. I had it in my mind that I could take a break, make a phone call (if you have AT&T you can do this), and eat lunch.

DSC_5215-PANO

As my paced slowed, I looked around. I did not see anyone coming. Just in that moment two ladies come walking by with a St. Bernard. They had no backpacks or even day packs. That was strange to me. I said hello and asked about the ferry. They said the ferry just arrived 5 minutes ago. I was shocked, said thanks, and quickened my pace once more. Low and behold the ferry was there at 1045 am! I went to speak with the driver and asked if it was okay that I came aboard. He said yes. I also asked why he was here when the sign said he should have been gone about 1.5 hours ago. He explained that he had a special trip for some customers. They wanted to take a trip across the lake and see what it was like. Internally I was so thankful for this. They saved me another 5 miles of hiking.

IMG_7270

As I ate my snack under the tree, I could not be more thankful for this surprise ferry arrival. I was going to make some excellent time. The fast paced had paid off this time. I waited for about 30 minutes until the family was ready to head back to Vermillion. They loaded up and then I walked on board. I kept my distance as I am sure I didn’t smell so great. However, one person there was quite interested in what I did and asked about my trip so far. I chatted a bit and then made my phone call out. Thus I arrived back at the truck and went down the mountain. I was delayed helping a person who’s transmission broke on them near Kaiser Pass, but that was okay. I was glad I was there to help in the limited capacity I could. Anyway, it was a great trip and I enjoyed being out there. Until the next one.

Advertisements