Mules & Smoke: Day 2 (High Sierra) 07-Sep-2020

We went to bed at Avalanche Camp in Virginia Canyon bathed in a smoky miasma. We awoke to find that the wind had shifted in the night, clearing the air somewhat. Today was planned as a short hiking day (4.3 miles; 1,050 feet of gain) to a camp at Miller Lake – an even shorter hike than planned because we’d hiked an extra two miles the day before. After breakfast, we hiked a short way down Virginia Canyon to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We followed the PCT westward across Spiller Creek and up numerous switchbacks to Miller Lake. Once again the LovedOne and I were ahead of the pack train but the large campsite on the southwest side of the lake seemed like an obvious packer campsite, so we waited there. The pack train arrived an hour or so later and we settled in to hang out and explore around the lake for the rest of the day.

Breakfast at Avalanche Camp
On the trail down Virginia Canyon
This is a natural feature – make of it what you will
A small waterfall on Return Creek
Same waterfall, different angle
Arriving at the junction with the PCT
Spiller Creek flows over granite slabs
Ascending along Spiller Creek
Above the switchbacks and heading for Miller Lake
Arriving at Miller Lake
Grasses on Miller Lake
The pack train arrives at Miller Lake
Aniela Gottwald, our first trip leader

Later in the afternoon, I was strolling back to the center of camp when one of the packers rushed up and asked if I had a sat comm phone. Why? Well, apparently Aniela, our trip leader, had taken a fall, clearly broken her arm and may also have sustained a head injury. Since it’s the policy of this particular pack outfit not to carry any kind of satellite phones or other satellite communications devices, there was no way for Sam or Hunter (the two other packers) to let anyone outside the wilderness know what was going on. I didn’t have a sat phone but did have my personal locator beacon (PLB, ACR-Artex), which I offered to let Sam use. After some discussion, Sam accepted my offer and I activated the beacon around 1600. Sam also rode to the nearby camp of another packer and was able to use their sat phone to send a brief “help” message to Rock Creek. In the meantime, the hikers rallied to fix dinner (and later breakfast) and find some pain killers to make Aniela a little more comfortable. Then we waited – it would be a long night for everyone.

Our route from Avalanche Camp to Miller Lake in the Yosemite Wilderness
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