Mules & Smoke: Day 5 (High Sierra) 10-Sep-2020

If yesterday had been a study in crisp, bright clarity with the scenery resplendent around us, today was its exact opposite. We awoke into a smoke bank as thick as anything we’d yet experienced. The winds had shifted yet again and the smoke from wildfires to the west, north, and south was being driven right up Matterhorn and Slide Canyons. So not only did we have to two passes to cross, we were going to do so without much scenery to enliven the journey. 😦 But you play the cards you’re dealt so, after a good breakfast, we started our hike to Crown Lake in the Hoover Wilderness.

Starting toward Burro Pass
The climb to Burro Pass (arrow) was mostly a long incline
Toward Burro Pass with Fingers Peak in the distance
Amazing stone work on the way to the pass
On Burro Pass
The “view” west from Burro Pass; Fingers Peak on the left
Across a meadow below Fingers Peak
Crossing granite slabs
A pine forest near Slide Canyon

We stopped for a break and a snack not realizing we were doing so right before starting the climb toward Mule Pass. The trail to the pass loops around to avoid ever getting particularly steep. Doing so just takes longer and includes several “false summits” where, at each one, we were sure the pass was just around the next rock…it wasn’t till it was.

Starting the climb to Mule Pass
Brewer’s Lupine
A false summit
Valley of the Marmots (the only place we actually saw them on the whole trip)

We were out ahead again and decided to wait on Mule Pass for the rest of the group to catch-up. Within a half-hour, John and Mary reached the pass and soon thereafter the rest of the group did too. I managed a group shot with almost everyone looking toward the camera!

John and Maria charge up to the pass
On Mule Pass (L>R): Anthony, Michelle, Rosalie, The LovedOne, Paul (back), Greg (front), Sally (back), Charlotte (front), Maria, John, me

From Mule Pass it was, as they say, all down hill to Crown Lake.

Leaving the others behind on the down side of Mule Pass
Charlotte and Greg at the first lake below Mule Pass
The smoke never gave it up
Approaching Crown Lake

We had expected the pack train to have passed us by now but they hadn’t. We eventually saw them behind us as we descended from the pass. It seems they had a two-mule wreck just below Burro Pass (no animals were injured but a pack saddle was broken apart) and that delayed them. We ended-up reaching camp at the north end of Crown Lake at the same time they did.

In camp at Crown Lake

After a 9.3 mile day with 2,600 feet of gain, we enjoyed a steak dinner and then turned-in, hoping that the morning would bring some relief from the smoke and allow us a glimpse of scenery for our last day on the trail. 😕

Our smoky journey from Matterhorn to Crown
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