Matterhorn Peak ~ Sierra Nevada (July 1983)

On our recent mule packing trip in the northern regions of Yosemite National Park, we crossed Burro Pass. This pass sits on the ridge between Fingers Peak to the west and Matterhorn Peak (12,279 feet / 3,743 m) to the east. Heavy smoke denied us a view of Matterhorn but being near it brought back memories of when Tom Pass, Sam Pierce, and I climbed it via its East Couloir route in the summer of 1983. The three of us had met in the mountaineering program run by the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter. Looking back, we were young and strong and fearless (but not stupidly so) and anxious to climb some of the storied peaks in California’s High Sierra.

Continue reading “Matterhorn Peak ~ Sierra Nevada (July 1983)”

Mules & Smoke: Last Day (High Sierra) 11-Sep-2020

Overnight, the wind shifted yet again and the morning dawned not nearly as smoky as it had been the day before. Not completely clear but clear enough for some views of scenery on the way out. After breakfast, we headed directly down 7.1 miles to the pick-up point at the Robinson Creek Trailhead at Twin Lakes. All the other hikers, apparently being more spry, did a detour (uphill!) to Peeler Lake. While they were tromping around in the woods, we got to sit in chairs, drink cold beer, and play catch with Jethro the Wonder Dog. Seemed like a fair trade at the end of an especially adventurous and dramatic trip. 🙂

Continue reading “Mules & Smoke: Last Day (High Sierra) 11-Sep-2020”

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.

Continue reading “Mules & Smoke: Day 5 (High Sierra) 10-Sep-2020”

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.

Continue reading “Mules & Smoke: Day 2 (High Sierra) 07-Sep-2020”

Mules & Smoke: First Day (High Sierra) 06-Sep-2020

The day had finally arrived to start the one “big” trip that we’d managed to salvage from the (seemingly on-going) wreckage of 2020. Having been on several rafting trips, we wanted to try something new to us: hiking supported by pack stock. A friend of ours had alerted us to the Rock Creek Pack Station which runs a variety of mule-supported hiking trips along the Eastern Sierra. After some back and forth, we settled on a six-day introductory trip from Virginia Lake to Twin Lakes through the Hoover Wilderness, the northern part of Yosemite National Park, and the Yosemite Wilderness. For a variety of reasons, this trip would bring out the best and the worst of what it means to go deep into a wilderness area. It would not be, by any means, a simple walk in the park.

Continue reading “Mules & Smoke: First Day (High Sierra) 06-Sep-2020”

Green Lake (Hoover Wilderness) 05-Sep-2020

Despite the ravages of the Big V, we managed to save one trip from cancellation – a six day mule packing trip (you hike; mules carry your stuff) on the northern edge of Yosemite National Park and in the Hoover Wilderness. This trip started from near Bridgeport, California, so we went down there a day early to do an acclimatization hike. The obvious choice for that was Green Lake – short, not too steep, close to Bridgeport, and with a colorful lake at the end. The old (2008) guidebook I had indicated that the trail might be hard to find in spots but it wasn’t. Not at all. It was more like an obvious freeway straight to Green Lake, as it has now become part of a popular hike/backpack between Green and Virginia Lakes.

Continue reading “Green Lake (Hoover Wilderness) 05-Sep-2020”

Leavitt Meadow (Hoover Wilderness) 30-Sep-2018

Leavitt Meadow West Walker River Hoover Wilderness California

After a night in Bridgeport, California, we continued north in search of more Fall color.  The guidebook suggested Leavitt Meadow, just north of Bridgeport, as a likely color spot, so we went there. This is another popular hiking and fishing location, so there were several vehicles already in the lot when we pulled-in. After a little orienteering, we found the West Walker Trail Trailhead at the north end of the now closed-for-the-season Leavitt Meadows Campground, along with a spiffy new bridge over the West Walker River. Judging from the dents in its superstructure and the scour around its abutments, the old bridge (decommissioned but still standing) had been set just a little too close to the river’s surface. 

Continue reading “Leavitt Meadow (Hoover Wilderness) 30-Sep-2018”

Lundy Canyon (Hoover Wilderness) 29-Sep-2018

Lundy Canyon Hoover Wilderness California

While our hike to Marie Louise Lakes was long on cherished memories, it was a bit short on Fall color. So, after consulting several Fall color guides, we figured that Lundy Canyon, just north of Lee Vining, California, was the most likely spot to offer up a palette of hues. So after stopping to visit Devils Postpile National Monument, we made our way to the Lundy Canyon Trailhead at the end of Forest Road 2N01. The parking here is surprisingly limited and awkward for what seems a popular trailhead. And the only “amenity” is a single, fragrant, pit toilet. But we found a parking spot and were soon heading up-canyon is search of color.

Continue reading “Lundy Canyon (Hoover Wilderness) 29-Sep-2018”

Ramblings in the Sierra Nevada 02-Aug-2016

Earlier this year, my brother-in-law (Russ), nephew (Bart), and myself planned a multi-day backpack through California’s John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  I jumped through the permitting hoops for this and we all wrangled with what constituted a bear canister acceptable to both the Forest Service and the National Park Service.  Sadly, neither bureaucracy has officially recognized the UrSack (my preferred food storage container), so we were stuck with those unwieldy and hard-to-pack plastic barrels.  But there are good reasons for the permits and the canisters, so we worked through it all and were ready to go by late July.  I spent the night before their arrival (they were flying out from the East Coast) in Bridgeport, California and, early the next morning, drove down to the Virginia Lakes trailhead – one of the gateways to the Hoover Wilderness (details) – to get in a short warmup hike before going on to meet them in Bishop.

Continue reading “Ramblings in the Sierra Nevada 02-Aug-2016”