Thursday, July 23, 2015

Duck Pass and McGee Pass

I reentered the trail at Coldwater via the free Mammoth trolley bus orange line. The Duck Trail takes you up to Duck Pass and past Duck Lake. It then connects to the JMT and PCT.

Going up to Duck Pass, with a view of Barney Lake

Going up Duck Pass

I skipped Purple Lake and went on to Lake Virginia

 I had the whole place to myself! Everyone stayed at Purple Lake. Lake Virginia was prettier and warm enough to swim. It has a shallow beach area where the water warms up.

This is when my tooth went bad.... In the morning it was throbbing so much that I decided that I should either turn back, or to go over the next pass and exit. My map showed that McGee was only a 13 mile trail to the trailhead, then 30 miles to Mammoth. What the map did not say is that this pass was actually 15 miles and very hard (not including the 2-3 miles to get to the trail fork from Lake Virginia). I lost the trail 2x and had to use my orienteering skills. McGee is not popular on its western side. It's eastern side is a popular fishing area. It was very easy to get lost between the PCT and the McGee Pass. I was a little scared. And there was not a single soul out there. And only two other sets of footprints.

After traveling up the McGee creek, and forging the creek at least 5x (soaked trail runner shoes), fending off mosquitoes, and tracking the true trail (versus false stream trails) I emerged in the High Sierra grasslands, with true trail.

And then hit the switchbacks on scree.

At the top of the pass I met two San Diego firefighters on a fishing trip. They hooked me up with Aleve and whiskey, and told me crazy stories of rescuing Navy guys. The guy in yellow's name is "Tractor" and the other guy did not have a trail name (and I forgot his real name). He dubbed me "Snaggletooth". I now have an official trail name. Snaggletooth. These guys were the best! (I accidentally saw them again in Mammoth at the Brewing Company. We three had lunch with "All Good" who is the head of!about_us/c14e3 )

The McGee Pass travels between the Red Slate Mountain and the Red and White Mountain. Over 12,000 feet high. The pass is at 11,900. This is why the PCT and JMT hikers do not use it... The trail continues to follow down the McGee creek, and there are many lakes feed from its waters, including the Little McGee and the Big McGee. Many waterfalls and trout.

More about the McGee Pass: The area actually was the first Eastern Sierra ski area, before Mammoth. It was founded by the McGee family, who were Scottish limestone miners. Later, a guy named McCoy build a tow rope to get skiers up the mountain in the 1930's. (I did not take notes and cannot find the history via Google, so I am going by memory here.) Now, it is a fishing destination, next to the very large Lake Crowley.

The trail ends with a dirt path covered in Donkey's Ears and sage, and the heat of the other side of the High Sierra range. I was lucky that when I emptied out at the trailhead a local rancher and his son picked me up right away and drove me to Tom's Place. I got a bunk at Tom's Place for $30 a night, and medicated my throbbing tooth. The next morning I put the word out that I was hitching to Mammoth, and the owner of the local store drove me into town. He told me stories of Crowley Lake and recommended Convict Lake. We watched the hang gliders take off of the range I just traversed.

In Mammoth, I checked back into 19 Davidson, and the next morning took the YARTS bus back to Yosemite, where my brother and my car were waiting. We did get stuck in Yosemite two more nights due to floods. The highway to Merced washed out, so the traffic to the Bay Area was so backed up it made more sense to just make camp. We got the last campsite up by Glacier Point at Bridalveil Creek. It was a smart more. In the morning there was not a single car on the road. Now I am scheduled for a root canal!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The High Sierra via the JMT

This July I was able to secure a Glacier Point to Mt. Whitney Portal permit for the John Muir Trail.  Due to time restrictions, I planned on only hiking to Bishop's Pass; due to a bad tooth (root canal in two days), I had to exit at McGee Pass. Here is a quick overview of the hike:

The first three nights: Tamarack Flats and Backpackers Camp
There was snow the first two nights, but my all season bivy can handle anything.

Starting at Glacier Point

Met a Grouse

Hiked the Sunrise Trail, still damaged from a fire

Camped at Sunrise

Putting in about 15-18 miles a day. This means I don't see many people...

Just Cathedral Lakes and deer

Had a ham a cheese sandwich at Tuolumne Meadows and then camped in Lyell Canyon

More deer

The Lone Boot

I hiked with a gentleman from Nova Scotia for a few miles. He took a pic for me hiking the north side of Donahue Pass

More North side of Donohue

On Donohue Pass I met a Marmot

I camped at Thousand Islands. All the peeps camped at Garnet Lake, where there was a bad bear. I had no bad bears.

I exited at Agnew Meadows to resupply, and stayed at 19 Davidson Guest House for two nights. Eric the owner was a great guy and has a rockin' horseshoe game going on. $28 for a bed. Watched Hell on Wheels and talked to the PCTers (Waves, Up, Sleeping Beauty, and Boy Scout who went to jail. And Simon form Berkeley.)

I caught the free trolley to Duck Trail, and hiked over Duck Pass, making camp at Lake Virginia. That's when my tooth went bad. Did get to swim in Lake Virginia and also talk to a nice couple from Montana.

More later...