Saturday, September 28, 2013

Chapter 3 - A Fresh Start and Into the Wild

Greetings everyone.....I will start this Chapter with a brief backtrack into Chapter 2 - many of my family and friends were concerned about how the fires in Yosemite affected us - the answer is that they did not affect us, thankfully - but on Day 10, as we climbed up the ridge to Chief Lake, we could see an enormous cloud of smoke billowing up out of the north/northwest.  The guides estimated that it was in southern Yosemite or just south of Yosemite, but we were 25 or so trail miles out of the park.  We could see the cloud growing in height and length, so we were pretty sure it was calamitous.  But the main point is that we were not threatened by it nor did we get smoked on.  This is what we saw:

So, on to Chapter 3.  I will try to hit the highlights and be a little less verbose.  As we saw in the last chapter, VVR is an inflection point in the trip.  It's the second and last chance to easily excuse yourself from the journey.  After VVR, there are no more campgrounds, roads, showers, toilets, etc.  If you want to quit, you have to walk out - or of course, if you are injured, SYMG can call a forest service helicopter - but that's reserved for serious injury, not just having a belly ache or sore feet.  The remainder of the trip divides nicely into 3 5-day sub-journeys, with the food re-supplies being the dividing events.  The contents of our bear canisters became a defining feature of each day.  The first day after a re-supply, the cans were at their heaviest - about 15 pounds.  Each day, as we consumed food, they got lighter, all the way down to 3-5 pounds on the 5th day.

So, with 7 hikers and 2 guides, we set out from VVR on Day 12 and were able to get a BOAT RIDE back across Lake Edison!  That was a good start.  Once we got off the little john-boats, we had full bear cans and a 2200 foot ridge to climb - aptly named Bear Ridge. It was tough going, but we all made it and camped by Bear Creek.  Mike had by this time watched me fish enough that he was able to spot fish in the streams and lakes - on this evening, he directed me to a group of trout that were feeding in very shallow water - I landed 3 total, and 2 of them were California Golden Trout - a species that is native to and only found in the High Sierra - a coveted prize.  This is what they look like:

As we settled in for the night, I took this picture of one of my companion's tents and the darkening sky:

Well, let me speed along a bit - every day is a climbing or descending (or both) day, and we made our way on Day 13 south past the south fork of the San Joaquin river and up into the Evolution Valley drainage - then on Day 14 a gorgeous hike (is "gorgeous" related to "gorge"?) up Evolution Creek and into what Alex calls the best campsite in the Sierra - pictured here:

I was fishing just about every day by now, and catching lots of fish - in Evolution creek on the right in the photo above, I caught 20 fish in about an hour and a half.  This meadow (MacLure Meadow) sits at about 9500 feet.  The next day, Day 15, we only hiked 4 miles and were treated to a half day of rest at Evolution Lake, another high altitude stunner:

From there, on our final day of this 5-day re-supply, Day 16, we headed up to Muir Pass - near 12,000 feet.  The wind was raging but we were able to get a little shelter from the storm in the Muir Hut:

As we started down the other side, I was stunned and amazed by the scenery.  I think I realized then what the difference is between the mountains of Yosemite and the southern high Sierra - the latter is much higher, the mountains are packed tightly together, they have much more color variation and they seem more jagged - I don't know if this picture conveys that, but here it is:

After our 2,000 foot climb to the pass, we descended another 3,000 feet into the LeConte Canyon.  As we were going from the moonscape at the pass lower and lower, there was  more and more vegetation until we had descended into the forest near the bottom of the drainage:

We had a very sheltered campsite in the trees that evening, and Carlos and Alex busied themselves with unpacking and organizing the the re-supply, which was brought in by a mule team led by a couple of cowboys on horses.  I busied myself in the nearby creek, where the fishing was excellent:

Nice example of a California Golden Trout - I think I landed 10 in about 45 minutes this evening.

LeConte Canyon Deer

So as Chapter 3 here draws to a close, there are 10 more days left in the wilderness, and we are keenly aware of the day count.  I was enjoying every day, but missing my family more and more, especially  Renee.  In the coming days, we have a lot of climbing and descending to do, a lot of fish to catch, and a lot of God's glory to behold.  More soon.

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