A slow day of climbing toward Selden Pass (10,910′), the easiest of the passes in this stretch. But clouds of pine pollen made breathing a bit more difficult than normal.
Golden trout queuing up for the prime spot in the seam of the stream.
From Selden Pass, looking north towards Marie Lakes. For the previous two days we heard horror stories about the clouds of mosquitoes. We got lucky with gusty winds and didn’t have issues.
A few more hours of hiking and we aimed for a campsite next to a seasonal stream. We crossed several good streams and gambled on the one we were aiming for. We bet wrong, so I got an extra mile of hiking in.
We also bet wrong in that the cloud of mosquitoes up on the mountain was astounding. I had to build a fire before heading out for water so Jen could set up the tent without donating too much blood. Luckily our campsite was below 10,000′ so we could build a fire, which helped immensely. But as soon as we put the fire out so we could sleep, the cloud of bloodsuckers chased us into the tent.
There’s something about laying in a tent, looking at a wall of mosquitoes on the netting, just wanting a taste. And we haven’t even hit the bad mosquito sections yet.
Day 77 – 18 / 874
Another day, another pass. This time Silver Pass (10,747′). Another slow climb, enveloped in clouds of pollen.
Everything, including us, had a yellow coating.
The morning meadow views were fantastic. Blooming flowers, stands of aspen and sequoia and distant mountains ruled the views.
The view looking south from Silver Pass, watching storms build.
During a quick break at the summit, we were talking to a young hiker who we have been leapfrogging for the past 500 miles. She admitted that she wasn’t lightning savvy, especially in the backcountry. As it started to rain and I attached my umbrella to my pack, she asked “so when would be a good time to get off the summit?”, to which I replied “about 5 minutes ago”. She beat feet down the trail and we soon followed. We weren’t but 100′ below the summit when the first peal of thunder rolled overhead.
We were several hundred feet above and over a trail mile away from the timberline. Until then, we were the tallest things around. We moved fast.
The rain started coming down in buckets. Rivulets started flowing down the trail. Bright flashes filled the sky and the cracks of thunder reverberated off the high granite cliffs. We raced past a small grove of ancient Bristlecone Pines, some scarred by past lightning strikes.
At one point I turned to check on Jen. She asked if I was laughing at her, as I was grinning ear to ear. I did laugh, then reminded her how much I love thunderstorms in the mountains.
This was exhilarating.
Things eventually quieted down and we pressed to camp, where we were treated to one of the most amazing sunsets, courtesy of the debris from the thunderstorms.
A great light show to finish off the rock show.
Day 78 – 17 / 891
Finally, a day without a pass. Just a few minor climbs, then descending a few thousand feet to Red’s Meadow, where we could catch a shuttle bus into the town of Mammoth Lakes for resupply, showers and town food.
Purple Lake, a popular camp destination. I think you can see why.
Then some great vistas as we traversed the side of a mountain instead of going over it. It’s easy to see why this is part of the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
Then we cruised past the 900 mile mark before stopping for lunch. Time for another selfie to mark the occasion.
Then a reminder of the forces that shaped this land.
A few miles later, we finally got a phone connection. We were able to make contact with a friend of a high school friend who was gracious enough to open their home to us while we were in town.
Then a look at the radar.
Here we go again.
Rushing downhill through groves of blown down trees from previous microbursts, through groves of bent redwoods adapting to their environment and groves of burnt, snapped trees, we raced the storm and lost.
Once we got into Red’s Meadow, we saw that we were better off (and better prepared) than the throngs of tourists who headed out into the mountains on a beautiful morning.
Ummm, it’s June in the Sierra, people. Always have wet-weather gear handy.
Once in town, we were met by these wonderful trail angels, friends of friends, with open arms and an open beer.
A perfect ending to a great day.
Day 79 – 16 / 907
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