Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bear Ridge

I woke up in the middle of the night in my little homemade bugnet tent and felt that my sleeping bag was completely soaking wet on top. I was still warm inside, almost too warm, so I fell back asleep. Later I woke again because I was cold. I was sure my sleeping bag had soaked through, lost all its loft and that's why I was cold, but I felt the top and now my sleeping bag was completely dry. I rolled over on to my stomach, which is a way to warm myself up, and fell asleep again.

I woke up early and decided I could better enjoy the morning light at this high altitude by getting started hiking right away. I shoved a couple of bars in my pocket, packed up and headed for Silver Pass.

The high altitude rocky cliffs and tarn lakes were really pretty. I stopped at Chief Lake and it was completely silent. I had never heard such quiet. No planes, no people, not even the sound of running water anywhere.

Silver Pass was an easy pass. Someone was camped at the top. On the other side were pretty meadows. I enjoyed walking through them. They were dotted by wildflowers and little burbling streams flowed next to the trail.

I descended more and more through shady canyons and flowers. There was a cliff with a creek flowing over in a sheet of water and rock. I followed it and eventually crossed it on slippery rocks. I didn't get my feet wet. I thought about how the guide book warned of a dangerous creek crossing coming up with slippery rocks. One slip could prove fatal. I figured this small creek crossing was a preview of what was to come later.

I descended more into a dark canyon and crossed noisy Mono creek. The crossing was easy so I assumed a more difficult one was approaching soon. Then I reached a trail junction. I checked the guide book and saw that these two creeks had been the scary, dangerous, potentially fatal creeks I was warned about. I was happy to see how easy they were. No more nightmares!

I kept descending. It was too much descending. It was going to be a long way to the top again.

Eventually I reached a footbridge. The trail to the ferry to VVR was supposed to be around here. Indeed there was a sign. I walked a mile to the ferry landing, passing numerous people who had arrived by ferry. I had missed the morning ferry.

At the landing there was a sign with the ferry times posted on it. The next ferry would be at 4:45 and it was only 11:30 now. I decided to walk the 5 miles to VVR rather than wait.

I expected the trail to be level since I was already at the lake. But it wasn't. It was a pretty tough trail. It went up and down and was all soft sand pulverized by horses. After such a cold summer in Santa Barbara, the hot sun was sapping my strength. I drank all my water and then dreamed of beer.

The trail went on and on and then ended at a parking lot. Somehow I guessed correctly the way to go and found VVR. I ate a delicious cheeseburger and a beer from Oregon. I missed Oregon.

I bought two lighters. I could have skipped the whole excursion to VVR but I was worried about lighting the esbits. I added a piece of pie to my order and then set about to wait for the ferry.

After two hours of waiting, the ferry was ready to go. I got on board with two couples setting out on backpack trips. The older couple was planning to hike the Sierra High Route to Tuolumne Meadows. The younger couple was hiking to Paiute Pass. They all had towering loads. The older man was curious about my small pack. He said it looked like I had read Ray Jardine's books and was adhering pretty closely to his methods. Lightweight hiking wasn't new to him so I wondered why he hadn't tried it. We talked about light hiking and about hiking the PCT.

When the ferry landed, I got off and set off to the bridge. There were lots of campsites at the bridge and also lots of campers. I decided to push on.

I began a series of dozens and dozens (turns out there were 53) switchbacks. It was like the switchbacks to Belden except I was going up. I thought they would never end. Three strong guys passed me on the way up, but I passed them again when they stopped to rest. They caught up to me again and then I passed them once again. I passed one good campsite on the ridge thinking maybe they might want it. But after I set up my own campsite, they passed me by never to be seen again.

My camp was in the forest. There were no creeks or snow anywhere but lots of mosquitoes anyway. I was grateful for my bug net tent as lopsided as it was.

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