Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Red's Meadow to Vermillion Valley Resort

17 August 2010 - Rosalie Lake (9350') to Red's Meadow (7700')

C7Red's Meadow =showers and dedicated campgrounds for backpackers. Reach Devil's Postpile on southeast trending fork down to river + bridge
Mule House Cafe home cooked meals open 7am-7pm

The cool shade of the gem lakes gives way to a hot dusty slog as you hike south from Lower Trinity Lake. We happily threw ourselves into the stream below Johnston Meadow, but alas there was more slogging ahead. Hopes of seeing Minaret Falls from above were misguided as they aren't visible on the approach down to Devil's Postpile.

Pilastr had caught a very large trout in Gladys Lake and saved it to cook at lunch. No place for a lunchtime fire presented itself, and to start even the tiniest blaze among the deadwood below Trinity Lakes would have been dangerous. So with no place to cook him, we carried the monstrous fellow all the way to Red's Meadow, pitched camp and finally roasted the f***r which didn't prevent us from tying into a more monstrous hamburger an hour later at Red's Grill. Met a crazed young man Ryan who had just "bailed out" of the trail -- his pals sounded nuts to do the trail on a 17 day schedule. Ryan was already enjoying the friendly attention of a waitress who'd offered to give him a ride home with her at the end of her shift.

Wish we had known that the unsigned path from the campground up to Red's Meadow general store and grill comes in right at the geothermal showers. Instead we hiked along the road, not nearly as nice. Before leaving, we would manage to shower three times. I saw a tiny frog in my shower - a good omen!

18 August 2010 - Reds Meadow (7700') to Duck Creek (10200')

6.5mi Deer
+1000’3.5% D=8
C8 - 6mi to Deer Creek FILL WATER, it's the last until Duck Creek 6mi more. The next section is "most monotonous" on JMT.
Joe=”avoid Purple Lake =zoo”

We left Red's Meadow fully fueled on pancakes, bacon and eggs! We'd been told (and had read in the Wilderness Press book) that this was the most monotonous stretch of the trail. We couldn't disagree more. The wasted forest just outside Reds Meadow is super strange and beautiful. The volcanic red cones are singularly surreal and the flowery meadows around them are gorgeous. Maybe we read the wrong section of the WP book, reading south to north instead of north to south, because the stretch coming down into Devil's Postpile was far less interesting.

At Red Cones, Pilastr saw a Wolverine scampering away. We would later learn than there has only been a single confirmed sighting of wolverine in California in 60 years. Excitement! Sadly, we failed to search for scat, tracks, and fur that might have confirmed this sighting. Here's is Pilastr's initial report to the Dept. of Fish and Game.
"As I made the ridge at Red Cones I startled a mammal approximately 40 feet away. It sent up a flurry of dirt and stones as it scampered down toward the stream. I gave chase to keep it in view as long as possible. I had a sustained look and clearly saw it’s yellow strip and broom-like tail. I also saw it’s face briefly as it angled down to the stream. I lost sight of it behind rocks near the water. I followed to the stream’s edge but couldn’t see where it had gone. The two others I was hiking with were 100 feet or more behind me and did not see the animal. I had my GPS (Garmin 60Cx)running and immediately marked the place and time where the sighting occurred.
The animal was more than twice the size of a marmot, it moved with strength and speed far greater than any marmot, and of course it had the distinctive stripe and broom tail. I had John Law’s field guide drawing of a wolverine with me which I reviewed immediately, comparing what I had seen to drawings of Marten, Fisher, and Badger as well. I am quite certain the animal I saw was a wolverine. Also, on Aug. 30 we encountered a Fisher below Deer Meadow as we ascended from Grouse Meadow (LeConte Canyon). This sighting of the smaller, solid colored Fisher further convinced me that the size, striping, and movement of the mammal I saw at Red Cones was indeed a wolverine."
Lunched at Deer Creek where there are numerous shaded sites, but no views at all. We thought about camping there but decided to press on to Duck Creek which was a great call though sites were few. Above the Duck Creek crossing, things are marshy whereas ahead of the creek they're exposed to wind (and trail). We set up ahead of the crossing on the exposed flats where level space for one tent occurs beside a stunted pine just barely 100' from water. As a consequence, secluded opportunities for our morning ablutions were few. The next morning it would be a steep hike in search of level relief. We broke camp before taking that hike and, in our haste, flushed an enormous grouse that did something very near to flying.

19 August 2010 - Duck Creek (10200') to Fish Creek (9500')

7mi Tully
+1530’ (1100)
C9 -Camp at Lake Virginia if tired. Sites among scattered trees on sandy knob Northwest of lake. Or continue 2mi, and start descent to "Fish Creek's impressive west bank past slabs and deep swimming holes and campsites." to FISH CREEK/Tully Hole ZERODAY? Note: hiking Silver Pass nxt day, water taxi to VVR = 9:45am
We broke camp at Duck Creek and hiked on to Virginia Lake - a most beautiful lunch spot beside wide green waters - probably would have been nice to camp there but we pressed on down hill to Fish Creek. Met a Scottish man on the way down -- very nice fellow, does the JMT every year. Pitched camp above Fish Creek, a short steep scramble up the hillside immediately over the log bridge yielded a superbly hidden fire ring among broad granite steps beside dense lodgepole. We saw giant fungus growing at the base of lodgepole pines which I think could have been a variety of porcini (!) perhaps the California king bolete. I'm a beginner mushroom enthusiast so not to the level of eating anything I identify, yet, but I find the fungi to be some of the most interesting looking things you are likely to run into on a hike.

20 August 2010 -Fish Creek (9500') to Chief Lake (10500')

10mi Mono Cr
...Cascade Vly JCT is not clearly marked, it's among avalanche debris and not as far downstream as many maps show. Be sure to go LEFT, straight up to SILVER PASS.
Camp below Siilver pass at Squaw or Chief Lake. There may be a small but quite steep snow bank near Silver Pass. Before descent, look south where trail to Selden is visible. Further down is a dangerous crossing at Mono Creek with rocky creekbed. (Not a problem in August)
C10 – Stop at Silver Lake (halfway) or past Mott Lake JCT, Mono Pass Trail eases (1st campsite in miles) Or Press on to ford N. Fork of Mono Creek Water taxi to VVR = 9:45am VVR BBQ=Saturdays!

Pilastr took the morning to fish the plentiful but minute golden trout that infest "Fish Creek" while I made some sketches of a young lodgepole pine growing out of granite. Still more 0ther-worldly fungus surprised us at every turn. Our time here was among the most beautiful and secluded on the whole trip. We saw and heard no one until we departed. On the JMT, that's really something.

I've been using my sleeping bag in a "quilt" fashion as I've found I sleep warmer that way. My bag seems to be so close fitting that the down gets compressed and renders itself useless, however, unzipped and piled on top of me, zipper side down, I'm much less claustrophobic and warm. Hiked in the afternoon to Chief Lake. Met the inimitable Hiker Mark from Mammoth with his sturdy dog as we descended toward the bridge over Fish Creek. Pilastr fished the whole way down, gasping at all the perfect deep holes he was having to pass up in order to make time.

Hiker Mark took advantage of the astounding meadow below Squaw Lake, we pressed on to Squaw and higher still to Chief Lake where we met Hiker Dan who coincidentally worked at the same company as Hiker Chris, though they did not know each other. Strange! It seems Hiker Dan was quite miserable with his choice of meals for the trip, choking down several "Lipton Sides" flavored spuds. Sodium city. Blech!

We had nearly stopped at Squaw Lake but happily we climbed the extra distance to Chief Lake which affords view clear back to Island Pass and the vertical slab that is Mt. Ritter. It was like looking across time to the previous week of hiking. The orange sunset lent the perfect time travel special effect.

21 August 2010 -Chief Lake (10500') to Vermillion Valley Resort (8350')
Woke up early at Chief Lake to a wind storm -- very strange weather all day, very windy, beautiful feathery cloud formations. Headed up to Silver Pass (10,895 ft). We were excited to hike up to Silver Pass as we were finally getting into territory neither of us had hiked previously. We couldn't wait to see the view at the pass and our next mountain range beyond that. However, upon our arrival at the top of the pass we were met with a large pile of what looked like someones trash. We examined the item and found it to be a full family sized jar of peanut butter wrapped in several layers of plastic bags with a note in it describing this as a "geo-cache" and to "please enjoy this peanut butter and leave something for others". It was such a disappointment and tarnished our experience of the otherwise pristine Silver Pass. What ever happened to "LEAVE NO TRACE"? Also, why would somebody think that a jar of peanut butter would enhance my experience of Silver Pass? We resolved to pack out the 2lb jar since we were headed to Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR) with it's horseless carriages and refuse receptacles that self-same evening.

We hiked around 8.6 miles that day but it seemed hard because it was almost all downhill. At this point we were preferring uphill to downhill; downhill is hell on your feet and knees. We arrived at Lake Thomas Edison, which is a very large man-made reservoir, hiked over to the inlet for a cold swim then awaited the water taxi to VVR where we'd fetch our resupply and enjoy the Saturday BBQ. The windy weather still hadn't let up. When we finally got onto the water taxi we were in our full rain gear and I put my trash bag over my pack as well, which was lucky because everything got wet. It was a pretty fun and exciting boat ride. We arrived at VVR which is a typical "summer camp" complete with cabins, small store & restaurant. You basically open a tab with them and pay it before you leave. We didn't bother to use internet as escaping the world of computers was one of my primary reasons for going on the trail (and now I'm blogging about it, har!). Anyway, we pitched camp directly across the road from VVR and behind two 12 foot boulders; it was extremely nice, duff instead of dust and much more secluded than the tent city situated right outside the restaurant/store.

Went over to the restaurant and got our BBQ and our 6-pack then returned later to find our camp rifled through by a bear! There was a scratch on our bear can and slobber all over the top of it -- kind of cute! Nice to know the device works.

1 comment:

  1. Where is that picture of the lodgepole pine?
    Post it!