Trip 2, West of the Palisades, out of Bishop

Trip 2, Day 1, [8/4/04]. 9:40pm. Dusy Basin.
      Packed bag, into town for breakfast croissant at Joseph's. Loaded extra food into lockers, drove back down below Parcher's and walked back up the road. Nice anti-pedestrian bias on the part of the Forest Service, eh? Up past Long Lake, through the mini-basin, over the pass. Shoulders hurt, out of rhythm. Frequent stops. What's nice about backpacking is that I get very much in the moment after a few days. Wake up with the sun, eat when you're hungry, drink when you're thirsty, nap when you're tired -- and try to do only one thing at a time. An attitude conspicuous in its absence right now.
      Full dark. The moon isn't up yet; it's waning. Full moon was 2-3 nights ago. The Milky Way is out, though, scattering its bright dust across the night sky in a thin band of a cloud. Again looking forwards to the Perseids.

Day 2, 9:15pm. Palisades Basin.
      Should have written this afternoon. Short day today, just over Knapsack Pass from Dusy Basin to the Palisades Basin and upper Barrett Lake. Not easy (tedious class 1 talus), but short. Lounged around camp and napped almost the whole afternoon.
      Met two girls, Megan and Mona, about seven or eight days into a 28-day hike through the high Sierras -- with climbing gear. Amazingly, they set up their first resupply at Glacier Lodge. So they're on the west side of the Sierra crest and their next food is on the east... with the Palisades between them. Ouch. They looked competent, though. They're trying Scimitar Pass tomorrow. Both from CC (envi. and bio); Megan knew Eric Leonard, who I did my Beartooths Keck project with -- 10 years ago, now.
      The light hasn't been great. I'd be hard pressed to think of more than two or three possibilities for prints from this summer, so far.
      Feel like I'm giving my body seasonal schizophrenia: hot in Bishop, warm days on trail, cold nights at 11k'+. I don't care if it's August in California, it is not warm when you're above eleven thousand feet and the sun goes down. It's not just the adiabatic gradient, either; with so little humidity the temperature changes fast.
      Hot chocolate, then to sleep.

Day 3, 9:00pm. Upper Glacier Creek.
      Again a late start this morning and another short day. Just over Potluck Pass from Palisade Basin to Lake 11,676'. Not at all bad. Secor has it marked as class 2; I'd call it a 1. There's a good use trail down the steepest scree and the upper ledges are navigable with some exploring. It took longer to scout and decide than to actually descend. Over many hills and ridges above the Barrett Lakes -- probably better to stay along the base, to the east -- then a longish set of slabs to the pass. Actually enjoyable. Circumnavigated the lake after dropping the pack. Conspicuous lack of good campsites. I think I have the best, but still no windshelter. Amazingly, a couple of small grus beaches and even a tiny lagoon on the east side!
      Change of plans. Will attempt to go over Chimney Pass to the Palisade Lakes; will pick up the JMT north to the junction with the Bishop Pass trail. It adds time and maybe an extra day; I'll probably come out with almost no food. But it'll be a neat semi-loop if I can do it. Thought seriously this evening of doing the JMT, the whole thing, over the remainder of the summer. Figure fifteen to twenty days on the trail, about four to set up food caches -- I'd be right on the edge of making it. I don't think I want that extra pressure. I'm confident I could do it; I'm carrying more weight, off-trail, at higher average elevation now. It would just be a question of endurance and handling a constant eight or nine hours per day on trail. It's doable.
      No sign of Megan and Mona. Hope they made it over Scimitar safely and well.
      Lots of frogs in Dusy Basin and the Barrett Lakes. Heartening to see some amphibians making it. Lots of hummingbirds, too.

Day 4, 12;15pm (Noon). Near the Palisade Lakes.
      Made it. Over Chimney Pass; I'm maybe 50m off trail, writing in the shade of a small pine. Definitely tougher than Knapsack and Potluck, but the sketchiest sections were quite low on the north side. Routefinding was a challenge in places; had to traverse across the slope twice to pick up easier sections and avoid ten to twenty foot faces. Cliffed out a few times. From the bottom, I think I can see a better way, but who knows if it goes through?
      Almost 48 hours solo, including one full calendar day (obviously). Just saw my first hikers on the Muir trail, a group of three headed south over Mather Pass. I'm only a few miles from the pass, but won't see it on this trip -- have to leave something for the actual thing.
      It feels warmer down here. It's 1000' lower; 10,6' rather than 11,6'. I don't feel resentful of the small breezes stealing heat like I sometimes did above. Saw three deer just on the shoulder above the Palisade Lakes. Oddly, it looked like an older (larger) female and two males together. A four-point and a two-point (counting all, not just one side). Father and son? Older and younger brother? I didn't think deer maintained family units like that. Not habituated, but not scared either. Wary, like they would be of any large unknown animal (meaning me). Really cool. Maybe I should think about Yellowstone and the Lamar Valley next summer.
      Lunch here, then north on the JMT as far as I can get to today.

Day 4, 9:20pm. Canyon of the Middle Fork of the King's River.
      Later. Don't know exactly where I am. I'd guess about one mile south of the intersection with the Bishop Pass trail. Had to stop at almost exactly 8:00pm; had run out of water a half-hour earlier and just tired all over. Somewhat marginal camping spot, gently sloped, about ten meters off trail. Close to a major falls/cascade coming in from the west, flanked by a notable rock formation -- maybe "The Citadel". Started about 8:45 this morning, over Chimney Pass and down to the Palisade lakes by 12:15; count off about two hours (maybe more) for lunch, rests, and photography and it's about nine hours of hiking. Came down from the Palisade Lakes via a slew of switchbacks down to Palisade Creek. Notably wet and overgrown in spots; rough trail at times. Mode it down below timberline, through some burned areas. It started to get really pretty just before meeting the middle fork of the King's river; stopped to photograph some backlit trees, then a cascade just above the confluence.
      Washed up slightly -- felt really nice, and not too cold down here at 8k'... That was at local sunset, this canyon flanked by 12k'+ peaks, but decided to keep going. Having decided to return via this route, I still had miles to cover. Didn't make it that far, though, because -- if you could ignore the insane amount of mosquitoes -- it was just too beautiful to be in that much of a rush. Just incredible. Major river (for CA), cascades, mature forest with mixed jeffery, other pines, and aspens, an amazing meadow (Grouse Mdw.), and all topped off by soaring granite walls far above. Really magical in the skylit twilight, too. Is the upper section of the valley this beautiful, or does it change? 'Cause I don't remember this from having backpacked Bishop Pass-Muir Pass-Alpine Col-Piute Pass years before. Was I just oblivious? In too much of a rush to get to the alpine? Both trips this summer, I've been hit by unexpected pleasures.
      Evidently I'm also camped in prime deer grazing habitat, because two keep coming back to within fifteen to twenty feet of me. Habituated, I guess. Neat that they were grazing so close while I fixed dinner, though.
      I'll attempt to make it all of the way out tomorrow. Don't know if I can do it, or if I'll have to stop earlier. I have just enough food to add the half-day extra that it would take, but I want to see if I can do it. I'll have to start early to try to climb out of the canyon before the sun rises over the Palisades. From my personal perspective, it's no problem to take the extra time if I need it; I just want to see if I can do it. Very glad to have come this way, though.

Day 5, 10:30pm. Buttermilk Country.
      Out. Had grand plans of getting an early start; woke up and got up before 7:00am despite the lack of direct sun. However, a doe -- I imagine the same one as last night -- started browsing nearby and I wanted to try to photograph her. Of course, it wasn't quite the worst possible camera to try to use -- it wasn't a view camera -- but it didn't help to have medium format with a normal lens. Shot almost two rolls, aided mostly by her extreme tolerance. Again within fifteen to twenty feet, close enough that hyperfocal depth of field was a problem. Still, fulfilling and encouraging to see.
      Got on trail about 8:30am, stopped to shoot a reflection on the river and to watch three more deer, then made it to the junction and started up towards Dusy Basin. Some nice cascades and a massive "grandfather" juniper on the ascent. Otherwise, long and steep. About six miles and 3200' gain. Just moving. Made Bishop Pass by about 3:00pm after stopping an hour for lunch to let my feet out and let the socks dry. Hot and sweaty. Down to Saddlerock and Long Lakes. Eventually out. Feet definitely hurting; otherwise I felt remarkably OK. In any normal outlook, I should have stopped, but I wanted to see if I could make it. No other reason, really.
      Made it out by about 6:00pm. Not much traffic on the trail after 4:30pm or so. Picked up food, caught a ride back down to the car, washed up by the creek through the Buttermilks. Tired. Drained. Sandals felt great. Las Palmas for dinner -- a little off, not as good as usual. Finished Barbara Cushman Rowell's book this evening. Interesting but strangely foreign in many ways. The internal issues she struggles with over gender relationships aren't even on my radar. They're non-issues for me. Should it be otherwise? Something to think about, at any rate.
      Sleep. A few days off in Bishop. Mail exposed film home, order more. Thought seriously about going home last night but have decided to try not to. We'll see how it goes. I definitely want to try to get in thirty days on trail before school starts again.

Three days in Bishop, one day in Mammoth. Too slack. Hot in Bishop. More film finally arrived, then rain in Mammoth and finishing Neil Gaiman's "American Gods". Have to watch out for those books... Good light over the Minarets.




All images copyright 1999-2004. All rights reserved.
To contact, e-mail