Let the Beauty of what you Love be what you Do...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

High Sierra Solo~ Part 3 of 3: Over Donohue Pass & into Lyell Canyon

"I thank you God for this most amazing day,  for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes."     
  ~e.e. cummings

The perfect quote for my 3rd day of hiking in the Sierra! I have to admit, this is my favorite section of the trail... I'm hiking through trees & meadows, and then gradually higher into the wide expanse of granite that reaches up to touch the pure blue sky. The following pictures were taken as I left my campsite & began hiking towards Donohue Pass. Gorgeous beyond gorgeous these views are, and while the pictures never do it justice, try clicking twice on any image for greater detail.

Above, the clouds appear to be converging over the pass itself.

Climbing the pass, I look into the immense basin below, dotted with trees, streams & rock.

Higher still, everything below becomes "miniature," except the looming mountain ranges.

These views feed my soul, I stop often to breathe it all in.

Donohue Pass~ Elev. 11,056

Reaching the crest of Donohue Pass- it's a big pile of Granite & I love it!

The view to the left...

and to the right... simply awe-inspiring!

Looking to the valley below, I see how far I have to go to my next camp way off in the distance. I also have to descend 2,500 ft or so... a fair amount of down hill.

But that's not a worry... I have miles & miles of spectacular scenery along the way.

Eventually I finish my descent from high & lofty places,

 and walk along Lyell Canyon for the last few miles before setting up camp.

Looking back over the mountains I've travelled, I am glad I am now lower as a quick storm passes through at higher elevations,

while I am settling in for the evening.

When morning comes I am treated to watching the sun come over the mountains to illuminate the day.
My hike out was an easy & flat 6 miles, which gave my body a rest from the previous days of higher mileage with some major climbs & descents. I didn't take any pictures on the hike out, but if you'd like, you can see Lyell Canyon here, as my nephew & I used this trail as a starting point for our backpacking trip last year.
On a side note~
I am now back home & have started new clay classes already! I hope to get something clay related posted soon, but I'll also be daydreaming of a really BIG hike I'd like to do next year.
Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

High Sierra Solo~ Part 2 of 3: Alger Lakes past Waugh Lake

"Wilderness is not only a haven for native plants and animals but it is also a refuge from society. Its a place to go to hear the wind and little else, see the stars and the galaxies, smell the pine trees, feel the cold water, touch the sky and the ground at the same time.
~John Muir

After a rather sleepless night (the full moon shone on my tent like a floodlight!) I pack up my gear & hit the trail. I do not see another soul until I reach Gem Lake. 

Leaving Alger Lakes.

I was really amazed at how many wildflowers there were along the trail, especially considering the low snow pack this season. I have no idea what this flower is, but I loved the Dr Suessy look of it.

I paused often to check them out, though regretfully did not take many photos of them. I love how tiny & precious this group was.

The high point of the days hike took me through a stand of downed trees...

and then gently back down into tree line as I approached Gem Lake. In the distance, I get my first glimpse of Banner Peak- in the Ritter Range...

and a lovely view of Gem Lake, where I would later stop for lunch as well as fill up on water.

It's also where I would change out of my hiking shoes, & into my Chacos. (I had developed a couple of nice blisters from the inserts I had put in the shoes... I was tempted to show them to you... but figured I'd save you from the gross-out factor) I have nothing but good things to say about Chacos- my feet always feel so much better in them than boots & they have come with me on just about every backpacking trip I have ever done. They are surprisingly stable with an awesome Vibram hiking sole. As it turns out, I would finish the hike in these, as my hiking shoes which were secured to my pack turned out to be not so secure... at some point during one of my many breaks they seem to have jumped off my pack. Dang it!

Trail signs- I love them almost as much as I love maps!

Hiking along Waugh Lake for a few miles,

I meet & cross Rush Creek.

10 or so miles later, I reach my next camp. My campsite for night 2 was just perfect, really~ nestled in the trees just off the main trail... and not far beyond that, a perfect little creek for purifying water. Once again, I am tired from the days hike, but thankful my legs are still capable of carrying me over mountains & through valleys... I am always struck with a profound gratitude when I am out in the backcountry.

Friday, August 10, 2012

High Sierra Solo~ Part 1 of 3: Mono Pass Trailhead to Alger Lakes

 When planning my trip home to see the family, (always eager for a summer backpacking trip in the Sierra) I had also obtained a few hard to come by permits for the southern section of the John Muir Trail, (Kearsarge pass to Mt Whitney) hoping I could get a few friends to go along. I had hiked the JMT in it's entirety back in 2003, and I had intermittent dreams of returning to hike the last section of it. Unfortunately, the timing didn't work out with friend's schedules, and being my original permits were over a particularly rugged section of trail, (and knowing that I was now going Solo,) I gave them up in lieu of a shorter solo trip beginning a bit farther north in Yosemite.

I decided on an approx 35-36 mile loop hike beginning near Mono Pass in the Yosemite High country, traveling into the Ansel Adams Wilderness & back out via Tuolumne Meadows. I had attempted this same trip several times many years ago. I was shut down on 3 separate occasions, so I though what the heck, I'll give it another go. My first shutdown was a good 13 or so years ago on my first solo backpacking trip, when I had a ridiculously heavy pack (thinking I suppose, that more weight... ie, stuff= more security... which of course just made for a ridiculously hard hike in which I bailed out on a side trail @ Gem Lake after 3 days of short mileage.) The second time, with a couple of friends, we tried this trail in reverse, starting out in Tuolumne Meadows~ also bailing out around Gem Lake due to snowfall obscuring the trail during a late September hike. The third time, a couple of years ago, with my nephew... on our first night out we had thick smoke, as well as ash falling on our tent... the fire was far away, but we had no idea of knowing this at the time, so we bailed out that time, too. Thinking that if the 3rd time was not the charm, the 4th must certainly be... off I went!

Lupine near Creek

The beginning of my hike took me through Dana Meadows, lovely & lush...

Bambi :)

 through the forest and gradually higher to expansive views.

Me & my pack... carrying everything I'd need for the next 4 days & 3 nights... and then some. While my pack weight hovered around 40 pounds which is not at all bad, I realized I could have gone without a few items, thus shedding a few more pounds, which really does make a difference when putting in decent mileage & hiking over high passes.

Trail stretching out into the distance towards Parker Pass....

and looking back over the miles I had covered.

 At 11,100 feet, Parker Pass would be the the first high pass I'd hike over, but although it seems high, the hike started at 9,700 feet, and climbed gently over several miles, making it feel almost easy. (Though coming from NM & living at 7,000 ft may have had an influence!)

Just after the pass, I left Yosemite & entered the Ansel Adams Wilderness....

hiking onward, my next big Pass loomed in the distance. Just above the lingering snow pack to the right is the actual pass (it sits between Parker & Koip Peaks) though the trail climbs through scree/talus on the left flank of the mountain. When you first look at this pass, it seems insurmountable, but as it often is with climbing mountains, it is not until you get closer, and then closer still, the way appears.

My eagle eyes (ha!) spotted these two guys coming down the trail from Parker & Koip Peaks... click to enlarge to make the two small dots in the center of the frame become actual people.

The view from about 1/3 of the way up the hill... looking back into the valley from which I had just come.

The view above was probably taken somewhere around the halfway point. Note the zig zag pattern on the slope in the distance- that's the trail!

Views from the trail down towards Mono & Grant Lakes.

Aaahhhh... after some time, I reach the top of the Pass... I had not seen another soul since talking to the 2 guys coming down the other side. That's Parker Peak in the distance... but I don't climb it as a side hike... I still have miles to go!

Trail up to the Pass- Mono Lake in the Distance

I stop for a snack break & to take in the marvelous views & breathe the fresh, clean air. The wind was gusty on the way up, but for now, all I hear is silence... and it is glorious. Far above tree line, (elevation close to 12,200 ft) I take in the otherworldly landscape. 

Trail over the Pass- soon to descend to Alger Lakes

But I don't linger long... I must still descend at least 1,500 feet & a few miles to get to my first camp.

My first view of Alger Lakes from the Pass...

and a closer view as I make my way down. If you look closely, you can see the trail in the bottom left corner. 

Trail far below the pass & approaching the lakes. Time & time again I was blown away by the beauty & detail in the landscape. My photography simply just does not do it justice.

After roughly 10 miles of hiking & with a few thousand feet elevation gain & loss, I am tired! I do camp chores, secure my bear canister and set up camp without a soul in sight.

In complete solitude I take in last bit of sunlight as it illuminates Alger Lake.