Granite Park, Mono Creek Drainage to Pine Creek trailhead August 18-22, 2015 2

Tuesday August 18
Granite Park 11,340 feet to Bear Ridge 9,000 feet. Total elevation gain/loss +- 9,500 feet!
13 ish miles
I said goodbye to Nancy and Rich and headed deeper into Granite Park, my first goal being Italy Pass 12,400 feet. Although this trail hasn’t been maintained in years there are still some visible sections in the decomposed granite. I hunt for ducks ( trail ducks, that is) climbing higher and higher. The wind whips at my face and I hear the flapping of birds wings high above me. I trudge onward. The trail appears, disappears, and is completely obliterated under huge talus blocks and then suddenly reappears for 30 feet before disappearing again…this happens     all the way to the pass. Looking back from where I came I can see Mt Humphreys and the faint ridge where I suppose Puppet Pass is. Looking forward I can see Jumble Lake and the pass I used to get into Bear Basin in July  and further down the canyon I see what I suppose is Hilgard Branch…my next goal. When I was here in July I didn’t expect to be back so soon!
Italy Pass Here I come!

Italy Pass Here I come!

A good trail

A good trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Closer to the Pass

Getting Closer to the Pass

Up the slabs I go to the top!

Up the slabs I go to the top!

The route down to Lake Italy involves a lot of big jumbled rocks and I call it the mumbo jumble! Cruiser hates this part because he bounces all around and gets motion sickness! As I was navigating through the jumbled mess I kept hearing voices,  people shouting to each other which way to go but I never did see anyone. I walked right by my campsite that I used in July! When I reached the far shore of the outlet to Lake Italy I jumped in the water. Boy did that feel good….it is quite hot out today.  Now I’m about to start working my way down Hilgard Branch.

The view from the top. Mt. Humphreys way way in the background.

The view from the top. Mt. Humphreys way way in the background.

The trail down Hilgard Branch was beautiful. I see where I made my mistake on my July trip and crossed the creek too soon. This time I was able to follow the use trail until it disappeared in a network of granite slabs and water all twisting and turning together. Cruiser and I were both happy to be back in the trees after spending so much time above tree line. The contrast is amazing from the desolate granite rocks to the lushness and green. I like them both for different reasons.
Hilgard Branch

Hilgard Branch

Cool waterfall.

Cool waterfall.

 

It was HOT and  I stopped two more times to swell down my feet. I even sat under a small waterfall to cool off and then enjoyed a fizzy drink and cookies! Actually I engulfed the 4 cookies and then smacked my lips wishing for more!
I didn’t see anyone all day until I made a sharp righthand turn onto the JMT around 5pm….and even then I only saw a handful of people. I wanted to get a little way up Bear Ridge before camping and I was able to do just that! I had to carry 4 liters of water for the last mile but it was worth it because I stumbled upon a great site nestled between the granite and incense cedars. I got to camp around 7 and ate dinner watching the sunset! It was a long day of hiking and a great day of hiking too!!!! I’m tired with a capital T!!!!! Actually, let’s make it all caps. T I R E D!
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Wednesday August 19, 2015
Bear Ridge 9,000 feet to Second Recess. 10,200 feet Total elevation loss/gain: +- 4,875 feet! 16 miles.
It was so warm I was able to sleep without my rainfly and I watched the stars before Bear Creek, a hundred feet below, provided the music I needed to fall asleep.
Up with the pre-dawn light drinking coffee and picking out the surrounding peaks….much better than the morning news!
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The hike up Bear Ridge going northbound is so much easier than heading south. It’s a pleasant walk up in the woods. So many colors of green and a variety of trees that I have not seen in days. Nice! All along Bear Ridge I had cell service from Lake Edison and I was able to connect with my peeps which was great. It also slowed my progress to a near crawl.
I had a long conversation with my mom catching her up on the trail news.  She follows my progress on a topo map, plus she has hiked many of these trails, so when I mention a peak she knows exactly what I’m talking about. When I tell her I’m on Bear Ridge she says, “Oh that BUGGER, it just goes on and on and on.” She has that right! She asked me what I was having for lunch…. As if it would be something other than PB and tortilla. I asked her to send me up a turkey sandwich and a homemade brownie and we had a good laugh!
I’m sitting near the bridge crossing of Mono Creek swelling down my feet in the shade. Ahhhhh. Yesterday I was having lunch in the high country around 12,000 feet and now today I’m a little over 7,000 feet!  A couple just joined me, seeking shade and complaining of the heat!  They are hiking the JMT and want some recommendations for camping. I give them a few ideas but also tell them to hunt around and they will find some primo sites.
I trudge up, up, and up some more before I arrived at the Mono  pass/drainage trail….where I walked up hill all afternoon. Whenever the trail came close to the water I stopped and swelled down my feet and myself. At one stop I had a fizzy drink and the next stop a coffee shake in an attempt to stay hydrated and cool.
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 I found myself walking on the forest floor and found it to be most interesting. Here, the trees and brush are so thick it would be hard to run off the trail without getting snagged and tangled in a branch mess. A breeze rustled the quaking aspen, the birds chirped and the sweet vanilla aroma from the ponderosa trees filled the air. Along some stretches the trees were massive, both in width and height and I marveled at how long they have been standing  here waiting for me!  I inspected the downed trees and saw how the branches grow from the inside out. Impressive. I entertained myself by trying to decipher the carvings on the quaking aspens, looking for the oldest dates…1902….likely from a Shepard.
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Quaking Aspen.

Quaking Aspen.

Huge tree. Notice the branches inside the core or the tree.

Huge tree. Notice the branches inside the core or the tree.

 

It was quite an idyllic afternoon…..that is until I crossed the creek, slipped on a rock and landed feet first with the water filling up both my boots!  I had been thinking about washing my socks, but this wasn’t quite the method I envisioned. Silly. Silly. Silly! Especially since I knew  I wouldn’t make the jump but was too tired to bushwhack downstream.

 

I sat on a rock, emptied out my boots, wrung out my socks, put everything back on and squished up the trail. It wasn’t long before a tree branch snagged my right gaiter and I skipped, hopped and jumped in an attempt to stay upright. It worked. It seems like a good time to stop for the day. I found an open flat-ish spot near a cascading waterfall and began setting up camp. I found myself eating dinner, barefoot because everything was wet at 8pm and watching the moon dip down behind the mountains. I put my socks on my hiking poles and opened my boots all the way in the hopes they would dry by morning!

Thursday August 20, 2015 Second Recess 8,535 feet to Golden Lake 10,994 feet. Total elevation gain 2,459 feet. (but it felt like 8,000 feet!)  5.28 miles. (it felt like 50!)
I slept until 7 waiting as long as I could for the sun to hit the valley where I’m camped. Surprisingly my boots are semi dry and my socks are completely dry! After coffee and breakfast my first task is to repair my gaiter so I don’t kick half the trail into my boot. I put my solar charger, my boots, insoles and socks in the sun. As I sew my gaiter, YES, SEW! The sun works it’s magic on the rest of my gear. Once my sewing project is complete I pack up and start walking….yup UPHILL!
A half hour on the trail and I can tell this is going to be a tough day. It’s not the miles, or the uphill or even the trail, well maybe it is the trail because I did cruse at it….that’s making it tough.Can you believe that when I finally get to a real trail the first thing I do is curse at it instead of being grateful for it? Jeez. That’s some bad karma right there!

I’m just TIRED! All my energy is zapped and I can tell it is going to take me forever to get anywhere! I eat a powerbar, and then another and down a lot of water.  I run into a man walking downhill and he asks me if I’m Ok because I look so tired! I laugh and then he comments on the fact that I’m walking up and he is walking down and maybe that’s why I look tired. “Gee, maybe….                “He tells me there is a “use” trail from Golden Lake to Mono Pass and confirms that Golden Lake is a must stop. He tells me his plan to hike into Bear Basin and I suggest a few routes.
A great rest stop

A great rest stop

As soon as the trail gets close to the creek I find a perfect spot….granite slabs, pools of water, sun and shade and spend the next three hours swelling down my feet, washing my undies, resting and eating. Just what I need.

 

 

Golden Lake is indeed idyllic. The water is a deep deep teal blue and I immediately drop my pack and jump in. Notice how I don’t say I went swimming. Brrrr. I find my home for the night between big granite slabs and white bark pine. I spend the afternoon doing nothing except watching the scenery. It is the best!
Golden Lake

Golden Lake

In the evening a guy, who I realize I saw earlier in the day when he and his girlfriend were day hiking, comes by wanting to borrow a lighter for his stove. We chat for a while and he tells me that he works for the park service studying disease in white bark pines….I find this very interesting. He also shares that he is hiking out over, “that chute there and what do I think?” I have heard this route takes you right to the stables at Rock Creek. But jeez it looks steep! I then tell him my plan to hike up “that talus slope along the creek, that will eventually connect me with the Mono Pass trail.” He thinks it’s a good idea. He is also about 20!
Golden Lake Camp

Golden Lake Camp

Morning down Mono Drainage.

Morning down Mono Drainage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday August 21, 2015 Golden Lake 10,994 feet to Lower Morgan Lake 10,700 feet. Total elevation gain/loss +- 3,307 feet. 10 miles
It was a perfectly still day when I emerged from my tent. Golden Lake was so still it was almost as if it wasn’t even there. After my morning routine of taking down camp, coffee and packing up I noticed that the valley was filling with smoke from all the fires in the vicinity. It would stay completely smokey, like dense fog. all day long. This added an eerie element to the day.
Once I was climbing on my talus blocks I heard the far away, familiar groan of rocks, and looked across the lake to see two tiny silhouettes moving up the chute. I smiled and kept climbing up my own groaning, shifting talus blocks.  Right in the middle of my climb I started thinking about Cream of Wheat  with brown sugar and melted butter…..boy did that sound good! In between thinking about Cream of Wheat I also wondered if I would step on the one rock that would send all of them tumbling down like a house of cards……better to focus on the Cream of Wheat!
Before long I was up, over and down Mono Pass ( 12,045 feet)  and walking up Little Lakes Valley…my stomping grounds. I stopped to swell down my feet, eat lunch, and drink a coffee milkshake. The smokey haze was so thick I couldn’t make out any of the surrounding peaks.
Soon I was making my way over Morgan Pass ( 11,155 feet)  and down the other side to Lower Morgan Lake where I am now camped. This is another beautiful deep teal blue lake that I don’t think gets many visitors. There is a sign at the 10,000 foot marker that says, “No Fires.” Underneath the sign there is a nice pile of wood. That made me laugh!
Lower Morgan Lake

Lower Morgan Lake

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I’ve always wanted to hike this part of the trail and I’m excited to be doing it now. The trail eventually leads down to the old Tungsten Mine and…..MY CAR!!!!! There is evidence of the old Mine in the form of rusty cans, pieces of unrecognizable machinery and the old road…now with shrubs and trees growing up the middle. Interesting!
Cruiser and my Backpack

Cruiser and my Backpack

The sky has cleared and it is warm enough to sleep without my rainfly. The birds have been chirping away and I can hear the water lapping at the shore. I also heard a small rock slide..eek. It is 8 pm and I’m ready to go nap in on down after another fabulous Sierra day!
Saturday August 22, 2015
Lower Morgan Lake 10,700 feet to Pine Creek trailhead 7,405 feet. Total elevation loss 3,295 feet. ( A knee cruncher!)
It was so still and quiet last night that I wondered if I was disturbing the forest with all my tossing and turning. I was able to watch the stars before falling asleep! Love that.
This morning the sky is semi clear and I’m able to distinguish the surrounding peaks. I can see the smoke hanging in the valley which is my destination. The birds have a lot to say this morning and I can hear the flapping of their wings. The lake is  like a mirror reflecting the talus slopes in its deep turquoise waters. I cannot think of a better way to start my final day!
Down, Down, and Down some more. All morning I walk DOWN the old Mining road. I pause along the way poking around what appears to be an old dump…lots of rusty metal, broken glass and pottery shards. I find it fascinating. I wander further down and get a great view of Bear Creek Spire. I’m amazed that I was just over there, right behind that massive ridge a few days ago! Wow!
Cool metal "junk."

Cool metal “junk.”

This looks like an old shovel

This looks like an old shovel

 

The Mine WAY WAY WAY  D O W N there! I will EVENTUALLY walk right by it.

The Mine WAY WAY WAY
D O W N there! I will EVENTUALLY walk right by it.

Thistle along the trail.

Thistle along the trail.

There’s a turkey burger out there somewhere with my name on it …so I keep walking! It is a LONG, LONG LONG walk DOWN a very rocky old mining road. At one point I think the road disappears and I wonder for a brief second if I have to climb all the way back up to Morgan Pass. I hunt around and find the road and continue on my long journey back to my car. I reach my car and hoot and holler raising my hiking poles high about me in victory! What a great hike!!

 

This concludes my summer backpacking adventures. Although I currently have no fall trips planned, that could change with one boot step. I hope you have enjoyed reading/looking at my pictures as much as I have enjoyed writing this blog. Please pass along the link to my blog if you know of others who might enjoy it.
HAPPY TRAILS!!!!

HAPPY TRAILS!!!!

This blog was typed on my eye-phone,  trail-side, with my index finger, one letter at a time!

2 thoughts on “Granite Park, Mono Creek Drainage to Pine Creek trailhead August 18-22, 2015

  1. Reply Jack Rabbit Tobin AKA Nancy Aug 24,2015 8:42 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful write-up of our trip and for not mentioning that I was freaked out once or twice! It was such a great trip full of adventure, laughs and beautiful high country.
    Nancy and Rich

  2. Reply Les Aug 26,2015 6:26 pm

    Wonderful writing and photos. I love that your mom knows exactly the terrain you describe. Two questions you can answer later: 1. What is your gaiter? (I know I can look it up but I’m gonna wait for direct conversation with you!) 2. Does Cruiser tuck in his (her?) laces at night too?

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