Day 59: Further Into the High Sierra
Friday, May 18, 2018 7:29 pm
Location: Campsite 743.9 (743.9 miles)

It was cool, though not as cold as it was yesterday. Nevertheless, I did not manage to get out of my tent earlier than usual, let alone to see the sunrise. I still managed to have a good view from my campsite, though.

I got started on the remainder of the climb up the mountain I started yesterday around 7:45. About a mile or so up, a fighter jet flew by at a relatively low altitude, coming vaguely from the direction I had been hiking from, and banking into Owens Valley to the east. Throughout the rest of the day, I would continue to hear jets nearby, but this was the only one I saw.

The trail reached a crest overlooking Owens Valley, before descending again as it continued on a roughly north-northwesterly track.

For the most part, the trail was lined with pine trees, and the ground consisted of a thin layer of sand broken off from sandstone.

After a short climb, the trail brought me to the side trail to the small creek feeding into Dutch Meadow, a little after noon. A short distance off the trail, the creek would be my water source for the day.

Going to the spring, I ran into Salmon, who indicated they (Sassy K’s group) were doing another 20+ mile day (which would be over 22 miles for me, if I wanted to keep up). I wasn’t planning on going that far today, so keeping up with them seems pretty unlikely.

My plan was to cook dinner at Dutch Meadow (to lighten the load for the rest of the day), and then move on to another campsite near water and have a second dinner there.

Dutch Meadow
Dutch Meadow

For it being noon, it was pretty cold; the altitude (9,960 ft at the spring, 10,405 where I eventually camped) is clearly a significant factor in the temperature. A light breeze did not help matters, and I actually wound up putting my gloves on while I was eating to stay warmer.

I was pretty tired (like, take a nap tired), and I entertained the notion of staying where I was. However, it was still fairly early in the day, there were several other campsites not that far ahead, and the campsite next to the creek was littered with cow pies. I opted to press on. I vaguely had Chicken Spring Lake (about 7.5 miles further) in mind, but any of the campsites in between would be an improvement. In particular, I was looking forward to a second dinner to cut down on the excessive amount of food I had.

I wound up only going about a mile uphill to the next campsite, which has two natural rock walls, providing some protection from the wind. In the distance, to the west, dark clouds hovered above the mountains, and it looked like it was going to rain.

I started to leave to head to the next campsite (about 5.5 miles further), and then reconsidered. I was at a nice campsite, with a nice view, and from here, I could do two easy 12-mile days to get to the trailhead for Mount Whitney, and be pretty well-rested for the long climb up. That’ll be pretty important if the switchback portion of the ascent is covered in snow, which seems to be the case.

My plan for a second dinner was foiled as there was no water at the campsite (except for some snow behind the rock walls, but I didn’t want to waste fuel to melt snow). Maybe an early dinner tomorrow at Chicken Spring Lake instead.

Last night when I set my tent up, I had to move it from where I initially put it because the rock sand on the ground wasn’t deep enough to get the stakes in deep enough. I had the same problem again here. I was hoping to be closer to one of the rock walls than I wound up being, but hopefully I’m still close enough to get some of the wind protection.

After I got my tent set up, Special K hiked past; I was the first person she had seen all day. Shortly after she left, a little before 5, a light rain started, tapering off a bit after 15 minutes and stopping altogether 15 minutes after that.

Over the evening, four more people arrived and set up tents. The clouds seemed content to drop precipitation elsewhere, and it wound up not being windy at all, despite the relative exposure of the area (rock walls aside).

Tomorrow: lunch at Chicken Spring Lake, and a short 12 mile day.