Monday, September 3, 2012

Cross Country in the High Sierra

As a kid, my father and I use to search the Sierra Back Country for lakes that had good fishing. During the late 70s and early 80s, many of the lakes that were a days hike from the trail heads were beginning to be over crowded and fished out.
Eventually Dad found that "special" spot. High up on a secluded plateau, far from trails, and surrounded by miles of rigorous cross country boulder scrambling and bush whacking is a lake just loaded with large trout. My Dad caught a 18 inch Rainbow the first time he fished it and mine wasn't much smaller. Anyways, it has become that special place, and for 22 years I have been meaning to return.

For the coarse of several years in the mid to late 80s, I made the grewling trek up there, mostly with friends and a couple of times with my Dad. Each time we tried other routes, in hopes of making it an easier and shorter hike.
Finally my Dad found a great route, that was very tough, but a lot shorter. It consisted of 7 miles of trail up to Bishop Pass, and 20 or so miles of cross country in a straight direction.
So on September 1st, at 2:30 am, under a Blue Moon,I began my climb up Bishop Pass. The Moonlight was so bright I did not need a flashlight. I made such good time to the top of the Pass, that I ended up resting in my sleeping bag for the daylight. The crack of dawn was cool, quiet and tranquil.

Leaving the trail, and beginning the cross country was like stepping into another world. It was so quiet, peaceful and surreal, that being in a hurry was never a factor. I seemed to always stay ahead of the clock, and I stopped at all key locations to take pictures and video. There were long sections of boulder scrambling, plenty of bush whacking and a constant search for the easiest route. I stopped for long rest breaks and swam in crystal clear creeks.
The route has 3 high mountain passes, and a deep canyon that drops steeply 4000 feet. All in which has nothing even resembling a trail.
From the moment I left the trail, I saw nothing that resembling the presence of another person.
I did however locate a mine that is so far back in a canyon, that it astonishes me to think of how much work that this hearty soul must have endured to prospect here. To get the heavy iron equipment and supplies to this location, is just too much to figure.
I saw this mine the 1st time I passed through here, but failed to locate it the numerous times I passed by afterwards.

Eventually I topped the last high pass, and looked down on our family secret spot. It had not changed a bit, in the 22 years that I have been away. I had platy of daylight left to take countless pictures and scout the entire basin over. I did a complete circle of the lakes, and could not even find signs of a exsisting camp spot.
I found a nice spot to bed down behind some small trees to aid in sheltering me from the possibility of a cool night breeze.
Watching a Blue Moon Rising, and eating an assortment of good foods, I reminisced about all the history I had here, and dreamed of the future times to come.

The next morning I retraced my steps, this time carefully planning the route and not spending as much time caught up in dense brush or scrambeling on large boulders around high cliffs. I took mental notes from the day before and the miles went by quickly. I took one long break near the end of the cross country, and was shortly then afterwards atop Bishop Pass and back on trail.
I never saw a soul the entire distance, to the top of the last pass. I there encountered 4 backpackers with very large packs. I asked them of their destination, and they broke my heart by informing me of our secret little spot. I never even saw even a foot print, and here are these heavy impactors on their way to conquer our honey hole.
I can not help in wishing they don't make it, and they don't encourage others to reach it as well. I guess you can understand why I don't want to share the name of the lake and the details of how to get there...