Vermilion Valley Resort to Onion Valley

July 31

The shuttle was late getting to VVR yesterday, so I missed the ferry, by a hair. So I ended up spending the night there. I caught the 9am ferry and started to walk about 9:30.

The first couple of miles were pretty mellow, but the next 3 gained 2000 feet; an endless succession of switchbacks. Finally the trail hit 10,000 foot and then immediately lost 1000 of it. The final 4 miles gained that thousand back, and has me 1000 feet below Selden Pass.

Today was brutal and warm without much scenery. Carrying a full pack with 6 days of food did not help much. And a mile below my camp there was a ford, my 4th one of the trip.

I was pretty lifeless when I hit camp, maybe more so than at any other point in this trip. Managed to make camp, eat a snickers, take a bath and make dinner. All ready for bed and starting to feel better, but should sleep well tonight.

A little before bed 2 ex-marines came into camp with one of them carrying a short flag pole with decent sized American and Marine flags on it. He explained he was being patriotic and had some cause he was supporting, but I don’t remember what it was. They are the only people I have seen have a campfire on the PCT, although given that there is at least one firepit near nearly every campsite, I highly suspect they are not alone.

This is the ‘ferry’ that runs from VVR to the far end of Lake Edison twice a day. It can carry about 20 people plus their backpacks.
Looking out the front of the ferry at the east end of the lake. My first task after getting off the ferry is to climb the 2000 ft ridge to the right.
Just a random picture of a random mountain. It looks like a painting, but I saw scenery like this all the time.

August 1

Back to a normal schedule; up at 4:30 and on the trail by 5:30. Finished the climb to Selden Pass early and took a few moments to marvel at the view in both directions.

The bad thing about climbing into a pass is that it is followed by a long down, in this case nearly 4000 ft. And then it was time to head up into the next pass, over 4000 back up. I made it about 1400 ft back up before calling it a night just shy of 18 miles. Feel much better than yesterday.

As the final climb started, I crossed the Piyute Creek on a steel bridge. This creek was in a steep valley and eventually merged with the south fork of the San Jacinto River, also in a deep canyon. But we rounded a corner and the canyon opened up some and the trail moved down to the river. Evolution Creek flows into this river, in rather dramatic fashion. We do not see much of the creeks end, but we climb rather steeply 500 ft to get to the top on the falls and rapids.

Soon after coming to Evolution Creek is a big ford. At the height of spring thaw, it is chest deep. Today it came up to my knees; quite a relief.

Camped on the creek, and soon after camping I was joined by 4 women. Made bathing a bit more challenging but otherwise OK. Tomorrow is Muir Pass, my first 12K pass.

This is Marie Lake as seen from near Seldon Pass. I don’t recall seeing a lake with a more convoluted shoreline.
This is the view to the south from Seldon Pass.
Most often the rivers and creeks flow in a channel. But occasionally, as here, the creek is flowing across a fairly level rock slab. On these occasions, the creek broadens out and looks like something from a water slide park.
This is the location of the ford of Evolution Creek. I have seen video’s of people fording here with chest deep, and raging, water carrying their packs on their heads. Fortunately, when I crossed it was only knee deep.

August 2

Today started early and climbed most of the day. It was a steady up, broken by periodic level for 12 miles. But what a beautiful 12 miles.

Evolution Valley has a lot of Meadow with Evolution Creek flowing through it. Then there is a concerted ‘up’ for 1000 feet until you come out on Evolution Basin. The basin is a series of lakes with Evolution Creek connecting them together. Each lake is higher than the last until just below Muir Pass.

There is about a 10 mile stretch around Muir Pass that is treeless, and the views as you wind upwards to the pass and then down from it were indescribable.

By the time I made it to the top I was beat, and then spent several hours descending 5 miles to a camp. All clean and belly is full. Time for bed.

The Hermit is a peak that towers over the upper Evolution Valley. You end up walking part way around it and then climbing an adjacent ridge. It was interesting to see the perspective change as you viewed it from many different angles.
This is a part of Evolution Lake. I did not find anyplace where you could take a picture of the whole thing. The trail walks about 3/4’s of the way around this beautiful lake at about 10,000 foot.
Evolution Creek, where it flows into the lake with the same name, is broad, although not deep. A series of big rocks have been strategically placed to make it possible to ‘hop’ from rock to rock and cross without getting your feet wet. This is not an uncommon arrangement on many of the creeks through this region.
Evolution Basin is surrounded by towering mountains every way you look. You are also seldom out of sight of a lake or two. Pictures don’t do it justice.
Muir Hut is at the top of Muir Pass and is made from stones found in the area. You can go into it and I assume use it for a shelter. It was visible from more than a mile away when approached from the north. While I never traveled with the couple in the picture, we did meet most days and became friends. They were also doing a 500 mile stretch of the PCT, offset from mine by about 40 miles.

 

August 3

Up a bit earlier today and on the trail by 5:20. It was a dark walk for a bit, but nice. I was startled for a moment when I saw lights coming at me, but it was just a reflection in the eyes of a deer. Saw 5 deer altogether today.

The first 6 miles this morning finished the descent off of Muir Pass. The right quad that bothered me for a couple of these trips bothered me most of the way down, but quit when I started the ascent of Mather Pass. I hope that is not a sign of things to come.

The scenery was not nearly as stunning today as it was yesterday, although that would have been hard to top. I had heard something about a ‘golden staircase’ and I think I climbed it today. At around 1500 ft high, it would be like climbing the stairs to the top of a hundred story building. Needless to say it took a lot out of me.

At 2pm I still has 2.5 miles and 1200 ft of elevation gain to go, plus several miles of descent on the other side. So I opted instead to stop for the night and finish it tomorrow, in addition to Pinchot Pass. Should be a fun day tomorrow.

Camped tonight at close to 11,000 feet and should not get below 10,000 until maybe tomorrow night. Still haven’t conquered this breathing thing this high up. Hopefully that will continue to improve.

The middle fork of the Kings River, a bit downstream from where I had spent the night. These rivers in the upper reaches of the High Sierra are not typically large, but they are very energetic.
Looking down the valley leading to Mather Pass from atop the Golden Staircase. The staircase started just to the near side of the first ridge to the right. Just past the second ridge to the right is the valley leading up to Muir Pass, about 5 miles away.
This is just an example of the trail clinging to the side of the valley wall. Note the short staircase in the middle. Sometimes these staircases were extensive. Earlier in the day I had passed a trail crew constructing a section of stairs.
The lower Palisade lake, a bit below my camping site for the evening. I had thought to camp at the near end, but it was too much effort to get down to it.

August 4

Woke up during the night to rain hitting the tent; it probably lasted all of 10-15 minutes. Woke up later to the sound of a rock slide somewhere nearby.

Just as I was leaving camp this morning it started to rain, but only lasted a short time. It spit on and off for most of the day, the first cool and wet day in a month.

It took me a couple of hours to crest Mather Pass, my second 12K pass. The trail up was rough and steep, but the descent was much better.

After Mather there was a 2000 ft descent, mostly along a treeless plain, followed by a 2000 foot ascent to Pinchot Pass, my second 12K pass of the day. Just when I am starting the final ascent it started to rain in earnest, along with a stout wind. I got my coat and pack cover on, but not the rain pants I have been carrying for the past month. My pants got good and wet during the half hour that it stormed, but they dried out.

Once over the pass I raced down the valley about 4 miles and found a little creek with a camp site. And there I sit after a 16 mile day with 2 big passes and a storm. Time to get ready for bed.

I like walking at dawn because you can slowly see the world around you awakening, This is one of the ridges around the Palisade Lakes.
The trail up to Mather Pass wound round and round, endlessly up, through the clouds.
From atop Mather Pass looking toward Pinchot Pass.
Marmots are pretty common in the high country, and some of them don’t seem to concerned about hikers wondering by.
Some of the alpine lakes are the prettiest color. This one, seen from near the top of the climb to Pinchot Pass, appears to have some type of green/yellow runoff into it from the slope to the left.

August 5

Today was my longest day on the trail, although at 16 miles, not the longest distance. I was on the trail by 5:15 this morning, and it was well after 4 when I finally found a place to drop.

The day’s highlights included the suspension bridge over Woods Creek, a long, narrow, and definitely shaky bridge. And right beyond it was a tent camp. I had been on the trail 2 hours and there were still over a dozen tents setup.

The other highlight, if you can call it that, was Glen Pass, the last of the 12K’s on the trail. The ascent began in earnest after passing Rae Lakes. The trail wound round and round, up about 900 feet, then suddenly there was a 600 ft cliff in front of me with tiny little people on top. After I got over my denial, I started up the roughest, steepest trail I can remember on the PCT. Once on top I found a narrow, 6 ft wide ledge you walked along before descending an equally steep, but smoother trail. That is one section of trail I do not want to repeat.

Stopped for the night on the Kearsarge Trail, a mile below yet another nearly 12K pass. I got cold last night at 10K. I wonder what it will be like tonight at 11K.

Resupply and a Nero tomorrow before the final 87 miles of the PCT.

The suspension bridge over Woods Creek. Fun to walk across, and I found myself unable to make it without holding on; at least in the middle. Quite the thrill. The PCT needs more of these. There is also a smaller one in the North Cascades, but that is all I remember.
In the foreground is one of the Rae Lakes, while in the background is Fin Dome. Seen from the right angle Fin Dome looks similar to a fishes dorsal fin.
I was apparently too shook by the look from the bottom of Glen Pass to take a picture. This is the ridge on the top; about 4-6 feet wide and dropping steeply on both sides. Quite the thrill.
The view from near my camp high up in the Kearsarge Basin.

August 6

The night was good, and the one time I got up the stars were amazing. Didn’t get up this morning until about 5, hit the trail around 6 and was on top of Kearsarge Pass before 7. Then it was a race down the mountain to make it to the parking lot by 9. And I almost made it. I met Sue about a half mile up the trail and slowed down to finish the trip down.

From there, we went into the town of Bishop, had a shower, lunch and a massage. Then a trip to the grocery store, resupplied, out to dinner, spent a little time on the computer, and then to bed.

This pretty little lake is on the east side of Kearsarge Pass. I couldn’t tell if there was easy access to it, but there did not appear to be a place to camp nearby. It did look pretty through.
Looking down from halfway up the pass, you could see the road winding up to Onion Valley. This road gains 5-6000 feet in about 15 miles. One of Sue’s favorites. At least it has a yellow dividing line.

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