Day 25 of 40 The Climb Down
lpfw.org/forest-service-to-expedite-logging-and-habitat-c... filmed back in summer of 2016 Day 25 of 40 Morning was still and silent. After photographing sunrise, I made myself breakfast. As I was eating, the click-clack of carbide tipped hiking poles and boots upon rocks broke the silence mingled with the sound of breathing. Looking up I saw a lone backpacker pass by my campsite from a distance, he rounded the lake and continued over the horizon. He never saw me and not a word was spoken. Then the silence returned. After packing up I took one last picture of Cotton Lake, one that surpassed the photos I got of the alpine glow. flic.kr/p/SV5TK3 Then, I began hiking, I rounded the lake following the route the other backpacker had taken. The meadowlands became lightly forested. The few trees then dissolved into glacier polished, slab covered mountainside. Dark clouds moved in and filled the bowl of the sky; a gentle breeze rose up and the scent of rain danced upon the air. In the valley below me lay a meadow (named Horse Heaven, 9680, on my map) surrounded by thick forest, hewn in two by Fish Creek snaking through the middle, glinting in rays of sun that spilled though a hole in the clouds. flic.kr/p/SRPBgL The glacial polished slabs were smooth and slippery, even when dry. I tried to find a route down the slabs that mostly avoided the smooth, shiny sections where a slip was guaranteed. The clouds were struggling to rain, and I got a few brief moments of sprinkles, but none of it lasted. Then off in the distance, a faint, low rumble of thunder resonated, fully and deeply within the granite landscape. As I navigated the slabs, forest once again closed in, this time thicker than before. The slabs became steeper and more broken, until the slabs ended and soil and pine needles took their place with a few boulders strewn about. I then reached a gorge with a babbling creek flowing through it. I walked along the edge looking for a way down to the bottom. Upstream from me, a waterfall cascaded down over multiple levels. I worked my way towards it, still looking for a way down to the creek. I finally found a place that provided an easy, safe climb down, but I still had to use all four limbs. Once at the bottom, I crossed the creek and followed it downstream towards the meadow. I wove my way between trees, through ferns and flowers and around thorny goose berry bushes, snacking on their berries as I went. The pine trees gathered thicker the further downstream I traveled. Then out of the random chaos of trees appeared order; the trees grew up arranged in a circle, the ground cleared of all vegetation in the middle. Here I stopped, I dropped my pack, sat down in the middle of the circle and took a moment to meditate. Time slowed down and a deeper peace fell over me. The nearby creek murmured, a breeze whispered through the branches, a few more brief moments of rain fell gently upon my skin and a second distant low rumble of thunder rolled. Then in that moment inspiration struck, I pulled out my notebook and wrote: ... The Sacred Grove The ancient elders gather Encircled in a sacred grove Rain falls entwined with thunder Roots below, branches above The murmuring creek, the whispering wind Ancient wisdom spoken For those who know how to listen ... After writing that down I took a little more time to sit and take in the energy of the place. Then I stood back up, put my pack back on, thanked the trees and continued on my way. Not long after leaving the "sacred" grove behind, the gorge opened and the trees spilled out into a flat open area, then they suddenly ended. I crossed the tree line and entered into the meadow called Horse Heaven. The creek I was following slowed down and spread out into many rivulets, lazily drifting their way over to merged with Fish Creek. Wild onions lined the creek, their wonderful sent wafting to my nose. I pick some to munch on now and tie a bundle to my pack for later. I also refilled my water bottles. Navigating my way across the many rivulets while trying to keep my shoes dry was nearly impossible, so I decided to just take them off and path-find barefoot. The soft, cushiony grass and cool flowing water felt refreshing on my feet. Once I reach the far side of the meadow and crossed Fish Creek a trail appeared. Here I put my shoes back on and followed the trail on a northwesterly route back into the forest on the opposite side from where I entered the meadow. A bit later I reached a camping area and a group of people. They had entered at McGee Creek trailhead a few days ago, and had just come over McGee Pass. They asked me about the onions tied to my pack and I offered them some, but only one of them was adventurous enough to try one. After saying goodbye and happy trails I continued on. A short distance later another meadow opened up on the right side of the trail, this one is called Tully Hole. On the far end of Tully Hole this trail merged with the Pacific Crest and John Muir Trails (9520). From here I took the right fork and began climbing long switchbacks up towards Lake Virginia. As I climbed higher the gentle breeze grew stronger, gusting fiercely, becoming a rushing, roaring wind, that with each breath whipped the grasses bordering the trail and the branches of the trees that lined a creek that tumbled down from above. The clouds began to break, and where now rolling across the sky with their shadows chasing after them. This section of trail was heavily traveled and I came across many interesting people. (I can now retire my Mono Divide map and begin using my Ansel Adams Wilderness map.) Once I reached the top of the switchbacks the terrain leveled out and the trail took a pretty direct route to Lake Virginia (10338). The gusting wind was now blowing steadily and the large lake was covered in white caps, with foamy waves lapping the shore. After crossing a creek that flowed into the northeastern end of the lake I turned right, leaving the trail behind. I was once again cross-countying. I made my way between two mountains navigating through the hilly terrain between them. I passed a few small lakes and then pasted through an area littered with obsidian flakes, the shiny, black volcanic glass glinting in the sun, a remnant of ancient Paiute or Mono peoples that frequented this area, either as a seasonal home or as hunting grounds. Then I reach the first of the Glennette Lakes. Here I rested, and ate my last spoonful of peanut butter. There is a mountain rising to my south whose summit is not on the Ansel Adams Wilderness map nor the Mono Pass map. I can see a patch of snow beneath its peak, half hidden behind a glacial bowl. It appears that there might be some interesting photo opportunities up there, so I have decided to climb up and see. I left my pack where I rested and made my way towards the peak. The climb started on talus, then turned to slabs, then went back to talus. flic.kr/p/SXhNdS I could hear a stream of melt water flowing beneath the large jagged blocks. Hearing it made me hopeful that when I reached the bowl there would be a pond beneath a large snow patch or glacier with the towering peak looming over it. That would make an excellent photo, especially during alpine glow. When I reached the rim of the glacial bowl and gazed down into its heart, I was disappointed to see just more talus. For whatever reason going down made the talus blocks way more unstable. There was one block, the size of a large tractor tire, that I gently touched with my foot to test its stability and it gave way; slowly at first as it slid over the polished block beneath it, then as it cleared that one it picked up speed as it started tumbling downhill, dislodging others as it went. The sound of granite on granite reverberated and a large cloud of dust billowed up. It was now a full-fledged rock slide. The rock that started it all hit another large, immovable boulder and with a loud distinct crack, split in two. Finally, they all came to rest upon the slabs below, but the echoes continued to bounce around for a few more seconds. I’m so glad I tested it first before putting all my weight on it. Now I’m not sure I want to continue down, I think I’ll just stay here... Carefully and slowly, I worked my way down, testing the stability of each boulder before I put weight on it. After the first one I caused a few more rock slides until I eventually reached the slabs. Beautiful stable slabs. I climb the rest of the way down following the sound of the water trickling beneath the talus until it broke through onto the surface. I followed the creek the rest of the way back to my gear. I continued on my way to where I was going to spend the night and as I occasionally do while hiking I turned around to look back at where I had just been to see things from a different perspective and to see if there might be a good photo. This time as I turned around I saw a shadowy figure peering out from behind a rock watching me. It was not a backpacker because there were no features on it as it was only a dark, black mass and it was not an animal because it had a humanoid shape. As soon as I saw it, the spirit ducked back behind the rock. At this point a shiver ran down my spine and all my hairs stood on end. I then said to the spirit, “I'm here, I mean no offense. What do you want?” Then a wind picked up and on the breath of breeze I heard a word whispered in my ear, “Aho.” It was spoken in an airy, wispy voice as wind would speak it but I heard it as clearly as though a person where standing next to me. I was not sure what to make of it and I still had that uneasy feeling of being watched, so I quickly continued onward in the direction of Ram Lake. The sun was sinking lower in the sky and sunset was drawing nearer. I worked my way through rolling meadows and meandering creeks and around the multiple Glen and Glennette Lakes. Finally, the sun sank behind the saw-toothed ridge that separated this basin from Duck and Pika Lake. I picked a spot on soft grass near a small "U" shaped pond with fish jumping, to set up camp. I never made it to Ram Lake but I really liked this spot. While I still had some time before the cloak of night descended I tried fishing, but once again I had no luck. I had one more night after this on trail before my next and final resupply and I had some extra meals so I decided to eat one instead of my usual Cliff Bar for dinner. As I ate the sky darkened and the stars came out. The temperature was dropping quickly so I layered up. After eating I took a quick photo of the peak I climbed earlier when I caused the rock slide, as it still glowed in a faint pale light. Then, I crawled into my sleeping bag, beneath a million stars. flic.kr/p/ThTytM ... A year after I had finished this journey I went to the town of Bishop, California to visit the Paiute reservation's museum and visitor center to see if there was someone I could talk to about the encounter I had had at the Glennette Lakes. I was directed to Qwina who owns the only martial art studio in town and his wife, Irma, who runs a healing center out of the same building. I arrived there after the sun had set and while a Kenpo Karate class was going on in the background I spoke to him about what I had seen and heard while we sipped some home grown rose hip and elder berry herbal tea. Qwina told me it was not uncommon for wilderness travelers to see spirits up in the high mountains, but most of the encounters were usually negative ones because the human would take an artifact that they had found. He told me of one particular time his wife, Irma, the Healer, had met with this one guy who had a large artifact sitting on his desk that he was very proud of. The guy had a broken leg and was experiencing a series of unfortunate events. The first question that Irma asked him was, “Well, when did you break your leg?” “The same day I found this.” He said pointing to the artifact on his desk. She recommended that he return the artifact. The first question he asked me was, what was I doing before I saw the spirit. I told him that I had just passed through the obsidian field and had climbed up the mountain and about the rock slides I had created on my way down. He asked me again what word I had heard and I said, “Aho.” “Aho” he repeated mulling over it. “Aho means a few things. First it means, 'Hey Man, Alright.' As in being accomplished in something. Second, its used when meeting a stranger, as in 'Oh, there you are.' So taking into context what you had been doing before you saw it, the spirit was either saying, 'Hey man, alright you made it down safe.' The other thing is that it might have been lonely because not many people go through that area and those that do probably never respond to it like you did by speaking to it, so it was basically saying, 'Oh, there you are' which is the same as saying, 'hey whats up'. But in this instance it could mean both.” I thanked Qwina for the translation and Irma for the tea, then I headed to Keough Hot Springs for a soak before going to sleep in my car. the song at the beginning and once ii reached safety i from a band called Earth youtu.be/GbPeZMpdSjE the "horror movie-ish" sounds from climbing down the unstable talus is from the soundtrack to The Dark Knight by Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard youtu.be/5wjYL0FwpPg The other song was performed by a street artist at a street fair in my home town, I picked up his CD for 5$. No contact info came with it and no track titles either.