Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving at High Camp

Well it is the last day of November and I am reflecting back on our wonderful Thanksgiving event at High Camp last week.  We celebrated with 24 people on Friday evening.  It was wonderful.  I cooked a 21 pound turkey and a 7 pound turkey breast.  They tasted great as I brined them the night before...moist and tender.  Everyone brought side dishes which added to the festivities.  The food was devine!  Who knows, this may become a tradition.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 13

August 21, 2012 –mystery lake on Bishop Pass - Bishop
Mileage:  9.5

All night long lightening flickered across the sky.  About 1:00 am thunder started and by 3:00 am we had rain.  It stormed the rest of the night.  The rain let up at 6:30 am, so we began to plan our soggy exit.  Don had slept pretty well until the storms hit hard.  His hand was throbbing.  We needed to get going and get him to the hospital in Bishop today!  The trail gained 2000 feet in elevation in the next three miles, and then dropped 3000 feet in 6 miles to the trailhead, where we hoped to catch a ride the 21 miles down into Bishop.

We headed out in the cool, cloudy morning.  The pass was totally socked in with clouds.  We had no map for this trail and with the visibility difficulties, we were concerned about getting over the pass before storms hit again.  Sounds like time for VIA!  Found a rocky area with a beautiful view and brewed up some coffee.  As we sipped the cloud cover raised and we could see our destination.  Bishop Pass is just under 1200 feet and a very nice climb from the west side through areas of meadows and trees. 
Injured Don on Bishop Pass

We rested on the top and took in the towering peaks all around us.  Then we started down.  It was a totally different environment, tall mountains, rocky outcroppings and a steep drop.  The trail was etched into the rock with airy switchbacks.  We looked down on big blue lakes below, but had no idea what the names were.  We hoped the trail would be easier when we got down to lake level.  But, alas no, lots of rocks!  We continued down as the rocks around us turned from grey to red.  There were more trees, but the trail was still very rocky.  We asked people that we met if they were going out to Bishop that day but no luck. 

Although the scenery was gorgeous Don and I were worn down by the stress of the injury, exit and the rocky trail.  We were anxious about getting a ride!  We had been told that the dislocated finger had to be taken care of within 24 – 30 hours of injury.  Right near the bottom there was an older woman on the trail with a young woman walking slowly with her.  She was carefully hiking uphill.  We said hello as we passed.  Then I looked back and noticed they were heading down.  Don asked if they were heading into Bishop.  They said no, since they were staying at a resort near the trailhead.  Then, they asked why.  When he showed his hand and explained our situation, they said they were going to Bishop now!  Sarah was the mother and this was the first time she had ever hiked.  She was from Philadelphia.  She was truly thrilled to hear our story and to take care of us.  This brought tears for me!  I had not realized how tense I had been about getting Don to the hospital.  Emily, Sarah’s daughter, is an artist and architect from Los Angeles.  She drove us the 21 miles to the Bishop Hospital.  On the way we shared our stories all enjoying learning about very different individual lives.  When we got to Bishop they would have stayed with us at the hospital but we sent them on their way with one thousand thank yous! 

In Bishop we hiked into the hospital packs, hiking sticks and all.  We trudged down the hallways by nurse’s stations, doctors and patients on our way to the emergency room which turned out to be at the back.  When we arrived a nurse was with Don immediately, before we even registered.  Over the course of the next two hours he was x-rayed, doped up and reset.  It was a severe dislocation and Dr. Black stressed resting the finger.  There were other follow up procedures.  It was a relief that she was so firm about this.  It made our decision to end the hike a no decision at all.
We checked into the Tree Motel, an older traditional motel which was friendly, clean, and comfortable.  After delicious showers, we walked into town for a great Mexican meal at El Rancho, a little cafĂ©.  Taking the long way back to the motel we strolled, winding down after an arduous day.  We were asleep by 8:30!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 12

August 21, 2012 –Sapphire Lake to mystery lake on Bishop Pass
Mileage:  15               Elevation:  10,900 feet

Muir Hut on Muir Pass
Well, Bishop Pass is not on the JMT, but we will get to that later.  This morning we rose early ready to attack Muir Pass.  We were out of camp at 7 am and on the pass by 9.  We had beautiful weather with great views of rocky peaks and stark expanses.  Muir Pass has a cool rock hut built in John Muir’s name to shelter hikers who get caught in storms.  It has stone benches, a mantle, and fireplace that is “plugged” with rock.  Where in the world would they get wood for a fire anyway?
We began our descent over steep rock through canyons and waterfalls.  A very special beauty here, with very tedious hiking.  We ate lunch with Mary and Justin and planned our next camp.  Mather Pass is a long ways!  Later, during the descent Don and I soaked our feet in a delicious rushing stream.  We walked by a campsite with a huge rock that someone had added eyes and pointed teeth to, creating a whale sculpture.  There were chairs formed with rocks with arms and backs around a campfire circle …very clever.
Well rested, we continued on down the trail.  Suddenly I heard a huge noise!  I turned around and ran back up the trail.  Don had tripped and fallen, he was in terrible pain.  I had no idea what had happened.  I screamed for help, feeling very much in the middle of nowhere.  I also blew my distress whistle.  Within two minutes people came running.  There was a Conservation Corps group working on the trail below us.  First person there was an EMT…I was so relieved.

When we got Don settled we realized he had a badly dislocated middle finger.  There was a ranger station one mile down the trail.  Lilia, a young woman from the corps helped carry Don’s pack and we walked to the station.  At this point we fully intended to continue hiking after the ranger “popped” his finger back in place.  During the walk down, Don realized he no longer had the camera.  Lilia was going back up to the work area after she brought us to the ranger station and she promised to look for the camera. 

At Le Conte Station, Ranger George Durkee spoke with Don about his injury and radioed a hospital in Fresno for advice on how to proceed.  They agreed that if the ranger could reset the finger we could continue.  Don wanted to face this procedure and not worry about me, so I walked back up the trail to search for the camera.  Upon my return Don gave thumbs down.  After many tries and radio help from a physician they were unable to reset the finger.  Don and I were told we had to get to a hospital within 30 hours or there could be permanent tendon damage.  We were BROKEN HEARTED. 

Bishop Pass is six miles above the ranger station at 12000 feet.  Then 6 miles below the pass is the trailhead.  Beyond that is a 21 mile drive to Bishop, the nearest hospital.  It was 4:30 pm.  Don and I set out to climb half way up the pass to a little no name lake to camp.  This would put us in Bishop tomorrow, if all went well.  The trail took us straight up from the 8900 foot level of the ranger station to our campsite at 10,900 feet!  It was a huge hike after a very emotional day.  Lilia had returned with our camera! We left some food and a bear barrel at the station to lighten Don’s load.  They will mail those back to us in the fall.  So this night we are camping at a beautiful lofty campsite on a ledge high up on Bishop Pass for a quick exit out of the Sierra’s tomorrow.  It was a super sad day!

Friday, November 2, 2012

John Muir Trail - Day 11

August 20, 2012 –Piute Pass Junction to Sapphire Lake
Mileage:  14.5            Elevation:  10,900 feet

Early out this morning due to positioning for Muir Pass tomorrow and extremely heavy packs!  We are hiking by 7:00am.  The trail follows a canyon created by the San Joaquim River.  At the Goodard Pass turn off we start the steep switchbacks into Evolution Valley and McClure Meadow.  The trail climbs a huge waterfall and the views are exceptional.
Mary and Justine crossing Evolution Creek
Upon entering Evolution Valley the ascent is more gradual.  The valley is very long with glimpses of high peaks and waterfalls.  Ranger David checks our permit and gives us a positive weather report for the next few days. 
Evolution Valley

At the end of the valley we cross the creek and then start the steep climb that will take us to Evolution Lake.  We have seen pictures of this lake in most of the guide books about the JMT and are excited to visit.  It is a tough trail, but the lure of the lake calls us.  As we round a bend and the water comes into view it brings tears to my eyes…it is that beautiful!
Evolution Lake
But!  We are not stopping since there are more hiking hours in the day.  We continue on around huge Evolution Lake, with its towering peaks all around, then up to Sapphire Lake.  We set up camp at this high windy rocky area, just 4 miles from Muir Pass.
Campsite at Sapphire Lake

We hiked with Mary and Justin on and off today and are camped near them.  Together we work out a plan to hike the next 5 passes most efficiently.  Tomorrow may have to be a 20 mile day if we plan to get over Mather Pass the following day.

Evening at Sapphire Lake is exquisite.  We are surrounded by great walls of stone and high peaks.  The setting sun brings out the deep color and texture in the rocks.  It is a very special place.