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User / photography by Derek G
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N 120 B 7.0K C 12 E Aug 26, 2021 F Jul 12, 2022
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I decided to hike back to Garnet Lake base camp a day early and I also decided to take the Pacific Crest Trail back instead of going cross country again. I made good time going back and reached Island Pass in no time at all. Soon after I made it to 1000 Island Lake. Here I stopped for lunch and a long break.
1000 Island Lake is a long lake in a valley. Garnet Lake is also a long lake in a parallel valley. Between the two lakes is a ridge. There are 3 possible routes I could take to get from 1000 to Garnet. The first is the Pacific Crest Trail Route that winds it's between each out flow. The second is the middle route that once was the old John Muir Trail route that is no longer maintained, it crosses the ridge that separates the two lakes and would drop me right onto the base camp. The third route is the cross country route that I took several days earlier.
I decided I was going to take the first route, but I felt an urge to take the middle route. I ignored it and began to follow the trail. The urge became more pressing and harder to ignore until I finally gave in to it. I spent a good 30-40 minutes looking for the middle route, since it was long ago forgotten and was over grown and not obvious. Eventually I found it and followed the crumbling trail, as I climbed over rock slides and fallen logs. Now that I was on the middle route is was fairly easy to follow though I did miss a couple of turns and had to double back.
I reached the small lake at the top and then began the climb down. Forest now gathered around me and the trail became steep. Then out of the trees, in front of me appeared a person, wandering around looking lost and confused. Getting closer I realized it was Jan, the lady I had come up here with, who had stayed at base camp. I called out to her and she spun around. Surprised she replied, “Derek, am I glad to see you, I seem to have lost the trail and can't find a safe way down.” We walked together back to base camp. Along the way she filled me in on the events back at camp.
A large group had arrived with mules loaded with mountains of gear and wanted to set up camp right on the beach next to our camp and the other group who had arrived right before I left for my solo hike. Jan had talked them into going to another area just a bit further on so our camp didn't become a tent city. The other group was very grateful for this and invited her to join them each night for dinner and campfire-less songs. (no camp fires are allowed here).
When we got back to camp the group that had adopted Jan saw us return and welcomed me back saying that Jan had told them all about my wanderings and that they would love for me to join them for dinner and tell them all about it. So that night for dinner we all gathered in their camp and told told stories and jokes. Someone passed around a hot pot full of tea while one of them pulled out a small guitar and another a harmonica. Then they all began to sing songs. As the evening grew old and the light faded the festivities came to an end and we all retired to our tents and sleeping bags for the night.
The next morning I was invited to go for a ride in the kayak that belonged to one of the guys from the group from the night before. The lake was still and mirror like as the kayak glided effortlessly over the waveless surface. We passed by the many small islands and over shallow areas where the bottom was clearly seen. Once we returned to shore I thanked him for taking me out in his kayak.
The other group that had arrive while I was gone were a group of painters from San Francisco. I asked several of them if I could photograph them as they painted. Some of them painted vast landscapes, other painted small landscapes and details, all had different techniques and styles, all made beautiful pieces. That night Jan and I joined the first group again for dinner and songs.
The next evening the painters had a showing of all the pieces they painted and we were all invited. Jan never showed up which concerned me because she had been looking forward to it. Not long after I arrived at the wilderness art show two lady's I had never seen before came asking for me saying that Jan was sick and needed me, so me and four others from the first group went with them to see what was going on. Along the way I learned that everyone in their group were ER doctors and nurses.
Jan was laying in the bushes along the lake shore not far from our camp. She was sick to her stomach and suffering from vertigo. She explained weakly that she suffered from Meniere's Disease, A rare disorder of the inner ear that causes episodes of vertigo, the sensation of spinning. She was unable to stand or walk and couldn't keep anything down, including water. We decided to make her as comfortable as we could right where she was, and I was going to spend the night right there next to her. We also sent out an SOS.
In the morning she was able to slowly and shakily move back towards camp, but only got half way so we had her lay down in the shade of some trees. The mules were scheduled to come pick up the two of us and the other two groups today, but if she couldn't walk she certainly wasn't going to be able to ride. We packed up her gear and took down her tent. The mules came and took our gear out and the mule people were able to relay more detailed info to search and rescue. One of the mule guys spread her blue sleeping bag out on the beach and laid some rocks on it. I told them I would stay with Jan until the helicopter came to get her. Soon every one was gone and it was just the two of us.
The helicopter didn't arrive until late in the afternoon. There was only about one and a half hours before sunset when it finally arrived. Once they had her I walked out without the burden of my pack. Night fell and the forest that I was hiking through became especially dark beneath the trees. At one point I saw the blue eye shine of a bear in front of me but it ran off before I got too close. I arrived back at Agnew pack station around 930pm. I gathered my gear from inside their storage shed, then drove to Mammoth Lakes Hospital to check on how Jan was doing. She was doing better but was still dizzy. She gave me her house keys so I could get some of my gear that was at her house. I then drove back to the town of Bishop, and got to her place. I showered and spent that night in the guest room that I stayed in before the trip. Then I headed home the next day.
Jan has now fully recovered.

In 3 days I leave for another High Sierra adventure.

Tags:   landscape mountain lake person painter silhouette artist wilderness camping hiking backpacking wandering shade shadow light tree high sierra garnet lake garnet peak

N 12 B 442 C 1 E Aug 24, 2021 F Jun 30, 2022
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In the fading light as I began my hike back, wisps of smoke seeped in from the northeast. After reaching the Pacific Crest Trail I began climbing back up Donahue Pass. The Lyell Canyon below and behind me was full of soupy purple smoke and it's scent filled my nose. Crooked trees stood silhouetted against the hazy twilight sky while hundreds of footprints and hiking pole craters textured the dirt path beneath my feet.
The darkness quickly thickened and the smoke along with it. By the time I reached the top of the pass the light had completely gone and two planetary spheres where waiting to greet me: Jupiter in front of me to the east and Venus behind me to the west, both floating just above their horizon. Most of the dim stars were hidden by the smoke and only the brightest shown through. I decided to stick to the trail this time, to make nighttime navigation easier.
Before descending I noticed I had cell signal so I made a quick phone call to my dad to let him know how I was doing and why my GPS tracker was still moving around. Then I was off. The world outside the circle of light from my headlamp was unknown, all I knew was 5 feet in front of me and the stars above. Occasionally the sound of flowing water seeped into my awareness but still remained unseen somewhere in the darkness. After many hundreds of steps the trail leveled out and I crossed the stream that now finally appeared out of the darkness.
Now the dark shapes of tall pine trees began to gather around the me. Further and further I pushed into the dark forest until in front of me, through the trees, I saw a red tent glowing in a hollow of the woods. The trail led right to it, though no matter how many steps I took it never got any closer. I now realized that it was actually a newly risen, blood red moon hovering low in the sky, whose brilliance was muted by a cloak smoke draped along the horizon. Once I realized it was the moon I turned my headlamp off, hoping to let the moon's light guide me, but no light did it cast, and the night was just as dark as ever.
Soon I reached the sign and side trail I was looking for, “Marie Lakes →”. I turned here and headed back up hill following the side trail. Over rock outcroppings and stands of shadowy pines this new trail weaved, soon coming to the dark meadow lands where my campsite should be. I have no way to know how far to go, there is no trail leading off this main trail to lead me to my campsite, and no signs to point the way. Outside of the small circle of headlamp light all is dark inky black, except for the dark red moon. A few more steps and once again the voice that showed me the arrowhead told me to stop, “Stop, you are there.” Trusting the guiding voice, I listened and turned right in the direction my campsite should be. After another hundred or so steps, I reached a stand of trees sticking out of the meadows and beneath them was my backpack and gear. I thanked whoever helped me, then set up my sleeping bag, crawled inside and went to sleep.
In the morning the smoke had cleared, and the sky was crystal clear. I headed over to the closest part of Rush Creek and photographed the moonset over the Sierra crest.

Tags:   hiking backpacking camping wandering wilderness sunrise moon set reflection rock mountain high sierra landscape water grass

N 18 B 359 C 1 E Jun 24, 2022 F Jun 26, 2022
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To beat the heat, we hiked in after sunset and reached the campsite at 1030pm. Along the way the owls were singing in the darkness of the moonless night. With our headlamps off the only light was from the countless stars drifting in the inky black sky. We stayed awake until 130am enjoying the pleasant night air and a chorus of nocturnal insects.
Just before dawn four planets arced overhead and a small sliver of a moon peaked out from behind the distant ridgeline.
This area is in a years long drought and the creek is mostly dry. All the creek crossings we walked through, a month ago were flowing but are now just dust and dried algae. Only this oasis remained, still deep enough to hide the bottom and to be a haven for small fish.
We packed up and headed back to the trailhead early, but the temperature was already rising. When we reached the cars around 9am it was already too hot. Doing a night hike in was the right choice.

Tags:   summer sespe river creek water green cottonwood trees forest los padres national forest light shadow sunrise landscape wilderness hiking backpacking camping wandering

N 244 B 6.8K C 23 E Aug 23, 2021 F Jun 23, 2022
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Back at my campsite I went over my options for the day while eating breakfast. No matter what I decided to do, eventually I would end up going into Yosemite National Park via Donahue Pass and my eventual goal was a very narrow lake that lay in the footprint of the Lyell Glacier. I decided on a cross country route from here to there between a hill and a peak. I also decide to make it a day hike since I would be coming back tomorrow anyways and taking my pack was just extra work.
Soon I was on my way. After crossing Rush creek I slowly navigated up steep slopes and slabs, doing my own switchbacks to make the ascent less steep. Once I reached the saddle between the hill and the peak the route became easier. Here atop the saddle were two small, unnamed tarns, reflecting the deep blue sky. I decided to unofficially name them myself, Sky Mirror Ponds, if anything it would just be for easy reference.
Moving on the landscape became more flat as I contoured the mountainside. There was another unnamed lake that I wanted to reach on my way to the pass. To find this like I followed the sound of water flowing under rocks. Soon the much larger lake appeared resting beneath a split peak. I refilled my water here and continued. I wasn't more than 30 steps way from this other lake when in my mind a voice said, “Hey, look down, you might miss something.” I stopped and looked down. Right at my feet was a big beautiful arrowhead. Excited and in awe of the discovery, I picked it up, thanked whom ever helped me find it and thanked the person and peoples who made it, I also took time to thank the mountains and the lake I had just fill up my water at. I took a little more time to admire the craftsmanship of the arrowhead and I put it back on the earth, near where I had been told to look, though more hidden than when we found it. I decided to also unofficially name this lake too, Arrowhead Lake.
From here I finished climbing Donahue Pass and took a long rest. (11085 ft) When I was ready I went down the other side into Yosemite. I came to a beautiful tarn and creek. From here I left the trail again to follow the creek up to my destination. The valley floor was paved in glacier polished granite with large boulders strewn haphazardly about. To my left (South) rose a towering ridge of stone, that was an offshoot of the Cathedral Range. From here I could see the tallest peak in Yosemite, Mt. Lyell at 13,114 ft or 3,997m and Mt. Maclure, the fifth-highest mountain of Yosemite at 12,886ft or 3,928 m. This was also the headwaters of the Tuolumne River.
I explored a bit of this valley and also just sat and absorbed the scenery and energy of the place. Unfortunately I couldn't fully enjoy it due to the commercial airplanes flying over at regular intervals. Places like this, National Parks, Designated Wilderness Areas, National Forests, all paces set aside by the Wilderness Act to preserve the natural beauty of the landscape for future generations should really be no fly zones. To only preserve what the eye can see isn't enough, we need to preserve the quite places and natural soundscapes as well otherwise we have only gone halfway.
As the sun sank lower and the shadows stretched I headed over to the spot I had picked out for sunset photos. As the light grew pink on the peaks I took the photo that I had come here for.

Tags:   mountains wilderness wandering hiking backpacking camping yosemite landscape sunset mt lyell reflection lake water rock alpine glow high sierra california

N 30 B 369 C 3 E Aug 22, 2021 F Jun 5, 2022
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After getting the previous photo that emotionally moved me flic.kr/p/2npdoHc I turned to look towards the rising sun, hanging low in the smoky air, it's warm orange light exaggerated by the haze. In the trees beyond the meadow where my gaze strayed a glint of light caught my attention. Leading off into the sparse woods like a fairy tale trail was a path of shiny granite glowing in the warm light, polished many millennia ago by an ancient, long gone glacier.

Tags:   sun sunrise morning warm light forest granite shiny polished shadow dark sillowette landscape hiking backpacking wandering high sierra wilderness camping


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