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Typical scenic trail in the heart of the Sierra

August 4, 2000
Bubbs Creek over Glen Pass to Rae Lakes
We dip our heads in high mountain sky ...

0600-0645 — Bubbs Creek  (58°F; cool, dry & clear)

          When I wake this morning and look up through the trees, it is difficult to determine what weather we have. It does not seem to be raining here deep in the forest, but it is cool and the early morning sky appears to be grey. We get going within forty-five minutes and it is soon apparent that the sky is blue and the sun is bright.

          Before long we reach the JMT trail junction with Bubbs Creek and begin the steep climb up towards Bull Frog Lake. Fortunately, it is still early and cool. This is a beautiful forest with flowers and ferns. Irene is now euphoric, the flip side to her miserable nausea and soaking the last couple days. The trail comes alive for her now. All talk of aborting the trip has dissipated and we are in great spirits.

          We practically bump into our first deer at the creek half way up the hill. I am not quick enough with the camera to catch a photo. I carry the instamatic Olympus on my pack belt for a "quick draw" but the fauna is sometimes too elusive. The deer is as surprised as we are and he moves away quickly behind the trees and down the hill. I am quick enough to note the fuzzy summer antlers on this mature six pointer.

0845-0900 — south of Bull Frog Lake 36°46.119 / 118°24.633 - 10.5K' (87°)

          After the climb it is definitely warm. We stop to wash up, fill our water bottles and have some granola before the final switchbacks to Charlotte Lake Trail junction and the rendezvous with our first food resupply.


Way Less Traveled

View of the Videttes north of Bubbs Creek

0930-1130 — food resupply

          We reach our food resupply early. For the next couple hours we sort provisions. We combine the food we still carry with the supply and make hard decisions as to what to take and what to leave behind. We know we do not need it all. We are ahead of schedule and eating less than anticipated. And there is that "junk" (i.e. candy) we thought we might want which now seems crazy to carry. What were we thinking?

          We pack our bear canister with sufficient food for seven days. We leave behind supplies for about five days. Included are: seven noodle or bean dinners, Parmesan cheese, five coffees with cream, four biscuit makings, six packets of crackers, a packet of lemon cookies, seventeen fig newtons, five days of sweet and salty gorp, gum and way too much candy. We do take all the granola, salami & cheese and Ramen.

          Once again heavy with food, we continue over the saddle to approach the Glen Pass lake basin from the west. We pass a strung out boy scout troop and a couple guys who dodged lightning on top of Glen Pass.

1330-1345 — Glen Pass Lake 36°47.175 / 118°24.774 - 11.3K' (83°F)

          The Glen Pass lakes are noticeably low but there is no problem filling up with water. I am a little drowsy from all the food sorting (and tasting) so I opt for a short "key" nap before we make that final thirty minute climb straight up the south face of the pass. Irene explores the lake, talks with the animals and watches other people descend the trail. We have been over this pass before when covered with snow so we are not entirely certain where the path actually ascends.

1400-1500 — Glen Pass 36°47.375 / 118°24.717 - 11.9K'

          "I ... am always glad to touch the living rock again and dip my head in high mountain sky." — JM

          Our climb is short and sweet. Easy switchbacks and not too hot with a regular Sierra breeze. My on-site GPS readings match my map estimates almost exactly (latitude error equals 0.002' about 36 feet). This is remarkably accurate since the pass is about a hundred yards long and I don't know where along that "football field" to take the reading. The pass has breadth from the western ascent to the eastern descent but the path perches on top of a veritable knife edge ridge only about six feet wide with shear vertical drops on both sides. A photo can't do it justice. It is an exciting pass with magnificent views. Luckily the skies are much clearer today and the distant horizon makes for an expansive panoramic photo montage. Again, the photos just can't tell the story, you have to "be" there.

          Irene is having a gooood day. We dally here at the pass and take it all in. Irene sights her first pika. They are cute little indigenous balls of fur which look like a mouse with no tail but are actually a cousin of rabbits. They are shy and at the same time curious. They peek out from behind the rocks and follow you sometimes. We also spot a baby marmot who is obviously enjoying the sun ... finally, just as we are.

          With a little trepidation we head down the steep north switchbacks toward the glorious Rae Lakes valley. On our last visit here we literally ran through the valley because the mosquitoes were so horrendous. We have video of them swarming in front of the lens. So far on this trip we have had minimal mosquito misery partially due to a dry year and partly because of Irene's super mosquito coils. She lights one up as soon as we hear the first buzz and poof they all disappear. It is marvelous stuff that burns like incense with a whiff of smoke the bugs cannot abide. Anyway, we are not anxious to discover this Shangri-la infested with pests.


Upper Rae Lakes

Upper Rae Lakes headed north on the John Muir Trail

1715-2030 — Rae Lakes 36°48.704 / 118°24.212 - 10.6K'

          We leave the trail and find a delightful camp spot with a picture perfect view on the land between lakes two and three. First order of business is the afternoon bath. The water is warm enough for Irene; I just take a sponge bath. Although the sun is warm, when you get wet and the wind blows it can be chilling.

          While Irene prepares dinner after I've finished my chore of pumping water, I am free to go fishing. Mind you my equipment leaves a lot to be desired. I head off to the lake edge with my 30' of line wrapped around a stick, a tiny hook and papaya for bait. The great thing about papaya is that it is bright orange and it does not dissolve in the water. You can "reel" it in and toss it out many, many times without re-baiting the hook. The water is exquisitely clear. The fish are easy to see, which means they probably see me trying to catch them (reminds me of fishing in Bermuda when I was a kid. I didn't have any fancy equipment then, either). Most the fish I see are small, probably less than eight inches. The small ones are most curious and make runs at my hook. But I fish for about an hour without any luck. Maybe fruit is not the best bait. Later I discover a dead cricket in my sleeping bag and stow him away for the next fishing opportunity. Not that a cricket is better bait than fruit but at least it is indigenous bait (come to think of it, a cricket as bait might be really bad luck). I never did try fishing again. Never seemed to have the time for such leisure activity. There was a time or too when fried trout would have tasted mighty fine. Instead, this night we have spicy minestrone.

          During dinner preparation Irene is entertained by the antics of a very busy and personable humming bird. She goes about her business of pollinating everything. I wonder if that is how the dinner got so spicy? Irene talks to the birds and I talk to fish. "Come on little guy, you know you want it, that's it, yummy, yummy papaya ... ooh, where are you going, come back, we're hungry, Irene wants to fry you ..."

          While I'm utterly consumed with fishing, I hear a rumble off in the distance and think half unconsciously it is just more residual thunder. When I return to camp Irene asks if I saw the avalanche. It seems that Dragon Peak had lost some "teeth" and we had mezzanine seating for the show (you don't want front row seating for this show). As the evening and night wears on I count eight separate slides on Dragon Peak. During the clear moonless night one avalanche is so massive and violent I actually see sparks flying from the collision of boulders and we are a mile away. Mountains do crumble and when they do they make a big sound.

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