Marie Lake ... next chapter
Selden Pass through Bear Creek Meadow to Mono Creek
Fifteen miles of varied trail ... a little up, a lot of down
0630-0745 Selden Pass (40°F; dry, clear & calm)
I have a restful night but now Irene is a bit chilled. It is a quiet morning but quite cool. The sun will warm things up soon enough. There are only a couple people on the trail this morning but lots of small ground squirrels. They behave like prairie dogs standing up on their back feet, looking out for danger and "barking" warnings to others in the community who run off to a network of burrows. My photo of one is not great because they are so small, more the size of a chipmunk than a prairie dog.
0845-0900 Marie Lake 37°18.210 / 118°52.465 - 10.4K' (72°F)
This morning we have this beautiful environment around Marie Lake all to ourselves but that will change. It is Saturday and as we approach Bear and Mono Creeks we expect to see more day hikers and weekenders from the Lake Edison trailheads.
1015-1045 Bear Creek Meadow 37°19.814 / 118°52.034 - 9.6K' (76°F)
At Upper Bear Creek Meadow we stop after a difficult water crossing. It is a boulder hop of sorts and Irene lets one foot slip in. One foot is wet; nothing that dry socks can't fix.
I whistle to a gal seemingly disoriented and off trail a distance away in the trees. Sure enough she had lost the trail when it passed over some solid rock. Trails across rock which are not otherwise obvious from the wear of traffic are usually lined with small rocks that act as a "curb". The trail may not be obvious through here. I believe this was the only place on the entire JMT where you could lose the trail. Her friends coming up behind also get off the trail, momentarily. We manage to stay on the trail when we continue north.
As predicted, we now run into more folks. We pass one young gal probably in her early twenties who Irene describes as a "sweet young nutcase." She is doing the JMT by herself but she looks like a homeless person. She is totally low tech, dressed in grungy jeans and sweater. She holds on tight to a small wool "blankie" while she hikes. There are all kinds out here. In the Sierra, accommodations may not be quite as cozy as a warm drainage ditch but your "home" is always a far sight more beautiful." I might have become a millionaire, but I chose to become a tramp." JM
1200-1300 below Bear Twin Lakes 37°21.489 / 118°52.865 - 9.0K' (88°F)
These environs through the woods following Bear Creek are probably less appreciated in comparison with the spectacular landscape just south of here in the "High" Sierra and in anticipation of the Mammoth Area north of here. At times I am reminded of the trail just out of Cottonwoods; other times it feels like we are back on the trail of the Lower Rae Lakes region. Maybe this segment of trail lacks it's own identity or it begs comparison with other places or we are simply at that point of the trek where we have momentarily lost a sense of here and now. I must admit I did not have high expectations for this part of the JMT. But it is beautiful.
1400-1415 above Bear Creek 37°22.540 / 118°53.950 - 9.3K'
I am anxious not to miss the last water between Bear Creek and Mono Creek. The GPS lets us pinpoint our position and sure enough we are at the last water, a mere trickle but sufficient to fill our bottles for the coming climb and following descent. This is one time the GPS is actually useful. We fill up on gatorade which goes right to work and carries me to the top of the ensuing spur and across the ridge before I begin to slow down. I shoot a five panel panorama of these Sierra "foot hills." Although we are at 10,000 feet it just doesn't feel like the High Sierra.
Once we head down the infamous switchbacks toward Mono Creek there is a question of "will this never end?" I count each switchback out of curiosity and to keep alert (don't want to walk off the edge here). Most of the wonderful view is obscured by a dense forest of towering trees growing out of this 45° or greater slope. I snap a photo of Irene at switchback thirty-five. At the bottom of the hill, the trail traverses a lush and marshy forest floor on an extensive man made board walk. The final switchback count is sixty-five.
An all grins young Japanese couple just back on the trail from the Vermillion Resort ask us in broken English about campsites in the area. What do we know? We just got here ourselves. I imagine out loud there are camps around the bridge. They move on ahead of us. Around the next bend is the Mono Creek Bridge with campsites sure enough. We stop for dinner.
1800-1900 Mono Creek Bridge 37°24.703 / 118°55.409 - 7,950K' (78°K)
We sit on a warm rock bathed in late afternoon sun and enjoy a Ramen dinner. We plan to continue across the bridge and head up the trail through the woods a ways in hopes of finding a camp somewhat higher on the next rise and possibly catching a view.
Re-energized with nourishment, we hike about a mile further this evening. It is cool and peaceful this time of day but rapidly getting dark in the woods (sort of a Sleepy Hollow feeling). We cross North Fork where there is a noisy camp, and rise out of the trees to a site with fire ring in a clearing of manzanita.
1930-2130 below Mosquito Flat Trail junction 37°25.051 / 118°54.696 - 8.2K'
We quickly lay out the bivies and collect fire wood before it gets totally dark. We enjoy our evening coffee and sweets by the warmth and charm of a manzanita fire. Manzanita wood is a jumble of twisted branches which burn hot and create a multitude of colorful flames. Simple but mesmerizing entertainment. The moon rises almost full to illuminate our camp while we bank the fire and snuff the lingering coals. We call it a night.
It has been a big day. We hiked about fifteen miles in the twelve hours we were on the trail. No wonder it seemed like a long segment and my recollections are somewhat blurred. We didn't exactly run through here but we did keep going and our breaks were brief without major housekeeping chores. The fifteen miles helps catch up our average after the previous seven mile day.
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