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Sierras 1986
Sequoia's Eastern Boundary

Descent into the desert

Saturday, September 6   We rolled about an hour after it started getting light. Although my lungs were still bothering me, with a lot of residual garbage, I had slept pretty well, and was ready for the descent to the desert. The Shepherd Pass has a net elevation loss of about 4400 feet from Anvil Camp to the trail head. But I had forgotten about "extra" 500+ foot climb thrown into the middle of the descent, just to make sure your muscles don't get too used to the downhill. George was moving very quickly, and he was soon out of sight. Sunny and I felt like we were making good progress, but the trail was dusty and hot, given the fact that the sun was hitting the east facing slope pretty much head on. The trail only follows the valley of Shepard Creek a ways, and then leaves the draw, and begins its "bonus" climb to a saddle. The climb wasn't really tiring, just a bit annoying when you know that you will be pushing a 5000 foot descent for the day by the time everything is over. The vegetation changes over from scattered forest to sagebrush, and you know you are coming into the desert part of the hike.

At the saddle, there is another one of these "bottom dropping out" views, but the descent is much gentler, due to what can only be called interminable switchbacks. Since it was warm in the sun going downhill, I had a lot of sympathy for anyone heading uphill. Ok, we'll say it: No one in their right mind would make the climb UP this route! Down, down, down the trail goes, and every once in a while, I would turn around and marvel how far we had dropped. And the air felt so rich, almost luxuriously full of oxygen. I started to warm up as we got near the end. The last few hundred feet of descent are out in the open desert, and the long sleeve shirt that I had left on early this morning seemed a bit of overkill. George was waiting for us at the end, as was our buddy Earl. In a way, it seemed fitting to have finished the hike with a huge descent out of the high country. Makes you get a sense of how high these mountains soar above the floor of the Owens Valley. It would be a dozen years before I would return to the High Sierra, and when I did return, I would wonder why it had been so long.

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Roger A. Jenkins, 1986, 2001