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Sierra High Route - 1998

Bailing out!

Saturday, September 5   (Map)   Sometime around 5 or 5:30, the rain finally stopped. We had enough flexibility in our schedule to wait it out another day, although from the beginning, Will and Barbara and Mark had said that for them, this would be a 7 nite trip. For the rest, we had planned to be out 8 nites, but that, with the weather, was looking problematic. As soon as it got light, most of us started scrambling out of our tents, all suffering from a bad case of cabin fever. The sky was tantalizing, in that you could see the weather breaking up. It was clear that even with the fog shrouding the peaks, Granite Park, which is where we were, was a pretty neat place: lots of spires and granite and most likely, lakes. All we needed was the time to explore - which we had - , and cooperative weather, which was less certain. It seemed likely that it would not rain for the next few hours, so we all scattered out our soaked gear, trying to take advantage of the tiny amounts of sun that would stream through the clouds occasionally. Now came the big decision: do we stay or go? Will and Barbara and Mark were headed out irrespective of the weather, and would run the car shuttle for us. If it was to be a nice day, Granite Park would be a wonderful place to explore. We put off making a decision until 10 am.

About 8:30 am, Barb A and Dolph showed up, recounting their adventures in the upper basin last night. Apparently, they had little shelter from the wind, and so it was an exciting time. They dropped their packs while we struggled with the decision to stay or go. Even though we could have a short day by moving down into the meadows above Honeymoon Lake, we had been advised that Honeymoon would be crowded, especially on Labor Day weekend, so all we needed to go was about 1.5 miles today. I was under the impression that there was not much camping below Honeymoon, which turned out to be incorrect. It was clear that the decision would not be to move only 1.5 miles. We would either stay, or go out. I had been so informed by Susie, and after the misery of yesterday, now was not the time to question the wisdom of such an ultimatum.

The clouds obscured the sun most of the time, but it was still pretty nice outside. However, there seemed to be the general sentiment that no one wanted to spend another afternoon in the tent. That statement from Sue pretty much sealed our fate: we were headed out, since the weather certainly was not suggestive of sunshine and blue skies. Will and Barbara and Mark were now gone, and most of the rest of the crew was out of there quickly. Susie and I were the last to leave camp, around 11 am. At least I did not have to carry a soaking wet tent. Just a damp one.

By this point, the trail was pretty easy to follow. It being Saturday morning, we saw lots of folks headed into the wilderness. Incredibly, one of the parties we passed commented on the large amount of gear we all seemed to have. I thought to myself: given what we experienced yesterday, what would anyone be doing out here without a lot of gear. Everyone talks about how gentle the Sierras are. And for most of the trips I have made in them, they have been. But it is foolhardy to count on such, especially on a long trip. Any mountains above 10,000 feet in September are not the place for tennis shoes and plastic tarps. The route down to Honeymoon Lake was beautiful. Lovely high meadows dropping through granite slabs. Susie and I stopped in the meadows above the lake, and had a leisurely lunch. At the lake below Honeymoon, we caught up to Barb A, Dolph, and Ray. As we passed them, and curled around the end of the last lake in the chain, we could see the clouds boiling up from the valley, and in a couple of minutes, we were in the fog. We stopped at about 2:15 pm to rest, below the lake just a bit, and it was not long after that the skies started to open up. The rain was gentle at first, but as the trail pitches over and dives into the Pine Creek canyon, it really got wet. It poured and poured. The old mining road grade that is the trail was much more rugged (ie. rocky) than I had expected, and there were no water bars on the trail. That meant that the trail, with no water diverted, became a raging torrent of thin mud mixed with horse shit. We were getting soaked to the skin. What a way to end our trip. However, we congratulated ourselves at our wisdom to get the hell out of Dodge. We passed a couple going in that was waiting out the rain under a big tree, but later they passed us, heading out even faster than we were. As we got near the bottom and the now-abandoned tungsten mine, the trail seemed to go on forever. We headed through a jungle, and Susie, who had been in the lead for she and I, dropped back. I reached the horse packers camp at the trail head at about 4:40 pm. ASTD had been there for some time, and had gotten permission to wait out the storm in the tack house, waiting for the W&B car shuttle. By the time I had arrived, the rain finally stopped. Susie was only 5 minutes or so behind me. Everyone was cold and wet, but we had survived the trip in one piece.

To compress the ending: WB&M showed up with the vehicles, indicating that there were probably no rooms left in Bishop (since we were coming out early, we had no reservations), but no other town was close. We drove into Bishop and I ended up with what I think was the last 4 rooms in town, Barb A sharing the room with Susie and me. After unloading the vehicles, we all went out for Pizza, and stuffed ourselves.

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Roger A. Jenkins, 1998