California Mountains

Onion Valley to Kearsarge Pass

I woke before sunup, as did several others in camp. At the bathrooms, people were cinching down pack straps and getting on the trail early, the idea being that they didn’t want to be walking in the heat of the day. I found that rather interesting, since temps above 10,000 feet were forecast to be in the low-70s as a high. It’s all relative, I reminded myself.

My agenda for the day: 9 miles or so and about 2700 feet of total elevation gain up and over Kearsarge Pass to Charlotte Lake. I had all day.

Breakfast at camp was really nice, as I was visited by …

My blood spiked with coffee, I hoisted my pack onto my shoulders. I felt great. A little after 7:30 in the morning, I set out on the trail.

I had been up as far as Heart Lake several years ago, so I knew the trail switchbacked from the get-go and that it passed by a few beautiful lakes. On no timeline, I walked and snapped photos along the way.

view at the beginning of the hike
Gilbert Lake, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
Heart Lake, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California

Camaraderie on the trail was terrific. Everyone was in positive spirits, with words of encouragement and support passing on the breeze. Negativity was absent.

On the final push to the pass, across the scree/rock/decomposed granite field, I felt sluggish. I needed to eat, the banana and energy bar breakfast not being enough to fuel me to the pass. I stopped and ate an apple. I drank a half liter of water.

At the pass, I felt much better:

Kearsarge Pinnacles and Lakes, from Kearsarge Pass, Kings Canyon National Park, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California

Officially in Kings Canyon National Park, the view from Kearsarge Pass was stunning. About a dozen people were hanging out, snapping photos and texting them, making phone calls, relaxing, laughing … John Muir Trail thru-hikers were happy to be going down to Independence town for the night—a bed, “real food” as they called it, and to resupply for the next 5 days. Again, the cheer on the trail was nothing but positive. In fact, it struck me. Sure, people were tired, sore, maybe even secretly wanting to be off-trail, but the spoken words celebrated the mountains and living out there … out of a pack … at least for a little while.

Down off the pass, my feet stepped …

(to Charlotte Lake — next post)


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