Day: Wednesday, June 29th 2016
Miles: 730.8 – 750.9
Death Canyon 730.8 – Bird Spring Lake 750.9
The camp at Death Creek lies in a beautiful canyon, surrounded by sheer granite walls and little to no ground-vegetation. It reminded me of the desert, as the topsoil was all but removed although in this case it is by the regular heavy thunderstorms and rain deluges. Rutted marks on the ground showed where water had carved routes through every gap, with only scraggly bushes and tall hardy trees remaining. Despite the throwback to desert times, we’re obviously on the cusp of a major change in topology as the granite walls, polished by the same rains that removed the topsoil, reminded me of Yosemite and looked unlike anything up to now on the trail. Dawn seemed to run in slow motion as the slow brightness crept through crevices in the valley, it’s advance irregularly stunted by outcrops and gullies.
As I slowly decamped in the morning chill, hoping that the sun would rise above the canyon quickly and provide some early heat, I gazed in wonder at the impossibly sheer walls on the south side of the canyon. I pondered that each morning in the next few weeks, I may repeat this morning exercise of avoiding the morning chill, and maybe moving my start time to a little later in the day.
Once I did eventually decamp, I pushed through the first 4 miles of trail quite quickly, the morning chill adding a jump to my stride. The rock formations were magnificent and regular views to the north gave a tantalizing glimpse of the high Sierra just out of reach.
Rumor on the trail, was that 3.5 miles ahead was a viewpoint to Owens Valley, a peak into the desert on the east side of the Sierra (with AT&T cell service). Terrain was varied and beautiful with views of meadows to the west and huge rock formations dotting the ridge as I ascended. Eventually I hit the saddle overlooking Owens valley and hung out for 3hrs blogging, solar charging and sending messages before continuing on.
My old friend Nelson from Fox Mill Spring was just ahead and I spoke to another hiker named David who was matching my pace also. The delay dented my progress for the day, however keeping on top of blog posts and a few calls along the way is a quiet luxury that is important for boosting morale, as well as feeling connected to the outside.
As the afternoon continued, once again storm clouds formed overhead with another wet period of hiking in store. I donned my rain jacket but once again relied on my umbrella for protection.
As the rains subsided I was treated to an amazing view of Horseshoe Meadows and Cottonwood Pass in the evening alpenglo, two important waypoints on the trail, demarking the last exit points on the trail aiming north.
The target for the night was my first lake-camping experience at Bird Spring lake. This beautiful lake, nestled between a high-mountain saddle, is often cited as the first real alpine Sierra glacial-lake for Northbounders on the PC. A taste of things to come.
I arrived at the lake as the sun dipped down over the protective ridge on the northwest side with wonderful colors reflected in every direction. I spoke to a forest ranger (who was assisting a trail-work crew who were camped at the lake) for a while before settling in to my waterfront property to the sound of croaking toads and birdsong. The lake was deserted and it felt like I had the whole night to myself, just the toads and the marmots to keep me conpany!