After a couple of long weeks in the mountains, it is becoming harder to get out of a warm sleeping bag in the morning. After some delaying tactics, we were finally up and back on the trail. A short sharp climb dulled any initial enthusiasm, especially as we were aware it wouldn’t count towards climbing our next pass. A smoky haze out towards Yosemite indicated some sort of fire, and we hoped it wouldn’t affect us. After this climb, a pleasant change occurred to the trail. We had a section that was almost flat. Soon this ran out and began a long series of switchbacks down a rather steep sided hill. At the bottom we crossed a bridge over a large river, quickly coming to the turnoff for Vermillion Valley Resort. A lot of hikers go here to resupply and enjoy warm meals. We, on the other hand, spurn any such easy luxuries, and instead for some reason aimed for Mammoth Lakes before we could enjoy the pleasures of civilization. Reluctantly turning our backs, we tightened our straps and began another six mile climb to the pass. Personally I think this was the most beautiful part of the trail yet. Granite cut steps wound us up and through large rocky outcrops. A large gushing stream filled with cascading waterfalls followed the trail for a while, before we emerged high above the valley below. Here, green grass filled meadows and small lakes dotted the landscape. The last two miles climbed gently for a time across a small basin, with small stunted trees, patches of snow and an azure lake. Once at the top we congratulated ourselves that we had no more passes to cross before reaching town. Lunch was nestled amongst the warm rocks away from the wind and mosquitoes. Some small patches of snow mixed with a rocky trail characterized the descent back into the next valley. This was a shorter section then usual, as we found ourselves down by a river, before we began to climb again. Being deep in a small valley, the trail took the approach of climbing its way out. Up another 1,000 feet to get out, we were rewarded with the expansive Lake Virginia at the top. Wishing I had a fishing rod, we hiked down to the shore before crossing a couple of patches of water. From here we had another small climb to get out of the basin, back into rocky terrain. Dinner was set overlooking a mass of outcrops, some still smothered in snow. One mile down and we found Purple Lake, before deciding higher ground was a better option. With some campsites scouted and found, we gratefully set up our tents.
Miles hiked – 20