A couple years ago I read about a guy named Steve Roper who navigated from King Canyon NP through Yosemite via many of the Sierra high peaks. He wrote about it in a book called The Sierra High Route. The route does not follow any trails, nor does much of the route come in contact with any trails. I intended to do only a few miles of the northern most section of the route so only minimal navigation skills would be required. I choose to study The Essential Wilderness Navigator by David Seidman and Paul Cleveland and use Hoover Wilderness map by Tom Harrison Maps (www.tomharrisonmaps.com) finding my way. It turns out this area is a pretty popular hike and there is not much need. A lot of folks use it to ascend Matterhorn Peak, maybe because it was made famous by Jack Kerouac in Dharma Bums. But it was still nice to have the equipment so I could identify peak names and to practice what I had learned.
The orignial plan went something like this. The first day I would drive up Highway 108 over the Sonora Pass, stop by the ghost town at Bodie State Park, then backpack a mile or two into and set up camp. The second day I was going to spend backpacking further in. The third day back pack out and set up camp near the trailhead. The last day drive back home via Highway 120 through Yosemite.
Friday August 22nd
I left Mountain View in the morning picking up 120 outside Tracy then on to 108. Sonora Pass on Highway 108 is breath taking. Ebbets pass on Highway 4 the only road I know of that is prettier.
I made it to Bodie State Historic Park by late afternoon. It is about 7 miles south of Bridgeport on Highway 395. It is $3 per person. Bodie is awesome, I ran my cameras battery down taking up pictures.
It was getting late; so that I wouldn't have to cook in the dark I got a burger in Bridgeport before heading to the trailhead. To get to the trail head take Twin Lakes Road from Bridgeport and follow it to Mono Village Reosrt at the very end.
By the time I got to the trail head and figured out all the details it was dark. So I just got a spot at the campground.
Mono Village Reosrt is a nice campground. They have a resturant and bar, cabins, campground, showers, and landury. It's $16 per night to camp.
After I got set up for the night I went down to the bar to get a beer. On the way down I ran into some rather large black bears, a mother and a couple of her older cubs. That was kind of neat. It was kind of funny hearing the kids hanging out at the ampitheater freak out when they noticed one of the bears casualy stroll through the isles. You just don't get that kind of entertainment in the suburbs.
I think they should do a better job of keeping the trash locked up. The dumpsters they have are not adequate. And I saw some bears looking through some 5 gallon buckets. Those need to be put away so an uneducated visitor doesn't put trash in them. I think someone is going to get hurt and the bears will be killed.
Saturday August 23rd
I packed up in the morning, paid for the campsite and the parking pass, and moved the car to the parking lot. It is $10 for a 7 day parking pass. Then I set off up Horse Creek on the Sierra High Route.
The hike was amazing, full of those moments when you are compelled to stop and take it in. A few hundered feet above the lake things start to get really dramatic, the flora starts to change and you get better views. A little further on you come to a wall of hill, 450 feet of vertical in what is only 900' on the map. After that you are above the tree line and in a harsh landscape. It is still quite a ways up to the saddle between Horse Creek and Spiller Creek. The saddle is 3625 feet higher than the trailhead. It is only 3.95 miles (as the crow flies) or a much more reasonable 4.75 miles (as estimated via Topo USA).
Which brings me to another point. I don't recall putting much thought into how steep this trail would be before hand. I guess I was excited about the trip. But all the years of skateboarding did a job on my knee and it is something I need to consider. Going up the really steep section I was certain I would have considerable pain coming back down. I misread the map and thought I was pretty close to the saddle at that point so I carried on. When I realized I had much further to go and and my knee started to ache I reconsidered camping in Horse Creek. But the desire to get over the saddle to Spiller Creek and no small contribution from my ego made me decide to press on.
Though really apprehensive about the decent back to the trail head, the awesome views from the saddle made me really glad I pressed on. You are surrounded by high peaks. Looking down Horse Creek you see the barren landscape of the upper canyon. Looking down Spiller Creek you see a veradent grassy valley that fades into forest. I stopped and had dinner by a pond then hiked a little down Spiller Creek canyon and set up camp in a nice grassy flat spot near the creek.
One point that evening I woke up and I heard a coyote howling. It was a howl to signal to each other where they are at. It started with coyote a few hundered yards up the canyon from me. Then one not to far away from me. Then the next and the next a half a dozen or more times down the canyon to where it was barely audible. It reminded me that not all of natures beauty is visual. I wish I could hear it again.
Sunday August 24th
Plan B was to leave my gear and hike further along the route, up over the pass between Virginia Peak and Stanton Peak. But this wasn't happening, I was worried about getting down because of my knee. I wanted to hike up to the top of the Materhorn but that wasn't happening either. In Dharma Bums Jack Kerouac set off to hike up the Matterhorn with his buddy but stopped short from exhaustion and anxiety, probably around the same place I now found my self. Well it looks like I didn't make it either Jack. I hiked about half mile or so down the valley and snapped a photo of the pass then headed back to camp and started the hike down.
A half a bottle of Advil and a couple hours later I made it to the bottom. I took it nice and slow and it wasn't so bad. I took a shower and had dinner at the resort. Then I hit the road.
I headed down 395 then east on 120. I got a spot at Lowwer Lee Vining campground on highway 120, a nice spot next to the creek. It was $14 per night. By the time I got camp setup it was pretty much dark and time to turn in.
Monday August 25th
I packed up in the morning and drove up 120 through Tioga Pass and Yosemite. I snapped a few photos along the way. And concluded a great trip.