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Re: So High, Solo

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So High, Solo
August 24, 2016 07:57PM
Despite a reasonably early departure from the Bay Area, I didn't arrive at the trailhead until around 8:00pm due to various accidents and delays on the way. On the other hand, this meant I had the Mono Pass trail to myself, almost...



The sky was cloudy, but the air was still, warm, and somewhat humid. It made for very comfortable hiking, but I worried that one of those rare nighttime monsoonal rains may start up. A few sprinkles did result in a few minutes of umbrella deployment, but that was the worst of it.

I hiked to the park boundary--indicated by a boundary marker of course, then headed a bit away from the trail to find a flat and legal place to rest for the night. Other than the full moon it was a lovely night, and the clouds slowly cleared to reveal stars.



The next morning I was treated to a wonderful sunrise and clear skies.



After a quick breakfast (no pancakes or bacon this time--the Advance Party was too far to be reached this weekend...), I packed and headed down to the first lake I'd boat: Summit Lake. This lake was small, shallow, and stagnant, and it didn't warrant much more than a quick out-and-back dash..



I joined the Parker Pass trail, then headed to Parker Pass--mostly to photograph the boundary marker. Along the way I could see Spillway Lake, and started to consider the order I'd boat the lakes: down to Spiller and up to Helen, or Helen, then Spiller, or...



After photographing Parker Pass, I dropped to out-of-sight Parker Pass Lake, a beautiful late with very blue water surrounded by rugged peaks.



I crossed the lake, performed the obligatory far-side touch (first!), then returned to where I had stashed my pack.



From there, I dropped towards Spillway, but decided to stay high and hit Helen Lake next and leave Spillway for later. Along the way I passed a small prospect--a pit maybe 12 feet deep that someone long ago had dug.



The wind was picking up a bit at Helen Lake, and it took some effort to paddle across, circle its small island, touch the far shore, and return, but eventually this lake could be marked as "boated".



After Helen I decided to head towards Bingaman--the route looked interesting, and I didn't quite feel like I wanted to drop to Spillway and head back up.



The entire Dana Fork, including Parker Pass Creek, is off-limits to overnight camping, but there were many, many places that would make excellent--but illegal--campsites with great views.



Near the top of the first hill between Helen and Bingaman I looked back at Helen Lake.



As the breeze picked up a few clouds started to form near the high peaks in the distance.



Several years ago when JKW and I had gone through this area we found a few obsidian chips--probably from the east side, possibly either brought over Mono Pass for trading or formerly used for hunting. I found another similar chip this time.



Eventually I reached Bingaman, which I boated across with my pack.



From Bingaman I headed down to Kuna Lake, which has a large island that called out to be boated around.



Before hitting the water, I had lunch on the grassy shore of the lake. A nearby beach made for easy entry into the lake.



After Kuna too achieved "boated" status, I traversed back towards Spillway. This order gave me two options--I could head back to Mono Pass to legally camp this evening, or if I had time I could hike out and pick up a permit to camp somewhere else. The traverse towards Spillway was tedious in places, more so because of tall grasses than anything really technical, but the views more than made up for the occasional obstacle.



I eventually reached Spillway, and after inflating the boat for the sixth and final time, I paddled across this lake, keeping a respectful distance from the couple on the opposite shore that I suspect wanted some privacy.



After packing the boat and checking the time, I decided to head out and stage for the next day's adventure. More clouds were forming but the air was still generally warm.



After picking up another permit and grabbing a burger at the Tuolumne Meadows grill, I hiked out to catch sunset. Nearby was Clouds Rest, where M and I will meet up with the Advance Party next weekend.



In the distance Half Dome received its last light of the day.



The unfortunate fires elsewhere can probably be given some credit for the golden sunset.





The next day after breakfast and packing I hiked towards a segment of trail I hadn't hiked yet. The hike was pleasant, but the morning air was warm and humid. Much of the trail was familiar, but I checked out a few old, abandoned segments--just in case the TrailQuest judges decided they were "in-Quest".


Do not cross 120 here!

I eventually reached the May Lake trailhead, where I stopped for lunch away from the parking lot. While eating I studied the surrounding area for any signs of the northern end of the southern "May Lake Mystery Trail". All I managed to spot were two trees that look as if they once were part of a drift fence gate. The sky was now mostly overcast, and dark clouds were building up over Mt. Hoffman. After eating and packing, I headed towards the southern segment of the "May Lake Mystery Trail". I didn't have a track from my former hike on this segment, so it took me awhile to locate the obvious signs of trail construction.



An hour or two ago, while hiking uphill in the warm, humid air, the thoughts of a quick swim in Tenaya Lake had sounded wonderful, but the air had cooled a bit and clouds were forming over the lake.



A few sprinkles fell on me just before I reached the car. After getting my food and cooler out of the bear box and drinking a still-cold iced tea, I did head to the lake, which was for the moment back in the sunshine. After the refreshing dip, I decided to head to Tioga Pass. I had been teased by thunderstorms all weekend, and I was not to be denied.



It was clear Saturday had been the better day to boat the Kuna Crest lakes.



After walking around the pass area a bit and taking pictures, I got back in the car and headed back to the Bay Area. Compared to the previous several weekends I got back relatively early. On the way back I heard from the Advance Party--they had managed to avoid any of the storms and were heading into town to eat and do laundry. And, despite Saturday's boating, all I had managed to do is only fall a little bit behind in Boat Quest... even not counting Mirror Lake.
Re: So High, Solo
August 24, 2016 10:54PM
Beautiful lakes and great views, thank you for yet another excellent TR. It's amazing how you can hike up that high on the first day after leaving Bay Area. I always try acclimating at TM backpacker's campground the night before or headaches are in order.
avatar Re: So High, Solo
August 25, 2016 07:56AM
Seems appropriate that your first photo is of a toad, as you are becoming an amphibious being!
Re: So High, Solo
August 25, 2016 11:02AM
Magnificent area (Kuna). There are also quite a few unnamed lakes/tarns up there, but those probably don't count towards your boat quest? How many lakes are still remaining on your list?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/25/2016 11:02AM by Ohnivy-Drak.
Re: So High, Solo
August 25, 2016 04:40PM
It looks like it's under 100 named lakes left... but not by much :-(
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