|Kearsarge Pass (elevation 11,760 feet)|
One-night backpacking trip in mid-September--Kearsarge Pass, Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes:
The afternoon before the hike, my husband, Gary, and I drove about four hours from Los Angeles to Lone Pine, California, for a good night's sleep before a dawn start. You know you're staying at a hotel that caters to hikers when the hearty complimentary breakfast buffet opens at 5:00 AM (instead of 8:00 AM), early enough to eat and still be on the trail at dawn. (Hikers also stay in Lone Pine before climbing nearby Mt. Whitney.)
|Kearsarge Trailhead at Sunrise|
One of my least favorite things on a trail is the smell of horse and mule poop in the hot sun as I try to avoid stepping in it. But I love to see the animals in a pack train. (Do two animals constitute a "train?")
Of the total 4.6 miles to Kearsarge Pass (descriptions of trail length vary from 4.2 to 5.5 miles), the first mile or so goes up the east-facing slope. So, on a clear day, your view of the distant mountains and Owens Valley below remain spectacular.
Flower Lake is one of a series of small lakes along the trail east of the Pass. The large rock is easily big enough for six people and a picnic. Maybe another time... You can still see the Inyo Mountains in the distance.
A noteworthy plus on this trail was the lack of trash. When you're hiking in Wilderness (we were in the John Muir Wilderness), few things spoil the experience quite like candy wrappers and plastic drink bottles. And there were no dogs. We wondered about this until we saw the sign at the Pass that forbids dogs past that point. A heads-up to all dog owners who want to hike over Kearsarge Pass.
You can still see Kearsarge Pass albeit from the "other side." It's almost directly above the center of the large white rock in the foreground. And on the slope beneath the pass, where no plants are growing, you can just barely see the diagonal trail heading up, first left and then to the right.
In the morning the sun hit the pinnacles of rock and the water of the middle Kearsarge Lake was glassy smooth, reflecting the rocky wall on the far shore. After scraping ice off the inside of our tent (the low was about 36 degrees F), we packed up and headed out.