The Golden Trout Wilderness is what one thinks about when thinking about the Sierra Nevada.
As John Muir said “The Range of Light” and indeed the sunlight luminously spreads mirror images on lakes, on meadows in contrasting green with lush, fragile pastures and glacier remnants still flowing along side of white granite. The scenery is such that every where you look there is pristine beauty. The elevation at Trail Pass Trail is 10,500 which contrasts to Walker Pass at 5100’ and we all felt the change. I had a slight headache and Burton just wanted to take a nap. Headache or not I wanted to hit the trail and got everything in order for an early start in the morning. Terry said he fed at 5 (same as I do) so we would be ready to go by 7. Issy had a great pen and fresh water with all the hay he could eat, but he preferred to roll and call to all the other horses. Issy seemed to get larger when he called to the other horses, holding his head high and tensing his body……hum…I did remember to use a bit and was glad of it as Issy started right out tossing his head and offering a little pitch. Surely, by the time I get to Canada he will be truly broke…? Terry rode over and we headed towards the John Muir Wilderness and Cottonwood Lakes.
We crossed Cottonwood Creek and before long we were able to see the snow capped mountains with the lakes below. I have to say that I was struck by the magnificence of it all.
I took pictures like a tourista and only hoped to catch a glimmer of the beauty. Terry’s horse set a great example for Issy and when we stopped to take the pictures she just stood quietly letting Issy relax. A few fishermen were scattered along the shores trying to catch the Golden Trout. Terry pointed out a few when we crossed South Fork Creek. After the seeing Long Lake, South Fork Lakes, and High Lake I thought it couldn’t get any better until we turned around and headed back.
The view was the most spectacular I have ever seen and I will always be grateful that Terry took the time to show me these hidden treasures.
Terry asked if I wanted to ride tomorrow, you bet, Terry!
Off early again, we headed over Mulkey Pass to get to Dutch Meadows. Terry led with his lovely mare. When hikers passed Terry eased her up, and Issy just followed in the bitless bridle. Issy was listening and being a pleasure to ride after he had a long night calling to horses who basically ignored him. We circled around Horseshoe Meadow crossing through fields and then the forest.
The rock formations were hard to comprehend since they just seemed to float in the air and many were piled up as if someone stacked them. The terrain was sandy like ocean sand but slightly more fine and one could see glass reflections sparkling. The elevation was 10,380 at Mulkey Pass and at Dutch Meadows it was 9960’ with the air crisp and clean. The corrals at Dutch Meadows were still in great shape and I could have easily put Issy in them and expect him to still be there in the morning.
The creek side water fed into Diaz Creek and was clear and cold. I thought I was in a dream!
When I arrived back at camp yesterday I met Rick and Jennifer. Rick was responsible for a lot of the work at Horseshoe Meadow and they were enjoying the long weekend as well. Ray and Janet invited me to ride along with them to Mulkey Cow Camp so we headed out around 9:30 with a chill still causing Issy to think he needed to do the “Quick Step.” Rick and Jennifer took the lead with their two nice horses. Rick’s mount was the type Burton had always wanted and I knew what Burton was thinking when Rick rode by. Burton had placated me over all these years by riding Thoroughbreds but I knew his heart was in a nice stout, steady Quarter type.
Ray rode a seasoned campaigner who had carried him all over the section he was in charge of. Janet rode an Arab who had seen and done it all. Janet’s horse was a true bomb proof fellow who set his own pace, stopping when he needed rest and moving on ignoring the rest of the pack. Everyone was an excellent rider and we were able to enjoy the trail passing many hikers along the way.
The scenery was expectantly awesome, with the tread wide and horse friendly.
We arrived at Mulkey Cow Camp in short order. The camp is hidden on a side trail off the PCT and is the home to a great rustic mountain cabin. I could only imagine how many bear paws tried to reach through the wired windows. This was truly a step back in time. After picture taking we moved on to circle back to Horseshoe Meadow traveling up the mountain taking switch backs on a connecting trail.
July 4 Rest
July 5 Burton's Birthday
As Mammoth Lakes was the intended stop we traveled deep into the Ansel Adams Wilderness and arrived at Red’s Meadow by noon and found a great horse friendly packing station. Glen the manager was as hospitable as can be, offering advice on trail conditions, distances and elevations. The pack station consisted of fat mules, fat horses, llamas and a huge assortment of dogs. Like Dutch Meadows the corrals for the resident stock were made from large timber, perhaps the same way done a hundred years ago. Glen had us park right next to the trail access for the PCT and close to the generous sized pens where Issy found plenty to think about. The elevation was over 8900’ with brisk clear air, a nice change from the desert like conditions we had seen for so many weeks.
I hurriedly packed up Issy around 7am to head out to Duk Lake via the Duk Lake Pass Trail, 11.5 miles south just off the PCT. Duk Lake is the same often misspelled as Duck Lake but no one can confuse the elevation at 10,150’ with the vistas of the surrounding John Muir Wilderness. I couldn’t believe I was passing from the “Ansel Adams Wilderness to the John Muir Wilderness….all in one day and on horse back, which were in the Inyo National Forest and the Sierra National Forest respectively. The route was mostly up passing through old burned forest which was regenerating naturally. The dead trees seemed to moan when the wind massaged their limbs causing a peculiar atmosphere of death as I passed below. Rising above the haunted forest, the lodgepole pines shaded the trail and the two Red Cones (mountain tops) became clearly visible. The ride became ridge like with views in every direction. There was abundant water for Issy who stopped at each stream crossing deceptively acting thirsty but really hoping for a quick munch of grass. We arrived at the Duk Lake drainage to find hikers resting at the mountain run off which was flowing rapidly since the snow was still melting. We crossed the creek to climb up to Duk Pass and get a few pictures before we headed back to Red’s Meadow. Every time I cover the same trail from the opposite direction I am amazed that I missed so much the first time. The scenery just gets better. Shortly we came upon a hiker and her young daughter packing two llamas. Sky’s mother said she was spending 20 days in the wilderness and hoping to get to Forester Pass. The same Forester Pass I chose not to cross because of the danger. But this young mother seemed fit and informed and with the light footed llamas I am sure she will be able to cross.
We pushed on to Red’s Meadow but found a radio collared deer hiding behind some of the brush as we came off the ridge. She just stood there while Issy and I passed. 23.2 miles covered today!