Day 1: Beware of Marmots!

Sawtooth Trailhead to Pinto Lake
(7.9 miles, +3,500/-2,500 feet).

Today was Day 1 of the HNG “advanced” backpacking trip to Mineral King I organized.  I originally had about 12 people sign up for the trip, but everyone got busy and in the end there were only three of us.

Nick, Meredith, and I arrived at Cold Springs Campground last night to car camp and acclimatize.  The rangers had set up a contraption I had never seen before:

Bear trap

Apparently, an intransigent bear was frequenting the campground, leaving the rangers only one choice: to trap and remove or kill the bear.

But the bear would be the least of our problems!

This morning when we arrived at the Sawtooth Trailhead, we had to wrap our car in a tarp before we headed out on the trail.  As it turns out, hoses and wires are delicious fare for the hearty mountain Marmot!

Marmot armor

Some people left their hoods open, and others used chicken wire to wrap their cars.  I’m not sure if any of those methods work, but we would later return to an unmolested car.

We eventually left the parking lot behind and started our ascent from 7,840 feet up to Timber Gap at 9,511 feet, over the course of about 2 miles.

Meredith climbs up to Timber Gap

We took a break at the Gap, where a deer was curious about my spicy mango!

Mango standoff at Timber Gap

Then we headed back down to Cliff Creek at about 7,000 feet, where I took a swim.

Cliff Creek

From there, we would climb up to Pinto Lake at about 8,700 feet and set up camp.

Pinto Lake

Nick went fishing and we later saw a huge cinnamon-colored bear, who wandered off when we spotted him about 100 yards away (sorry, no picture!).  That night I had a little trouble falling asleep — I kept waking up and peering out of my tent and listening for bear noises, whatever those sound like.  But all I heard was dark and silence and I eventually fell into fitful sleep.

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Nick tests the waters in Pinto Lake

Overall, it was a pretty spectacular day for my first night out in the Sierra.

Evening view, looking up towards Black Rock Pass

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