Lower Soldier Lake to Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead
(11.5 miles, +1,600/-2,300 feet).
This morning we woke up around 6:30am. It was cold!
We eventually got our act together, ate breakfast, packed, and hit the trail.
It was slow going up the trail to New Army Pass. Less than 24 hours before we had been living our daily lives at sea level in San Diego, but now we had to climb from 10,700 feet up to 12,300. We took it slow.
BarnFinder and I are in the same exercise class where we run hills from time to time, and there is one hill on Torrance street that is brutal. That hill became our metric for this hike. We would walk about the length of one “Torrance,” stop and take a break, and repeat!
MixMaster spotted some Bighorn sheep across the valley on the path up to Mount Langley, which was awesome. I had never seen them in the wild before. I tried to get a picture but they were too far.
Soon enough we made it to the pass.
We made our way down to High Lake where I spent some time fishing (I caught two golden trout!). MixMaster and BarnFinder decided to head down to Long Lake to set up camp. I rejoined them after a couple of hours.
I also tried fishing in Long Lake but had no luck there. I fried up my High Lake catch to share.
We had a really nice campsite at Long Lake, but it started getting very cold, and we learned from some other hikers that a storm was coming in that was supposed to drop 2-4 inches of snow on the area. It was already 4pm, and we we were still seven miles away and our safe warm car at the trailhead. But the trail was (mostly) downhill and we thought we could make it before dark, so we decided to break camp and head out.
We got back to Horseshoe Meadows around 6pm but we arrived at the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead, not the Cottonwood Pass Trailhead. We were confused and pulled the map out, but BarnFinder said he knew where the car was. He led us cross country down a ridge and, sure enough, the car was there! His ability to “smell the hay in the barn” at the end of a hike was really useful today, and it’s how he got his trail name.
We decided to drive back to San Diego in shifts, and MixMaster—who knows more about music than anyone I have ever met—kept the tunes rolling, keeping BarnFinder and me awake for the late drive home. So MixMaster earned his trail name that night, as well.