Onion Valley Trailhead to unnamed lake below Glen Pass
(9.0 miles, +3,300/-1,000 feet).
We left San Diego at 4am and stopped at the Sierra Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine to get our wilderness permit. We then headed on to Independence, and hung a left to climb the switchbacks up to Onion Valley at 9,185 feet. It was about 11am when we finally arrived.
The weather was already hot by the time we started, and the first couple of miles of trail were steep and dusty. But the wildflowers were still blooming like crazy.
The trail eventually flattened out a bit, passing through vast rock fields and by a series of lakes where day hikers lingered with friends and family.
Gilbert Lake had quite a few people by it, so we decided to wait until the next lake to get water. However, we discovered that the next “pothole” lake was a couple of hundred feet below the trail, so we would have to wait until the other side of Kearsarge Pass to have easy access to water again.
Although we were thirsty, the views of the lakes far below were stunning and helped turn our frowns up side down!
We made it to Kearsarge Pass at 11,845 feet around 2:30pm and took a break. There were a few other hikers hanging out at the pass, several of which were coming from the John Muir Trail after days (or in some cases weeks!) in the backcountry. Most of them were on their way out to resupply down in Independence, Lone Pine, or Big Pine so they could continue their journey. But one of them didn’t need food — he just came so he could get a cell signal to call his wife!
The descent on the other side of the pass was gentle, with more wildflowers and expansive views of Kearsarge Lakes.
Around 3:30pm we finally found some easily-accessible water in a stream that crossed the trail. It was delicious! We drank a couple of liters and snacked while we watched birds flitting in and out of the water.
The trail continued its traverse above Bullfrog Lake and then joined with the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail above Charlotte Lake.
We had originally planned to try to make it to Rae Lakes for the evening, but we ran out of gas just below Glen Pass. A pair of unnamed lakes sit right next to the trail, and we found a place to set up camp by the lower one at around 11,200 feet. It was dead calm and the solitude was deafening.
We set up camp and did our chores and then sat by the lake to eat dinner and enjoy the scene. Pretty soon a coyote appeared at the edge of the bowl, and he made his way over to our tent to check it out. Another hiker showed up late to camp here as well, and he said he had heard about this lake and its caretaker coyote from another group of hikers.
The sun gradually set and the shadows crept up the wall of the bowl until it was engulfed in darkness.
We climbed into our sleeping bags and fell into a restless sleep as our bodies adjusted to the altitude change.