Red Cones

Fox Meadow to Red Cones
(12 miles, +3,400 feet/-1,100 feet).

Today we thought we might only make it to Rainbow Falls to camp.  But that area is very close to the developed areas around Reds Meadow, and it is dusty and mostly in a burn zone.  I was hopeful we would have enough energy to continue on to a higher elevation in the woods somewhere.

We started out after breakfast this morning with a steep 1000 foot climb above Fish Creek.  The cool morning air and beautiful views made it much easier than I was expecting.

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South side of Fish Valley
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More flowers this time
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looking back at the sun
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Scamper studies Silver Creek

We passed several snow plants on the way today.  These bright red living things are plants, but they do not use chlorophyl.  Instead they live in symbiosis with underground fungi.  How cool!

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Yes, it’s a plant
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Meadows
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Mountains
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River valleys
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Ridges
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Time for a break!

At 7300 feet we started descending again, back through an idyllic wood that lay just above a massive area of granite.

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Idyllic wood
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Gorgeous granite
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Flowering succulents
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Back to the trail etched in granite
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Finder really loves this place!
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Middle Fork San Joaquin
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Crater Creek falls
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A nice place to ponder
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More granite
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And still more
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Not raging quite as much today
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Back into the wooded valley
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And the ferns
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And the penstemons

I accidentally stopped for lunch where everyone wanted to press on.  I told them to go ahead and I would catch up.  Once I finished my tortilla, I packed up and found them near the columnar basalt we saw a few days ago.

While they ate lunch, I bushwhacked to the top to see what the basalt looked like from above.  It was a little disappointing, but you could just barely make out some hexagonal tops to the columns.

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If you squint you can see hexagons

I bushwhacked back down and everyone finished eating.  Soon we were back on trail.

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Granite rises above the flowering ceanothus
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Scamper heads into the burn zone
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Mammoth Mountain

We reached Rainbow Falls at midday, and happily we decided to head up the John Muir Trail to Red Cones for our last night’s camp.

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Hello JMT!

It was especially meaningful to get on the JMT given all the craziness with trying to cross Fish Creek to get there.

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We finally made it!
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Into the wild

We had to climb about 1000 feet to Red Cones, but it was not steep since we had about 3 more miles to go.  The sky filled with high clouds and a refreshing breeze swirled around us as we ascended.

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Rising above the burn zone
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Heading towards a Red Cone
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Okay, this crossing is not so bad

By 3pm we made it to Red Cones and found a perfect flat campsite nestled among piles of melting snow.

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Bee’s Knees enters camp
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It’s nice to relax!
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Finder finds a rock for the fire ring
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All done!

Once we set up camp, Finder, Scamper, and I decided to climb the taller Red Cone.

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Scampering up the cone
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Made it!

The views from above were fantastic!

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Crater Meadow
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Iron Mountain and the Minarets
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The Minarets, Mount Ritter, and Banner Peak
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View to the north
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Group shot!

Scamper found a trail register for the summit.  Turns out we were the first ones to sign it this year!

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Scamper’s entry

The top of the volcano is actually a caldera with a nice rim to circumnavigate all around.

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Making our way around
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Finder looks towards Ritter and Banner
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Inside the caldera

We made our way back down to camp where a wonderful fire was already burning and dinner was not far behind.

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Nice!

After dinner we watched a spectacular show as the sun set behind the Ritter Range.

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Could it get any prettier?
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Yes!

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