Cottonwood Pass and then some

23 June 2020
Horseshoe Meadows to Sequoia National Park boundary on the PCT
(7 miles, +2,000/-600 feet).

I was on my way home from Mineral King when I got two calls.

MixMaster called saying he felt bad about ending the trip early, and he urged me to consider going back into the wilderness for a few days.

And then my wife called to say the same thing (“don’t come home!”  uh…. thanks?).

So majority rule: it’s 2-1 in favor of me doing a spontaneous trip.

I didn’t want to go back to Mineral King since I am planning to go back there with MixMaster in September.  But I didn’t have a permit for anywhere else, and in these days of COVID you can’t just pick one up the same day.  So I decided I needed a trailhead into Sequoia, preferably one that wouldn’t be too impacted by a quasi-legal interloper.  High elevation would be a plus.

At Bakersfield I turned left and then made my way across the desert to the Eastern Sierra.  Destination: Horseshoe Meadows.

Because of COVID, the main area at Horseshoe Meadows was closed, but people were parking outside the gate and walking in, and I did the same.  A mile later I was strolling through Horseshoe Meadows.

Trail Peak above Horseshoe Meadows

It was hot and VERY buggy.  A tough combination because I need a break for the heat and don’t really want to take one.  Oh well.  I started the climb up to Cottonwood Pass.

Cottonwood Pass
Snow Plant

At Cottonwood Pass I almost turned back.  Sometimes the heat and the exertion and the bugs and th loneliness all combine to swirl in my head.  For half an hour I considered heading back to the car.

My car is parked right over there…..

But ultimately I thought I might have a less buggy time at elevation, so I decided to press on.

I had to get water at Chicken Spring Lake in a swarm.  But once I started climbing the ridge above they weren’t so bad (as long as I kept moving).

Chicken Spring Lake

My favorite part of this hike is the stunning view of Big Whitney Meadow.  As shadows lengthened, it was perfectly framed by talus and foxtail pines on my left hand side.

Big Whitney Meadow
Fireworks over the Siberian Outpost

I started looking for a place to camp near the Sequoia National Park boundary.  What I really wanted was a nice windy ridge, but the one I targeted was extremely rocky.  I could have slept in a flat nearby, but I wanted to see a view from my tent, so I squeezed between some rocks.  Not so comfy, but the setting was pretty dramatic.

No room at the inn

I sat out to watch the sunset for dinner but even on this high ridge away from water the skeeters started going crazy.  Soon I dove into my tent for the night and finished watching the sun set from there.

View from my tent

I’d love to go to Miter Basin tomorrow, but I feel so tired and I don’t think I will enjoy it as much as I would either before or after peak bug season.  I think I will just head for Army Pass and Cottonwood Lakes and head out from there.

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