The Heart of the Wilderness

June 20, 2014
Mono Lake View from Ansel Adams Wilderness
Total distance:  9.1 miles

The night before my first trip of the year to the high country, I was unable to sleep.  Excitement set in and I laid awake in bed like a child on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa.  A quick glance at the clock showed that it was just before midnight.  I should have been fast asleep by then because I wanted an early start.  Instead of sleeping, my mind traced the route I would take.  I ran through a mental list of things to add to the backpack; and I worried that my knee would give me problems.  Two hours later after tossing, turning and fluffing the pillows, I finally drifted off to sleep.

Trailhead sign.

Trailhead sign.

In an earlier post, I stated that one of my reasons for hiking was to see the views.  Although I have hiked this trail to see the mining relics, this time I hiked to observe nature’s sights and sounds–the heart of the wilderness.

Just starting out.

Just starting out.

The weather was perfect for hiking: 57 degrees at the Mono Pass trailhead in Yosemite National Park, elevation 9,700 feet.  Overhead, contrails streaked the sky and the rumble of distant jets sounded like rolling thunder.

Mt. Dana peeks through the trees in Dana Meadows.

Prettiest view of the day: Mt. Dana peeks through the trees in Dana Meadows.

The soft trail through the verdant Dana Meadows was flat.  Walking briskly, I noticed only a few wildflowers: mostly groundsel, both arrowleaf and single-stemmed.

Single-stemmed groundsel.

Single-stemmed groundsel.

I stopped before crossing the surging Dana Fork creek and put on my new aqua socks.  Walking through the cold, ankle-deep water, my feet began to numb.  On the way back I would cross on the log.

Snowy Mammoth Peak jutting above the treeline.

Snowy Mammoth Peak protruding above the treeline.

After a couple of miles, the dirt trail led uphill and climbed several hundred feet through the subalpine forest where many of the trees exhibited “snow knee”–a bend in the tree formed when the tree is young and is bent over by snow.  Eventually the tree grows upward towards the sun, but it retains the bend.

Phlox growing in what appears to be a granite container.

Phlox growing in what appears to be a granite container.

Along the way I noticed century-old cabins, encountered day-hikers and backpackers, heard birds, buzzing insects, rushing water, and saw more wildflowers growing in the sun among the rocks: spreading phlox and mountain pride.

Mountain pride.

Mountain pride.

The trail peaked as I came out of the still forest and snow-flecked Kuna Crest came into view.

Kuna Crest

Kuna Crest

At a junction, I avoided taking the Parker Pass trail towards Spillway Lake.  There, a large group crouched close to the ground inspecting something in the grass.  Out in the open I continued forward towards Summit Lake and Mono Pass walking in the intense sun and drying wind.

Informational trailhead sign.

Informational trailhead sign.

At this point I was leaving Yosemite National Park and entering the Ansel Adams Wilderness in the Inyo National Forest.

Trailhead sign at the border.

Trailhead sign at the border.

Now on the rocky slopes of the alpine zone, I stepped over and around hundreds of rocks that jutted out of the ground.  Veering away from the trail to explore, I sauntered through the hills on the dry, dun-colored grass.  Mosquitoes nipped at my arms and legs until the wind came up outsmarting them.  I hopped over ephemeral tributaries and climbed onto red, iron oxydized rocks.  I made my way around large patches of suncupped snow and back to the trail at Summit Lake where a weathered USGS marker noted the elevation at 10,599 feet.

Summit Lake just outside of Yosemite's boundary.

Summit Lake just outside of Yosemite’s boundary.

Walking over Mono Pass toward Sardine Lakes, a distant view of Mono Lake came into sight.  It was nearly one o’clock and I still hadn’t had lunch, so I sat on a surprisingly comfortable boulder facing the lake and ate.

My view during lunch: Mono Lake.

My view during lunch: Mono Lake.

After a short rest on the rock, I began the journey back.  On the way I watched a large deer graze in the expansive meadow, and pointed a couple of hikers towards the mining relics they were looking for.  Back in Dana Meadows I saw hundreds of tiny shooting stars that I had missed seeing earlier.  As I bent down to photograph them, I realized how strong my legs and knees felt, even after descending eight hundred feet.  There was no need to worry as I had the night before.

Shooting stars.

Shooting stars.

Stepping out on the trail alone is a hurdle that I struggle to overcome especially at the first hike of the season.  But as John Muir said, “Only by going alone in the silence can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “The Heart of the Wilderness

  1. Dad

    Sounds like you had a GREAT time. I never get tired reading your blogs and looking at the great pictures you include. This was another winner!
    Dad

    Like

    Reply
  2. ellen peterson

    The visuals of hiking are much nicer through your eyes.
    (My vision would be over-ridden by the act of gasping for breath.)

    Congratulations on the solo hike! (Very courageous in my book.)

    Like

    Reply
    1. Janet Post author

      Thanks, Ellen. There was a lot of gasping for breath and stopping along the way. At one point I stopped to give thanks for just being able to be there. When I looked up in the sky, the contrails had made a cross. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
    1. Janet Post author

      I haven’t been too deep into the Ansel Adams wilderness except for what you see in the post. Farther down the trail are Sardine Lakes, and down Bloody Canyon is Walker Lake. Those might work.

      Like

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s