July 1st and 2nd: Return to the trail from Bishop

We hitchhiked back to the Onion Valley Trailhead from Bishop. We climbed over Kearsarge Pass (again), then continued onward over Glen Pass to the base of Pinchot Pass. We reached trail mile #800.

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July 1st end location:  On the Kearsarge Pass trail (not the Bullfrog Lake Trail), overlooking Bullfrog Lake

July 2nd end location: at the southern base of Pinchot Pass, right near a famous wooden suspension bridge. 36.87361, -118.43826

On the morning of July 1st, we took our time leaving the Bishop, CA Econolodge that we’d spent the prior three nights in. Once we checked out of our room around 11:30am, we left our packs in the lobby. The hotel was kind enough to watch our stuff while we ran a few last minute errands around town.

Sometime between 2pm and 3pm we were walking out of town. A passing hiker saw our cardboard sign that read “Independence” and informed us that someone was at the Bishop hostel right then giving rides to Independence. We detoured to the hostel, and found out the ride to Independence was full.

We walked another few blocks out of town, when that same ride to Independence pulled over and started waving to us. Apparently, the other people going to Independence had all flaked. The ride was ours! The driver and his wife live in Independence and visit Bishop for its grocery stores. They make a habit of giving rides to hikers. They were kind enough to drive us up to the Onion Valley Trailhead, about 20 minutes from Independence proper.

The climb over Kearsarge Pass was easier than we anticipated. Apparently, a few zero days of rest makes climbing easy. At the summit, other hikers were resting. We joined them and conversed for about 20 minutes.

We climbed down the western side of Kearsarge Pass and stayed on the Kearsarge Pass Trail. We did not take the bullfrog lake trail. We broke camp on a bluff overlooking Bullfrog lake.

That was a mistake. By 9pm ominous clouds had rolled in. By 9:30pm we were hearing thunder and seeing bright flashes of lightning. By 10pm we were getting rained on. The wind picked up and blew our tent over a few times (our tent is not freestanding, so high wind puts heavy load on the stakes). By midnight hail was falling, each piece he size of a gum ball or pebble. We feared it would rip our tent.

We did not fall asleep that night until about 2am. The next morning, July 2n, we slept in until about 9am. We didn’t start moving on July 2nd until about 11am.

Our day on July 2nd was short. We climbed over Glen Pass fairly early in the day. Many JMT hikers were there with us; no PCT hikers to be found. Views from Glen Pass were great, as you  can see many alpine lakes. Glen Pass is about 11,960ft elevation.

We continued down Glen Pass towards Rae Lakes. We stopped briefly to build a culvert in the trail at a location where a seasonal spring was pouring onto the trail. Looking ahead, we saw that the water was following switchbacks down the trail for a good tenth of a mile. A little big of digging and moving a few heavy, heavy rocks moved the water over the edge of the trail (rather than down the trail).

We ate lunch in the rain at Rae Lakes a bit later. We saw another PCT hiker there. She’d been on Kearsarge Pass with us the day prior. She too was moving slow from the prior night’s terrible weather. As we left Rae Lakes, we spent a few minutes hiking on the wrong trail (the “60 lakes trail”). We caught our error sooner than later, and thankfully only wasted about 20 minutes.

From there, we descended to the base of Pinchot Pass. The descent was beautiful but otherwise unremarkable. This camp site, at about 8700ft, is the lowest elevation we’ve slept at on trail in quite some time.

To get to our campsite, we crossed a wooden suspension bridge that is somewhat well known. The bridge is right around trail mile #800. It wobbles to and fro as you walk on it. Signs warn that only one person at a time should use the bridge. Indeed, it sways so heavily that, if two people were to use it, one could easily imagine a sway-induced  fall to the water below.

We made camp here around 7:30pm. We both had time to shower and eat dinner. It’s 10pm now. Goodnight.

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