June 21st and 22nd: We realized our food cache was insufficient to reach Kearsage Pass. We left the Pacific Crest Trail via Mulkey Pass, which connects with Lone Pine, CA. We spent a night and a day in Lone Pine, leaving around 4pm on the 22nd,
June 21st end location: The Historic Dow Motel, Lone Pine, CA
June 22nd end location: PCT Mile 745.33. PCT Intersection with “Trail Pass trail” aka “second Mulkey Pass trail.” 36.42729, -118.17604
We’re writing this post on the night of June 22nd. We had a hard time remembering details about yesterday, aka “laundry day,:” because it seems very long ago for both of us.
We woke around 7am on the 21st, and didn’t leave camp at Death Canyon Creek until 10:30am. It’s been very hot here, unrealistically hot for 10,000feet altitude, and our clothes were salt-crusted and stinky. We spent the morning of the 21st doing laundry in a bear canister. By the time the clothes were dry at 10:30am, we’d already eaten breakfast and first-lunch without moving.
Immediately after leaving , we began a climb up to 10,700feet. While climbing, we had panoramic views of nearby high-altitude meadows. The best of the climb came at around 10,300feet, when the trail cleared to the east and revealed a view of the Owens River Valley.
At the peak of the climb, around 10,700 feet, we ate lunch under a tree. From here we had cell service and used it to send a few emails and post a bit on Facebook. We climbed out on some rocks for pictures with a backdrop of the Owens River Valley.
Our next destination was Diaz Creek, completing an 11mile water carry. The descent down to Diaz Creek was unremarkable. We had views of the same meadows we’d seen earlier in the day while climbing.
A funny moment came when we passed two Canadian guys approximately our age who were taking a break on the trail. We’d been seeing them a lot recently; we only know one trail name, “Snake Bite” and learned that they’re from Vancouver. As we passed, they inquired how far Diaz Creek was. We remarked that it ought to have been soon, which we knew based on Rick’s watch’s elevation profile. After walking about 20 feet past them, we found the fork for Diaz Creek and yelled back “found it!”
While at Diaz Creek we inventoried our food. It was a good thing we did; we were 1-2 days short of food. We have been doing shorter days due to this being the Sierras (it’s harder than anything we’ve yet encountered due to long, strenuos climbs), and because we’ve been eating too much as we retrain after our recent time off trail.
Only 3 miles after Diaz Creek we reached the Mulkey Pass Trail which, luckily, provides easy access to the U.S.Census-Designated “Frontier” town of Lone Pine, CA.
We hiked down the Mulkey Pass trail (the “first” or southern Mulkey Pass Trail, specificially) to the Horseshoe Meadows car campground. We’re glad we did if only for the scenery. We saw Marmots for the first time in Horseshoe Meadows, near the junction of our trail and the “Trail Pass trail.”
At the car campground, we asked some campers if they’d give us a lift down to Lone Pine. The first people we asked, a father and Georgia-tech-bound son road tripping across the USA, said yes. We paid them $20 for the ride down, which we were glad to do since they went out of their way to help us, and since they’re on their own adventure. Thanks, Billy and Dalton!
They dropped us off around 8pm at the Dow Villa Hotel. This hotel has a big history with the 1920s-1940s “Western” film genre. Lots of such movies were filmed in the area of Lone Pine, and lots of famous people like Roy Rogers have stayed at the Dow Villa. Their walls are covered in Western memorabilia. (Movies are still filmed in Lone Pine).
We stayed in the older building of the hotel because it was cheaper, room #150 specifically. The room was small but very clean. Unfortunately, the bed was terrible. It was overly soft in a broken car suspension sort of way. Everything sent the bed wiggling. We didn’t sleep well.
Fortunately, before bed we got to eat a huge pepperoni pizza from the Pizza Factory across the street. It was a stereotypical pizza parlor with stereotypical pizza parlor interior decor, except add lots of Western memorabilia.
The morning of the 22nd, we ate breakfast at the Alabama Hills Cafe. We had big, delicious portions of omelettes and French toast.
After breakfast, we resupplied at Joseph’s grocer. The store was about the size of Wrightwood’s Jensen’s, but not as upscale. That, in turn, means it’s a bit smaller than a Stater Brothers. The prices were alright.
After resupplying, we ate lunch (yes, the two meals were pretty close together in time), at the Frosty Chalet. Cheeseburgers, fries, a banana split, and half a gallon of whole milk. Yum.
After lunch, we finished packing up our stuff and finally started hitching back up to the trail. Our first ride was from a youngish couple, guy’s name “Jose,” interning at De La Cour Ranch, a lavender farm that’s about 1/3 of the way up the mountain from Lone Pine.
After thy dropped us off outside De La Cour Ranch, we sat by the side of Horseshoe Meadow Rd waiting for a hitchhike. Three BMW test cars drove by, one Mini, one 7 series, and one weird looking wagon crossover thing. None stopped.
It wasn’t long before we heard large farm equipment coming our way out of the ranch. Soon a frontloader was crossing the road towards us, driven by the lady who owns the ranch. She sells firewood by the side of the road (honor system), and was about to unload a bunch of bundles from the frontloader’s plow. We talked to her for a long while; still no cars except the BMW test cars had passed. We asked her how the drought was affecting her business, and that set the tone for the rest of our conversation with her.
Around 5pm a rancher– evidently known as a source of animal poo for use in the manufacture of mulch by the De La Cour Ranch– pulled over to give us a lift. He was towing 4 horses in a trailer with a flatbed 90s diesel Dodge Ram. His truck was, unfortunately, in need of a new fan clutch and heating up under the strain. On the way up, he watched his thermometer like a hawk. We pulled over 4 or 5 time to let the truck cool. No cars passed during this time.
The rancher was real friendly. He was meeting his sister at a corral near Horseshoe Meadow; it was exactly the spot where we were hoping to get back to. Their goal was to herd 145 head of cattle around for grazing. His family has been ranching in the Owens River Valley since the end of the Civil War.
At our return, the cattle corral (which had been empty the prior evening) at Horsehoe Meadow had 145 cows in it! It was very loud; cows make lots of noises without cause.
The rancher and his sister were riding around the area on horseback, moving cattle for grazing and inspecting the water flow through Horsehoe Meadow. It was really Western (as in film genre) looking (ranchers on horseback, mountains, cows, large conifers, etc). We last saw the rancher and his sister at a stream in the middle of Horsehoe Meadow (they were on horseback). As they departed, we yelled out that we’re taking a picture of them riding off into the sunset. The reply: “don’t break your camera.”
We hiked back up Mulkey Pass to the PCT. From there, we hiked a further 0.8 mile to the “second Mulkey Pass trail” aka “trail pass trail.”