Tag Archives: CA Fires

Cottonwood Lakes Trail




Activity: Backpacking, Back Country Camping

Horseshoe Meadows/Cottonwood Lakes/Mount Langley: distance 20 miles, elevation change 5,124’, 17 hours duration, rated HARD

After spending the first day acclimating in the High Sierra’s at Horseshoe Meadows and hiking up towards Cottonwoods Pass, in an attempt to get used to the high altitude, it was time to hit the trail with my friends Craig and Mike. Our goal was to summit Mount Langley. We hiked in approximately 6 miles to Cottonwood Lakes, which would serve as our base camp before the third days planned summit of Mount Langley.

Our outing was in jeopardy due to the CA Fires that were really starting to get out of hand. There were numerous fires burning to our North, but the fire that we were getting the most smoke from was the Kern Fire about 15 miles away. We were going to take it one step at a time and just see how it went. The morning gave us hope as it was clear blue skies, but we were starting to see a pattern that each afternoon brought choking smoke when the wind picked up blowing it over the mountains.

Our hike in was really good. The woods were beautiful, the trail was fun, there were multiple logs to maneuver across babbling brooks. Every so often we were blessed with glimpses of high peaks through the majestic pines. We were joking, and really enjoying the camaraderie of friends on the trail in a special place like the High Sierras. Once we started getting near the Cottonwood Lakes we passed through some meadows. In the Spring time there would be a shallow lake in this area, but not at the end of a dry, hot Summer. It was at this point, in the early afternoon, that we could see the smoke barreling in.

Mike had been on this trek several times and found us a great spot, sheltered, but with views of the lake and the high rock walls of the Eastern Sierra. We made some trail connections reuniting with the nice woman who had some good trails information for me when I first arrived at Horseshoe Meadows. We also met ”Kota”, and young, fit, adventure hungry guy, who had hiked up the Wall to check things this afternoon, just to see the valley filled with smoke and was considering bagging the whole summit idea he had planned for tomorrow. But, after talking to the others he learned about the mornings being okay, smoke wise, and was willing to get it a try. We were all in the same boat. Wait and see what tomorrow brings…

We made camp and Craig and Mike chowed down ‘just add hot water backpacking meals in a pouch‘, while I dined like a gourmet on Peggy Crandall’s Salmon Curry Couscous. Of course, I sampled the fare with my fellow trail mates if for no other reason than to flaunt my trail sophistication. Just kidding, I am usually chowing down Black Beards Trail Chili out of a bag just like everybody else, but I was set up with this fine meal by my sister Peggy. Checkout the recipe by clicking on it, (Bold Green Type Above), linking you to ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure Hiking and Backpacking 101‘. Where you can find a myriad of information including the recipe for this tasty meal.

The smoke had cleared and we had the moon and the stars to enjoy before turning in.

This scene would usually be crystal clear, but with the CA Fires being only 15 miles away the winds started bringing in the smoke early every afternoon.
You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so… get on your way!” — Dr. Seuss

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion in the next post! Will the dynamic trio scale to the top of Mount Langley and join the 14er Club? Or will there hopes and dreams be dashed on the rocks below as they are forced back, gagged by the thick forest fire smog! Will Mike, Craig and Roger gain the balance they pursue through this adventure?! Find out next week! Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

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Happy Trails,

Roger Jenkins

Pursuing Balance Through Adventure