Our last day in the Sierra was bittersweet packing up and heading back to civilization. We wanted to get out of the smoky conditions that were stifling the area from the many California Fires ravaging the state. When it was good it was really, really good, but when it was bad it was horrid. We understood that we were not experiencing this location in it’s normal pristine state, but we still saw enough to know that we could hardly wait to get back up in the Sierras and as soon as possible, because this place is special.
The mornings continued to be super nice and amazingly beautiful. This day would be the best yet. Mike had us sampling his barista skills started us out with his gourmet coffee concoction. Pretty fancy for backcountry camping I would say. Craig and Mike were both glad to see that I was feeling much better after a tough day suffering from the effects of AMS high on Mt Langley.
Today we were starting at the most scenic portion from the Cotton Wood Lakes back down to Horseshoe Meadows. Our trek took us beside the still lakes, through the quiet rocky meadows and into the vast forest. On the way up by the time we got past the wooded section everything was gray smoke and unworldly. This last morning it was awe-inspiring to be there.
The mountains, the peaks, the lakes, the woods, and friends on the trail gives you sort of a Sierra Mountain High. The mountains would be calling to us again real soon.
Wow, what an adventure the three of us had. We overcame multiple adversities: The fear of three strikes and your out for Mike, Covid-19 for my buddy Craig, AMS for me, and suffocating smoke for all of us. The struggle added to the accomplishment and certainly to the adventure of it all. There were tough times to face and there were times that hurdle was balanced by stunning, unforgettable beauty. But isn’t that the reason that we were out there? Overcoming struggles by bold experiences in nature… Said another way, “Pursuing Balance Through Adventure“. Please join my friends Mike, Craig, and me for more adventures, and more soul soaring in coming issues. You can do this simply by these actions: FOLLOW, COMMENT, LIKE, and SHARE. Go to the menu and explore many more locations that PBTA travels to. Get your PBTA Merch at SHOP APPAREL. Where there is currently a SPECIAL DEAL going on.
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.
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!
In the mean time grab some adventure gear at SHOP APPAREL. Don’t forget toFOLLOW, LIKE, COMMENT, andSHARE.
High in the Eastern Sierra is Horseshoe Meadows which lies in the Inyo National Forest. This area is a Trailhead for more than one Wilderness Area, featuring numerous hikes to quiet alpine lakes, thick lodge pole pine forests, craggy rock outcroppings, sheer rock cliffs, and a few soaring peaks with views of forever.
This would be the jumping off point for my most ambitious peak bagging adventure to date. I would join my very good friend Craig, who stood up for me at my wedding, and my new friend Mike. Mike and Craig are buddies from Ventura County. Mike acquired the overnight Back Country Wilderness Permits for our adventure.
We had set our sights on Mount Langley, sister to Mount Whitney, the highest Mountain in the lower 48. Mount Langley, one of the tallest in California, is no easy feat at 14,042’. Some believe it is tougher than Mount Whitney because Whitney has a trail to the top, conversely Mount Langley has almost 1000’ of scrambling at it’s summit with no real trail at the end.
I arrived first and secured a camp spot at Horseshoe Meadows. It was a Tuesday so it was not hard to do, especially since we had a pandemic going on, but perhaps the biggest reason for empty camp spots was Wild Fires were raging across the West. California was taking it particularly hard, and the Kern Fire, we discovered, loomed only 15 miles away.
It was disappointing as I drove up the side of a mountain on my way in as the valley below was smoggy with smoke. This area is so impressive, that I was wild eyed with amazement, but unfortunately my enthusiasm was tempered realizing I was not seeing the High Sierra at it’s best.
Due to a shuffling of participants at the last minute, I was lucky enough to be included in this endeavor. I hike quite a bit, but mostly around sea level, although I had been on a couple adventures during the month to altitude including Cooper Canyon Falls, Strawberry Peak, and Mount Baden-Powell in the Angeles National Forest. However, none of those were even as high Horseshoe Meadows, the starting point. I threw in multiple hikes just before leaving the OC to prepare my legs and feet as much as possible. Including a hard hike at my go to Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach the day before.
While in the parking lot of Horseshoe Meadows I was chatting up some fellow outdoors enthusiasts and they told me about a cool hike along the Cottonwoods Pass Trail towards Chicken Springs Lake. It turned out to be just under a 9 miles hike, rated Moderate with almost 1,500’ elevation gain. It was probably rated Moderate because the first part is at a relatively lower elevation and is Easy. Then in the later parts of the hike it starts going up, and at a pretty good clip. I met people going the opposite way that were giving up on their day hike, others throwing in the towel on their backpack outing some that were days or even weeks long dashed by the smoke from the fires. I did about 7 miles of the trail before I ran out of time and besides that it was really getting smokey.
I needed to get back to meet my friends, plus I had a monster climb the next day, and it turned out Chicken Springs Lake via Cottonwood Pass Trail was more than the little acclimation hike I was looking for. I did not want to hamper my effort for Mount Langley, but that is another story…
I got back to the campground just as my friends arrived- perfect timing. Craig and Mike set up their tents, and got situated. We had a lavish meal, the kind you can only have as a car camping dinner and we prepared for our venture into the Wilderness. We made a camp friend and swapped stories into the night enjoying the many benefits of a campfire.
Thanks for joining Craig, Mike and I on this- the inaugural posting of Central California Hiking – ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure.’ I have wanted to get back to the High Sierra and especially to share it on PBTA. This outing was not in ideal conditions, because of the CA Fires, but it certainly gave me enough of a taste of the Eastern Sierra on high that I can hardly wait to go again. Don’t go away because this posting is just the beginning- not just of the website, but of our adventure to summit Mount Langley one of the tallest mountains in California. It turned out to be everything that I thought it might, but for me oh so much more… Maybe too much more.
Pursuing Balance Through Adventure is about profound outings into nature seeking to balance the craziness of our everyday world, and I am sure that all of us feel this year, 2020, has been the craziest that we can remember for oh so many reasons. I won’t go into all of the reasons there are to many, they are complicated, and stressing, and we are trying to take a little break from all of that here. So go for a hike, ford a stream, climb a mountain, even scream if you need to. I did…
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