Silver Pass

July 26th

Mileage: 13 (115.5)

I’ve found a new game to play since “The Bodily Pain Carousel” has stopped going round and round.  “Wild Animal, or My Stomach” is the name, and it goes like this:  when I hear a strange noise I stop hiking and have to guess if it was made by a wild animal, or my stomach.  Pretty much self-explanatory.  It keeps my attention briefly, but isn’t much fun to play since it turns out to be my stomach 95% of the time.

Hiker hunger has arrived and it only took 10 days to get here.

I leave Purple Lake and pass a number of people still breaking down their campsites.  I enjoyed it, but many people say they prefer the next lake, Lake Virginia, which is maybe one and a half miles from Purple Lake and 400 feet in elevation higher.  They say Virginia boasts wide open spaces and spectacular sunsets.

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Virginia Lake

The area around Lake Virginia reminds me of the area around 1000 Island Lake.  Its a peaceful scene and I remember the new maxim I made yesterday: start carrying water.  I walk to the shore and swish my filter bag around and treat two liters of water.  Three people pass me and inform me that its a great day for a hike.  Why yes, yes it is!

Switchbacks begin shortly after I leave the lake and I descend down to Tully Hole.  As I walk, the landscape opens up around me and I can see the high mountains out in Inyo National Forest and the Silver Divide.  “Which one of these places holds Silver Pass,” I ask myself.  I begin checking off locales I hope, unequivocally, are not Silver Pass.  The countryside begins to look daunting.  I realize I am in no mood for a pass today, but a pass I must do.

I drop down into a gorge and Tully Hole roars around me.  A bridge crosses the whitewater and a couple I’ve never met offer to take my picture.  I consult my maps and see that the climb to Silver Pass begins soon.  I toss some dehydrated food into my little pot and add water.  I want to stop and eat lunch early in my ascent and hopefully gather as much strength as I can.  On a rocky ledge I sit down in the sun and warm myself as I look back over the valley and mountain I came through this morning.

Further up the trail a meadow grows out of the lush Fish Creek and I stop to look at it.  I love meadows; they have been the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the trip.  I think I even prefer them to the towering vistas.

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Meadows are great!

A young man stops and talks to me.  He has the longest legs I have ever seen.  He tells me his name is Eric and he’s from Atlanta and we discuss our favorite spots.  Eric moves on, like a giant ascending, taking one step to my three.  I meet the young couple that took my picture again and they tell me their names: Aaron and Monique.  We talk about food and Aaron says he’s taken to just eating Mountain House meals for lunch as well as supper.  I think about my little pot with half a cup of re-hydrated food inside.

After another thirty minutes of hiking, I can see what appears to be a ledge beneath the pass.  Ledges typically mean lakes and way up, near the top, is Eric.  I begin calling him The Ambling Alp in my head.  When I arrive he’s sprawled out in the grass, soaking up the sun, and I decide to jump in the lake, tiny Squaw Lake, and rinse some dirt off me.  The water is so cold it takes my breath away.  I feel invigorated and step lightly to get back on the trail.

I summit Silver Pass in mid afternoon and the sky is brilliant blue.  Silver Pass is nearly 10,900 feet, but it didn’t seem all that difficult.  I pose awkwardly for a photo and and linger for a few moments.  The wind isn’t as bad as it was on Donahue Pass.

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Stiff as a board on top of Silver Pass

The next few hours are oddly difficult and downhill and I begin plotting out where I want to camp.  The trail levels off and I get a great view toward Mt. Izaak Walton and the brief canyon leading up to it.

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Look up the canyon toward Mt. Izaak Walton

Then, its down into Pocket Meadow (which doesn’t seem like a meadow to me at all).  The trail drops nearly 1700 feet in a couple miles and I pick my way down the staircase cut out of rock in the side of the mountain.  I see a decent campground with only one other tent pitched and a few manageable spots.  The mosquitoes and flies are out in force: the worst of the trip so far.  I finally make use of my mesh bug head-net.  As I shovel the first spoonful of dinner toward my mouth I forget its there and spill a few precious calories.  I scoop the food out of the dirt and put it in my mouth.  No way I’m wasting a single morsel.  I lay in my tent early, and the sound of mosquitoes buzzing against my rain-fly puts me to sleep.

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