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.
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.
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.
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.
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.