John Muir Trail – From Here to There

Looking North from Seldon. Silver Pass is in the far upper left.

Mid day 7/13/2017 – Mid Morning 7/15/2017

I had over 20 miles to go to get from one pass to the other.  I had 4900 feet of downs, and 4000 feet of ups.  Eight major river crossings lay ahead of me (West Fork Bear Creek, Upper Bear Creek, Bear Creek, Hilgard Fork, Mono Creek, North Fork Mono Creek, Silver Creek, Silver Creek Cascade). Seldon Pass (10,800 feet) to Silver Pass (10,800).  Get to work, or go hungry.

After the best nap ever atop of Seldon Pass I look onward to my up coming task. Down a steep descent to frozen lakes below, I saw the headwaters of upper Bear Creek.  This was the point of no return (not quite, I could walk down to Bear Creek, turn around and walk back, but who wants to descent two thousand feet, turn around and ascend right back).  Along bear creek, I would descend again Bear Creek Ridge, then up to pass in the distance.

A glissade down, and navigating through the wild and trackless wilderness, down again until the snow melts disappeared.  I then found the trail and walked along upper Bear Creak.  I came to upper Bear Creek crossing and walked up and down stream.  Down stream was steeper and more dangerous, up stream was deeper and wider.  Decisions decisions.   I crossed, waist deep, and continued down.  At lower Bear Creek, the river was wide and fast.  I had heard there was a down tree people were using.  I walked downstream, crossed an inlet to an island in the middle of the river.  At the end of the island was a down tree that was three feet short of the island.  Travelers placed a hodgepodge of sticks and branches to make up the difference, but I was not going to put my weight on that.  I leaped to the top of the down tree and hugged the branches and trunk when I got there.  I made it across and walked along the north side of bear creek’s gentle down ward slope.  The air was thick with mosquitoes, so I trudged on.  The water in Hilgard Fork was fast, and the slippery rocks almost caused a wipe out.  Just before the Bear Creek Junction ascent, I stopped for the evening and camped by the now raging Bear Creek.

The next day I awoke before sun up, packed my gear, skipped breakfast and was on the trail.  A slow trudge up to bear creak junction where I rested for a while reading notes carved in the dirt for fellow travelers.  I continued around the Bear Creek Ridge, through quiet and open pine forest to the bear creek ridge descent into Edison Lake and Mono Creek valley.  The switchbacks on the descent were amazingly steep.  Some of the steepest I’d seen.  I paused by a waterfall to replenish my water.  I crossed the Mono Creek bridge, and then had to cross mono creek later by log.  More up.  It was hot and dry.  I stopped many times trying to catch my breath.  Thankfully there were less mosquitoes, so stops involved less swats.   I came to Silver Pass creek and pondered continuing, or jumping in.  I waded in allowing my feet to ease into the soft mud.  I sank up to my stomach in cold mountain water.  I ran my fingers through my hair.  Dirt and gritty greasy grime prevented my fingers from going through it.  I dunked my head once, then again, and again. Refreshed, I exited the river and started up the path again.  I got lost in the snow drifts.  The ice bridges over Silver creek were gone and I looked for a safe crossing point.  I found a log down stream and and a rock scramble on the other side.  A few zig zags and I confronted the Silver Creek cascade.  This was a challenge.  A narrow mountain path with a raging waterfall washing over it.  The path lie thigh deep under water.  If the water pushed me off, I would plummet a few hundred feet down.  I zipped up my camera, took my hiking boots off, and put on my river crossing booties.  I got wet, but I crossed it!  Can you see my ebullience?

I survived the Raging Silver Creek Cascade

Soaked, I climbed more switchbacks to the plateau before the Silver Pass lakes.  Back in snow, I was lost again. I followed Silver Pass creek looking for tracks and a cross point.  The sun was low and the temperature was dropping.  I found a site, setup the tent, and cooked some dinner.

I started early, and wandered again through the snow towards Silver Pass.  I found tracks, then lost them.  I couldn’t find the trail anywhere.  The tracks I did find led away from where the location of the trail on my map.  I kept falling in the sun cups.  At last I saw people descending down Silver Pass, and made a B line for that point.   I scurried up the mountaineering path and after an ice ascent and traverse I snapped this picture looking back.  In the distance I could see Seldon Pass.

Looking South from Silver Pass. Seldon Pass is the middle left.

From here to there: 20 hard miles. 8 hard river crossings.  Thousands of feet of up and down.  Lost in the wild more than once.  Thigh deep in snow and stomach deep in ice water.   Just another 2 days on the JMT…from here to there.

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