Hiking Upper Kern.
We dropped down the backside of Forester Pass into a smoke-filled basin. Lightning had caused a fire a couple days before, further south down the canyon from Mt. Whitney, and the high winds flared it back up. I really love this area. The snarled foxtail pine forests seem so mystical to me. The Great Western Divide rises on one horizon, and the eastern Sierra crest rises on the other. The high, rolling plateau is filled with odd rock croppings and gentle creeks. I've been here enough in this remote area to look upon the surrounding peaks and remember past trips and climbs and adventures. In this photo, Jim S. and Surfer Dave make their way across the plateau with the smoky Great Western Divide in the background.
This is Wright Creek, taken from a wonderful meadow right near our campsite. I'll never forget the sounds of those yippin' coyotes as I approached this place, there were so many of them! It was a huge chorus of wild music. We actually had planned to hike a bit further up the trail to Wallace Creek. I was a couple minutes behind Jim and Dave (as I often was) due to taking photos. Earlier we had made a hasty crossing of Bighorn Plateau under threatening weather, which is a high and barren plateau, hence our apprehension to expose ourselves for such a great length of time with no available natural cover. After we crossed the plateau, we dropped down into the watershed of Wright Creek. The first words out of my mouth when I approached Jim and Dave (who were taking a break on the trail, waiting for me), was, "guys, we gotta set up our tents right here, right now, this sky is gonna blow any second now". I didn't think we could make it the extra mile or so to Wallace Creek without getting dumped on, the sky was gettin' reeeeal grouchy. We quickly set up our tarps to prepare for the rain, and we noticed some nearby tents. We walked over and said hi and stuff and talked about the weather, our adventures, and the fact we were out of fuel. But we didn't ask them for any, we made it seem like it was just another exciting part of our epic trek. Well, a little while later they came by our site with some extra white gas that they didn't need, which filled our lives with complete joy! I had been eating freeze-dried foods with cold water, and oatmeal with cold water, and it was SO nice to hear that stove hummin' again! We profusely thanked them (and we've since been e-mailing and exchanging photos) and had our first hot dinners cooked on the stove in a long while. The rain didn't cut loose right away, but sure enough, as we cleaned up dinner it started raining. And that night the lightning and thunder and rain put on quite a show. But I'm glad we stayed here at Wright Creek because it was so beautiful, and we got fuel and met some great people, and besides, the next morning we found out that Wallace Creek had all kinds of tents and groups of people and the view wasn't as cool. Wright Creek rocks!
I took this photo that evening, looking up into the high and wild basin that holds the headwaters of Wright Creek, a place I definitely want to explore for many days. The first fourteener I climbed, Mt. Tynall, looks right down into this basin, and it has captured my dreams ever since. Only a hardy few venture in there.
Late afternoon view of just another one of the peaks looming overhead from our Wright Creek campsite, looking up towards the headwaters of Wright Creek. In the second photo, Mt. Whitney is the half-domed mountain on the right. The east side is nearly vertical, the top is rounded before it drops sharply on the back again. The next night it snowed on top. The unsettled weather kept us anxiously waiting for an opportunity to summit this baby, and also to finish our 3 week hike. We were basically out of food by then... hungry, stinky, cold... and we wanna do it again (in reverse)???? Uh huh !!!!!
Western Sky from Wright Creek.
First Photo - Alpenglow on Mt. Whitney, taken from our Wright Creek campsite, that's our destination and the culmination of our JMT trek... Mt. Whitney (on the right). It was really cool to watch the late evening alpenglow light that puppy up.
Second photo shows more peaks behind Mt. Whitney. I was out in the
meadow near our camp at Wright Creek, late in the evening, enjoying the quiet sounds of
the creek, pondering our next day as I looked upon the big mountains ahead of us. I had my
camera with me (duh), but no magical colors came. I figured the dark clouds towards the
sunset had blocked any hope of an alpenglow. I thanked God for our safety so far on this
trip, and for His beauty, and turned and made my way back to camp. I briefly talked with
the two nice guys and gal camped near us, and made my way back to our tarps. Once I made
it to camp, I saw Dave staring at the mountains. I looked over and, WHOA!, the tips of the
peaks were on fire! The sun had broken through and the alpenglow was incredible! It was if
the mountain peaks were glowing! I looked at Dave and he saw the expression on my face
said, "I thought you had already seen that?". I breathlessly jammed back to the
meadow where I could get a better view (we were camped in trees), quickly set up my tripod
and slapped my 70-200 zoom on my camera and took a few shots before the alpenglow faded.
Since the light was pretty low, I wasn't sure if they'd come out very well, but they
scanned okay. On the VERY right of this photo is the edge of Mt. Whitney (I just noticed
it right now, ha!). We would be on that summit within 36 hours. It was just another
magical moment of the trip for me, standing in the meadow, late in the evening in the
presence of so many towering summits, many of them with burning red tips.
Morning Alpenglow on Kaweah Ridgeline from Wright Creek. We had spent the night at Wright Creek, under our tarps with lightning flashing through the skies and the deep crackling of thunder all around. Since Dave had lost his tent poles, we shared my tarp. It rained that night and his sleeping bag got wet, but I don't think it was the rain that soaked his bag, if you know what I mean. We woke up to a gloriously beautiful morning. Cool and crisp. I filled my lungs with the cold air, exhaled a mist, grabbed my camera and tripod, jumped the swollen creek near our campsite, and headed out towards a lightly forested meadow. I snapped a few shots as I enjoyed the stunning scenery all around me. I could see Mt. Whitney and the high peaks of the main crest on one side, and to the southwest I watched as the sun rose on the Kaweah Peaks. I prayed a long prayer, out loud, as I stood in the frosty meadow in awe of the Creator beginning yet another beautiful day. We hit the trail early that morning, in hopes of summitting Whitney, but by mid-morning the clouds started building rapidly. Jim had earlier predicted the clouds would return, and I said, "No way, it's gonna be a sweet day, man, we'll be on the summit by early afternoon." We bet a cheeseburger on it. Let's just say I bought the cheeseburgers when we made it out to Whitney Portal. That's all I have to say about that. Just because I'm an optimist doesn't mean I'm always RIGHT, okay?
This particular section of the JMT was especially beautiful to me. I say that about most sections of the trail, but this time I MEAN IT FOR REALS! Ha! The peaks jut straight up, and vertical toothy ridgelines cover the horizon. Green meadows with bubbling creeks covered the landscape. I heard a chorus of coyotes that evening, which literally echoed through the basin walls. The trees on the hike into this place were magical, the foxtail pine forests surreal, the Bighorn Plateau otherworldly, the dark, threatening skies created an element of risk, and the alpenglow on Mt. Whitney that evening was stunning. It was so cool to see Mt. Whitney, our final destination, towering off in the distance with a bright red glow on top. God can pull some cool magic tricks out of His tophat. He sure did that evening.