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Day 13: Bishop Pass, Tangerines, and a Missing Car

2010 August 9

We slept IN this morning! We didn’t even get out of the tent until almost 9:30. It felt great! Since we were leaning toward Bishop Pass as an exit, we had plenty of food and time to make the trip so why rush?

As we cleaned up breakfast, two guys walked through our camp – it was the same two guys I noticed yesterday that looked worn and disgruntled! The older of the two walked directly up to me and asked “Do you happen to have any extra food? We’ve been on food rations for a couple days now and by our calculations we’ll be two or tree days short of making Whitney.”

It turns out Mike and Doug had been part of a 9-man party that had lost 7 people since Yosemite due to injury. Each had taken some food and gear with them, but toward the end they had taken too much food. That was just the sort of ‘gentle nudge’ we needed to know we had made the right decision with Bishop Pass. All our meals were prepared for two, and we had 4-5 days extra. We loaded them up with 3 days’ worth and off they went. I’m betting by the time this posts they will have summited!

Having cemented our decision, we headed off toward the LaConte Canyon Ranger Station to check on the weather – we didn’t want to get caught in bad weather at the top of a pass. There talking to other hikers was Bob, one of the guys we hung out with at Vermillion Valley Resort! He had been traveling with Dale, who he had just helped off the trail over the same pass (Dale had lost some toenails). He was planning to continue on but wasn’t sure he had enough food. Being a vegetarian he couldn’t use a lot of our food but we handed off several more meals. My pack was getting lighter by the stop!

So around 11, we set off for the pass. Grueling. Steep. Hot. It wouldn’t have been all that bad had it not been for the fact that we were heading OFF the trail. Around lunch (we eat late on the trail) we passed three guys carrying backpacks and 90 pound kayaks! They, of course, were in need of some food so we were once again happy to oblige. In return, one guy told us they were coming out over the same pass tonight and his girlfriend was going to be at the trail head lot at 8. If we told her they were still on their way, they’d take us into Bishop. Woot!

We set off at a breakneck pace. Ok not really breakneck, but a respectable, focused walk. Oh and then we stopped to talk to a really nice couple camped out in Dusy Basin. She had been in Hollywood makeup for 20 years – she had the cure for Liz’s blisters. Then there was the nice couple heading INTO the basin as we were leaving it. They were pretty cool and knew where we were coming from – they gave us both tangerines! Now THAT was a treat! Something NOT dried, crunchy, or mushy. Fresh fruit. The promise of a more civilized world ahead.

So NOW we start the focused walking. Up, over the pass, and we see several rockslides have taken out the trail. They have sort of rigged a way down that they called the “new trail”, but it’s rugged. But we’re focused. Over the rip rap path, by the lake, another lake, one more lake, then another. How many freaking lakes are there going to be?!?

Briefly consult the map. Oops our map is for the John Muir Trail, which crosses the trailhead for this trail, but we are now off the map. Blast. Now it’s getting dark. We are employing the tracking skills developed over multiple sessions of boy and girl scouts. Having seen three supply runs come over the mountain on horseback, we’re following horse manure on the trail. Oh, and this trail looks ‘well used’ so certainly it’s the right path. So we tell ourselves and each other.

Now it’s 8:00pm. It is, um, dark. We talk to make noise so the bears don’t get us. Then we come to another lake. Whoopee. But wait! There’s a BOAT on this lake! A boat means there is a car close by! We have ARRRRRIIIIIIIIVED!!!!

We put our headlamps on and stumble into the parking lot at 8:30pm and start looking for a blonde named Andrea in a gold Camry with kayak racks. Two guesses how well THAT went.

So we’re on to Plan B – hitch into Bishop. Oops, that plan folds in two seconds when we find we’re at the end of a dead end road that stops at the lake. Anyone headed into Bishop did so LONG before now – who would stay on the trail this late?

Well, it’s only 16 miles to town. And surely there are places to camp along this crazy dead end road … Right? Maybe we should have stopped for dinner instead of hiking through at the promise of a ride into town.

Well we were in luck. Well after all that bad luck, anyway. About a mile down the road we found Parchers Resort and Rainbow Rides who, even though they closed hours before, the owners took us in, bathed us (not in a gross way – they gave us free shower tokens), gave us their last available RV to crash in for the night, and offered us a ride into town the next morning. If any of you out there come by this place on the way to South Lake and the Bishop Pass Trailhead, stop in! It’s a great place and the owners are VERY cool.

So to sum up, we hiked 14 miles over a 12,000 ft pass with 4,000 ascended and 4,000 descended, effectively starting around noon. Big day. We are tired but clean(ish). We boiled water on a real gas stove for dinner at 9:30 instead of our alcohol cat stove – after all their hospitality I couldn’t bring myself to accept one of their freshly-grilled burgers. I had fresh fruit for the first time in 13 days. Good day. Good day.

Happy trails!

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