Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 68: Dorothy Lake to Sonora Pass

Camped high on a ridge above Dorothy Lake, the sun bathed our tent with its golden morning light by 6:00 a.m. A lone mountain chickadee sang a wake up call. Off in the distance a woodpecker jackhammered on a tree trunk, searching for breakfast.

Dorothy Lake Pass (9,550 ft) is not just the demarcation between Yosemite National Park and Hoover Wilderness. It also divides the white granite peaks of the High Sierra from the red rocky mountains of a more volcanic region.

Shortly after dropping from the pass we reached a new milestone: 1,000 miles. Kevin decided to mark the occasion by building a huge stone marker after watching me walk past the existing small stone marker without even noticing it. Afterward, he started building a large stone cairn. Carson kept adding more rocks to the pile, balancing smaller and smaller stones until he created a tall tower, earning the trailname Jenga.

We stopped for lunch at quiet stream just before Kennedy Canyon Creek, the last water for some time. Then we began the long rocky climb to the ridge. Spotting our first snowfield of the day, Sierra and her Uncle Kevin raced up the hill to it. Carson and I didn't even notice who arrived first in the flurry of snow that followed. Snowballs flew in hair and ears, at legs and arms, and down the backs of clothing.

Cooled by the snow melting all over our clothing and bodies, we climbed up to the ridge (10,880 ft). Digging into the snow patch there, we filled our cups with clean snow and made orange Gatorade slushies. Mmmmmm.

The ridge was blustery and cool, with strong gusts. The trail crossed the ridge several times, offering temporary respite, only to send us back to the windy, exposed ridge once more.

The final descent to Sonora Pass (9,620 ft) is usually a quick, heart-stopping glissade down the steep ridge.  Hikers use ice axes to slow themselves, hoping to avoid the rocks as they fly down the hill to more gentle terrain. But the ridge and descent were bare, so we followed the trail on its long traverse across the top of the steep bowl, then down a side ridge to the pass.

We shared pizza and salad (courtesy of my father, who was picking up Kevin and Carson) and more yummy cookies baked by my niece Krista. Then we set up camp, and Kevin and Carson loaded into the truck, heading for home.

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