Friday, August 22, 2008

high sierra sourdough loop (part 1)

"The sourdough is the true adventurer.........I'm just along for the ride." - MW
August 12th, 2008 (Gabbot pass area at approximately 11,957 feet)

One of my sourdough starters was looking forward to a high country adventure.
One where the altitude would make it easier work.
One where the doubt of backcountry pizza being in the realm of possibility would be erased for some.
One where my butt would work overtime traversing steep terrain with a live dough in my pack to prove this point.

This year, the "ferry service" from the trailhead camping consists of a 16 foot bass boat that could fit 5 besides the pilot, plus backpacks. For ten bucks you get the seeming luxury of cutting off a few trail miles. This being a drought year it means you start by driving all the way down to damn near the bottom of the dam. After parking your car in what might be 40 feet of water some years, you drag your bag over to a small listing "dock" tied to some big rocks on the shore and get in line. The boat pulls up and instead of thinking ferry, I was thinking trolling. The body count ahead of us and some quick math determined it would only be another hour and a half until it was our turn. When that finally comes you toss your stuff in and then bounce your way across the lake some 3-ish miles. This year being special and all, since the lake is soooooo low (drought year remember) you get dumped off nearly a mile earlier than expected. After a warm and sandy slog we arrived at where Mono creek "spills" into the lake. After only 3 hours we came to the beginning of our hike.

After re-considering the sign we saw back at VVR (Don't complain about the level of the lake if you still water your lawn) we grabbed a snack and headed off East. Soon we were greeted by Volcanic Nob and signs of glaciation on the peaks around us. The canyon walls pulled in closer and rose a bit. The home made jerkey, dried figs and cherries were hitting the spot as we joined the PCT/JMT and made our first switchbacks of the trip. Greeted by our first pack train of the trip, I was suddenly hyper-aware of all the shit on the trail. Longing to get off after only a hundred yards of my heightened awareness to biting horse flies and such, my pace quickened and the next big valley to our South came into view: Second Recess. We were nearing our camp for the first night and I felt myself rejoicing with the idea of symbiosis; the sourdough starter needs me as I knead it. We agreed to share dinner duties so tonight someone else would cook for us all. I would cook on night three, meaning tomorrow the starter would get its first meal in a few days.

The following morning we broke camp. I fed the beast in my pack and then crossed Mono creek. With no water worthy shoes, I used a semi-treacherous log bridge, only to find we had to cross Mills creek to get back to the trail we needed to be on. With my right foot nicely moistened with clear cold creek water, I found the most obvious foot trail around and made my way uphill with the rest of our group. In less than 20 minutes the trail leveled out and began following a beautiful trout filled stream. Well, I imagined it being full with big old hogs, but spotted only minnows in the shallows. Could they be the state fish? We trekked on and I dreamt out loud of pan fried fish. My SIL and I began talking dinner hopes and the trail began to dissappear.

After bushwacking and bouldering, countless snags on small aspen and gooseberry bushes and much self-doubt, we determined that the faint use trails we were pursuing were either made by mountian legends or complete idiots. Being idiots ourselves, we sided with the latter group. After gaining a few hundred feet more than seemed necessary for where we needed to go, eventually we sat down for a snack and looked at the boulder field ahead. Mmmm, mmmm eating crow at 10,000+ sure is good! Determining (hoping, pretending even) that the worst was behind us for the day, we pushed on.

Arriving at our camp with the sun getting low, we set up quickly and scrubbed our dirty faces. The high peaks defining the pass and our path of travel was clear and high to the Southeast. Campers near us reported catching numerous "little guys" but having fun. I checked the starter. It was bubbly and hoochy smelling. I thought about making dough and letting it ferment overnight. Then I remembered that we covered only about four miles in twice as many hours for the day and so I lay down to catch a few meteorites before nodding off. The moon was in waxing gibbous mode so it made for poor conditions, but three good streakers revealed their paths before the chill got to me.

As I climbed into my itty-bitty tent and my head hit my "pillow" it dawned on me: we'll be having pizza at Lake Italy!
(in part 2 that is)


K and S said...

beautiful photos and awesome adventure! can't wait to hear the rest.

Chilebrown said...

If you had taken a right turn at Mono Creek and followed it upstream to Mills Creek you would of come across the local "Hooter's". They have the killer buffalo wings.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Kat: Thanks! The rest will follow shortly (part 2 of 3 that is)

Chile: We were going to check out that route on the way back but other hikers said the Hooters is a Chili's now, so no killer wings anymore.........