[Note- This post is the third of four describing my 2012 Road Trip]
It was a long drive from Sacramento through the Sierra Nevada, south to the town of Lee Vining and the Lake View Lodge. A welcome sight, we checked in, unpacked our gear and proceeded to relax in the front garden overlooking Mono Lake. Then, it was on to enjoying cold beers and good cigars! Ahhh, life is good! It wasn’t long before our backpacking friends showed up. They had flown into Reno, rented a car, and drove down. Now we could stage our vehicles for the backpacking trip. We all looked forward to the week ahead!
Next morning, the quartet started out with a big breakfast at Nicely’s Cafe. We grabbed our day packs and drove to the Porcupine Flats Trailhead on Tioga Road, in Yosemite NP. Then, came the five-mile hike to North Dome–first down through a wooded valley, next up to Indian Ridge and finally out to Basket Dome and North Dome–a massive expanse of rock. Across the Valley was Half Dome at 8,842 ft. and Mount Starr King to the right rear at 9,092 ft.
We reveled in great hiking for a few hours, then journeyed to a trail to the east of Indian Rock. We looked across a vast drop to the narrow Snow Creek Valley, bounded by steep cliffs up to Mt. Watkins at 8,500 ft.
Our trail around Indian Rock was at about 7,500 ft. and brought us around the north side of Indian Rock, before returning us to Porcupine Flats Trail and the Trailhead. The bonus was a nice view down the Yosemite Valley to the west from North Dome. The Merced River flows from Merced Lake at about 7,200 ft. elevation east of the big Valley. After passing through the Valley, the Merced River flows westward at about 3,000-2,500 ft. elevation.
The entire hike was about 10 miles round-trip with the addition of miles hiked up top. Upon return to Lake View Lodge, we enjoyed dinner at Bodie Mikes before retiring to our rooms for the evening.
Next morning was time to gear-up! Breakfast and lunch at Nicely’s, in between packing gear. From there, we drove north on 395 to the Bridgeport Ranger station to get permits and to confirm there were no fires in the area. We spotted my vehicle at Mono Village, at the end of Twin Lakes in the Hoover Wilderness, for the return trip, then headed back to Lee Vining. En route, we visited an old gold-mining ghost town, Bodie, taking in the cemetery, many old buildings and various types of mining equipment. We arrived back at Lee Vining, just as the sun was setting.
Up at the crack of dawn, we drove up to the Green Creek Trailhead off Hwy 395 and hit the Green Creek Trail about 10 a.m. The Hoover Wilderness proved to be a beautiful setting as we wound our way up along the West Fork of Green Creek, with Gabbro Peak in the distance. We headed southeasterly around Green Lake, then climbed up to East Lake and followed the trail along the east side of the lake, finding a campsite by mid-afternoon. A sunny, beautiful day, there were rock outcroppings and large pine at 9,500 ft. We had climbed 1,500 ft. nearly to the treeline in the midst of amazing scenery, with peaks above treeline in all directions.
We set up camp about 50 feet above lake level and explored the area a bit before dinner. That evening, we relaxed on a large rock outcropping on the edge of the lake while sipping from our small flasks of brandy and enjoying small Cohibas. Ahh, Hoover Wilderness! The sun was setting as we recounted the beautiful day. From the campsite, we witnessed the sun dropping behind Gabbro Peak, then enjoyed a good night’s sleep.
But all was not quite so idyllic the next morning. Rick awoke in ill spirits–he was nauseous, had a bad headache, and he didn’t sleep well. Telltale signs of altitude sickness. He took acetaminophen and rested against a rock. The rest of us ate breakfast. We each filtered water and filled our water bottles and water bladders, and packed up our gear. Although ready to head out, we had to first assess Rick’s situation and determine the best course of action. He was still not feeling well.
It was pretty clear–the planned hike would be strenuous with higher elevations ahead… and Rick had altitude sickness. It also became clear that I was the only one with a vehicle and a flexible schedule. The others were driving the rental car, when our hike was completed, and had to catch their return flights home from Reno. They had no time to spare in completing the hike on time.
We decided I that I would accompany Rick back down the trail to lower altitude. While not exhibiting other problems, Rick might also be susceptible to loss of balance, high blood pressure, disorientation and possibly pulmonary edema (fluid accumulating in the lungs). It was too big a gamble to continue on, so Rick and I bid the others farewell and started back down the trail. We descended slowly, stopping to rest several times. Our plan was that I would get Rick situated at the campground, where the rental car was staged, and the others would meet up there in a few days.
We arrived at the trailhead by late afternoon. We set up our tents near my vehicle and made dinner. Rick had his appetite back, which was a good sign! We built a small fire and chatted awhile before calling it a day. Rick was doing better. We both settled in for a good night’s sleep.
The next day, we packed up our gear and headed to Twin Lakes where the rental car was staged. At Twin Lakes, we treated ourselves to breakfast at the local cafe, then found Rick a campsite nearer the rental car. We strolled around the campground and talked for awhile. Rick continued to improve and now he was in proximity to other travelers and businesses up the road in Mono Village, should he need assistance. Rick could recuperate, the others would continue on the trail, then join him in a few days when they would all drive to Reno for their return flights home. Thus, it made sense for me to continue on my adventure, albeit a slightly different one now. I bid Rick farewell and hit the road, going south on 395.
About 50 miles south of Bishop I saw a sign for Manzanar up ahead. Manzanar was one of ten Relocation and Internment Camps established for Japanese-Americans during WWII. They were established in seven western states and Arkansas. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the action in February, 1942 two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese military. More than 127,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry, over half of them born in the U.S., were imprisoned by the U.S government in these camps. In the process they lost their homes, businesses and most all personal property. They were rounded up and placed in fortified internment camps with no evidence of any wrong-doing. The Supreme Court later ruled the action was justified as a wartime necessity, although no one was rounded up in Hawaii where half the population was Japanese-American. No Americans of German or Italian ancestry were rounded up and imprisoned either. As I approached Manzanar, I saw one of the old guard towers just off the road to the west. Across the hot, dusty valley were the towering Sierras and Mt. Whitney (14,495 ft.); such beauty ‘just over the fence.’
I spent a couple of hours touring the site and the visitor center. People were housed in barracks-like, wood framed buildings covered with tar paper, which tended to be very cold in winter and very hot in summer. I’ve had occasion to meet some folks who were imprisoned in these internment camps, as both adults with families, and as young children. Not many good memories of their camp experiences, nor an extended period of their lives post WWII.
I continued my drive south and then turned east, heading for Kingman, AZ and a room for the night. What a day! I was heading to New Mexico after cleaning up and resting up in Kingman. I planned to take 40 through Flagstaff and then head south on 180 at Holbrook, and get a room in Silver City, NM. Next day I’d head north on 15 into Gila Wilderness, one of my favorite places. There’s never a crowd in the Gila, just good trails and plenty of javelina.