A different view of the Sierra's. (Over there is the JMT.)

Day 4. Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Start: Two miles below Agnew Pass

Stop: Quality Inn in Mammoth Lakes

Mikes Hiked: 8.0

Well, we ended up at Quality Inn in Mammoth Lakes. Here is how it happened.

I woke up at 6:15, after a really good night sleep. We started hiking at 8:00 am. It was start and stop and start again: first to draw water, then to put on crampons, then to pull off crampons, and so on. We worked our way up into the snow, and promptly lost the trail. I am getting better with the GPS. The secret is to use the GPS with an old fashioned compass. First, on the GPS, I use the map pointer to pick where I want to go and the GPS displays the heading and distance from our current position to the position that I picked. Next, I put the GPS in my pocket, and use the old fashioned compass to follow that direction. (Also, I found that you never use the two together in the same hand, as the GPS will cause the old fashioned compass to point the wrong way.)

It is hard to describe how mixed up you can get in a medium dense forest with no reference points. Your natural tendency is to angle up, no matter what your compass says. On the way up the mountain to Agnew pass, Wes separated from us to climb instead of going the GPS approved direction (as I would have too, without the GPS). Allen and I made it to the junction first and had to guide Wes in by radio and lots of yelling. He probably would have found the pass, but only after hours of searching in the snow.

After the pass, we had a very nice, snow free, hike down to Agnew Meadows. My map indicated that the road to Agnew meadows goes to Mammoth Lakes (a town). We also met a group on the pass that mentioned that a shuttle bus runs to Mammoth. But we had no idea of how often, where it stops, or even if started to run for the season.

We got to Agnew meadows and found it practically deserted. We hike all over the place looking for glues about the shuttle. Finally, we sat down to consider our options. I wanted to hike towards Reds Meadows, after all that was 7 miles downhill. But I was outvoted so we hiked up to the road junction towards Mammoth. If no shuttle could be found, it would be an 8 mile uphill hike to the town. On the way, a car drove by and I thumbed it down. The guy stopped but explained that he didn't have room for all of us, but he gave us confidence that we would be able to get out on the shuttle. Sure enough, after about another half a mile up the road, we found a "bus stop", but with no sign or bus schedule to be found. So we laid down in middle of the road (that seemed completely deserted), and waited. After only 10 minutes, a huge bus rolls up. We go a free ride all the way into Mammoth Mountain. Then from there, another free ride to the town. The town provides a free trolley service, so we got a ride all the way to Quality Inn.

One fun part of the bus ride was a family that Allen sat next to. They pestered him with questions about where he had been, and what the trip was like. He was a hero with their kids -- the kids were particularly enthralled with his ice axe.

When we got off the bus in Mammoth Lakes, to get onto the Trolley, something really cool happened. Andy and Chele, walked up to us and asked us if we were "hikers". Of course they didn't recognize me, but I recognized them. (I had met them about 3 weeks earlier, when I drove up to meet Kenneth as he was taking a rest day from the PCT at the Saufleys.) When I reminded them that we had met at the Saufleys, and that they had "saved" my son Kenneth, they paid me a big compliment by saying that I didn't look like a "dad" anymore.

What a fun meeting. Later in the day, after doing our laundry, we ran across them again, with another couple, that had just done the whole trail from Kennedy Meadows all the way to Red's Meadows. We had a long conversation and I got a great description of the hike to Vermilion. Anyway I had a nice time with Andy and Chele.

So Andy and Chele recommended Gomez. We promptly went there hand had a huge and delicious dinner. We were going to go to the movies, but their last show was 7:30!, so we hung out in our room for the rest of the night.

So why are we in Mammoth and not on the trail? Partly because Allen wants to go home, partly because we realize that doing the whole JMT is out of the question, partly because we just wanted to get off the trail.

Well, we have had a wonderful day. As of right now, I want to resupply and make it to Vermilion and wait for my son Kenneth, who is hiking north bound on the PCT. After all, Vermilion is only 30 miles! But it will probably take 3 days -- one day will be spent trying to get over Silver Pass.

I formed this plan on the downhill run from Agnew Pass to Agnew Meadows. That is, the plan was formed when I was feeling good and not hurting. That fact scares me. I would never think that way on the way up a pass (snow or no snow).