Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kearsarge Pass

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out until sun-down, for going out, I found, was really going in - John Muir
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Breathtaking Beginning
This is a quote that greets you at the beginning of this lovely trail and then a quote that becomes more of a feeling you really start to understand once you embark on this Eastern Sierras classic up to Kearsarge Pass.  This is a trail where day-hikers are few and backpackers are many.  I found myself passing people who were connecting up with the John Muir Trail, headed down to Kearsarge Lakes or even headed up to Mt. Whitney.  
It seemed to be the starting point of many people's adventures and it was exciting crossing paths with fellow hikers throughout the day, each time basking to each other about the beautiful things that you are all encountering along the way.  To me it really feels like a secret club, hiking a trail that you really love and encountering some of the same people time and again.  You feel as if you have found a special spot and all these people have had the privilege of finding that special spot too and together you bond over the sights that you have seen and feel like nobody else has seen this in the world but you.  And in some cases, that very well may be true...and that, to me, is truly priceless....
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View back into Onion Valley
If you're a fan of high altitude lakes and lots of gorgeous scenery than this is a hike that you will not want to miss!  I found myself investigating this hike a couple days before I was planning to do the Mt. Whitney hike.  I was camping in Lone Pine and had written the name of this hike down from one of the many lectures I went to at Adventure 16 talking about hiking Mt. Whitney.  The speaker was telling people that if for some reason you don't get a permit to hike Whitney that there is no lack of great hikes in the area, and I would definitely agree....
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Me in front of the first of several waterfalls
I am super stoked that I had the extra time to come up here and explore since this was my first time in the Eastern Sierras, and it just whet my appetite for more of this place in the future.  How can this much beauty have been so close for the past 10 years and I not even know it?  What cloud have I been hiding under?  Oh, the Los Angeles bubble!  Phew, glad I popped that one...
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One more shot of the beautiful waterfall with the mountains behind
 Kearsarge Trailhead starts at Onion Valley, a nice thin 9,200 feet elevation up from sea level.
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Onion Valley Elevation Sign
While on the 395 traveling through Independence, CA you take Market St. west (shortly thereafter becomes Onion Valley Rd.) for 13 miles.  There is camping right by the trailhead and a parking lot if you want to take your time to acclimate to this altitude further.
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Kearsarge Pass Trail Sign
This trail takes you through the Inyo National Forest, the John Muir Wilderness and just kisses Kings Canyon National Park.  
"Kearsarge Pass" www.fuel4play.com
Kearsarge Pass & Kings Canyon Elevation Sign
Encountering lots of good scenery along the way...
"Kearsarge Pass" www.fuel4play.com
Gnarly Tree Roots
The trail is a 9.4 mile out and back that is accessible from June until October and you gain 2,560 feet in elevation along the way.  You can pick up a free basic map like this at the Lone Pine visitor's center.
"Kearsarge Pass" www.fuel4play.com
Free Trail Map
You encounter 5 lakes along the way and the beauty is truly breathe-taking!
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Flower Lake
Flower Lake again...
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Flower Lake Take 2!
Gilbert and Little Pothole Lake I unfortunately don't have pictures of...
"Kearsarge Pass" www.fuel4play.com
Me and Heart Lake, bffs
Can you see it, can you??
"Kearsarge Pass" www.fuel4play.com
Heart Lake <3
Big Pothole Lake - last lake before you reach the pass...this is what you have on your side as you are heading up and over 11,000 feet...not too shabby....
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Big Pothole Lake
Once you hit the pass you have to gasp for air again, not because of the elevation, but because of the new spectacular view that you are encountered with.  All along the way you have been treated to so many delights for your eyes like a child in a Willy Wonka Factory that you didn't think it was possible to be blown away even more...and then it happens...
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View from the Pass
Sigh...and you are reminded of one of the many reasons of why you hike...
"Kearsarge Pass" www.fuel4play.com

"Kearsarge Pass" www.fuel4play.com

"Kearsarge Pass" www.fuel4play.com
Not a bad view for a Thursday afternoon....
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Me with the view from Kearsarge Pass - Happy Hiker
And what was once a different color on the way up is now a different shade of beautiful on the way down....
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Couldn't resist one more photo of this beauty
John Muir's quote kept haunting me as I descended back to my car to head back to my campsite.  I wanted to keep going...that itch you get when you head into the wilderness is not something you can just lightly scratch at and it goes away, at least not for me.  At least I knew that I was headed back to a spot right on the water where I could start studying for my Wilderness First Responder course and it was the first time that I felt focused and really into my readings.  I felt like maybe this hike had a little something to do with it.  Sometimes heading to places like this just gives you the breathe of fresh air that you didn't know you needed...sometimes it's all that we ever really need...

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