|DAY TWELVE||Previous John Muir Trail Posts|
|Miles Hiked: 13||- Planning and Preparation||- Day Seven: Vermillion Valley Resort|
|Total Miles: 134||- Day One: Getting There||- Day Eight: Bear Creek|
|Elevation Climbed: 3200′||- Day Two: Donohue Pass||- Day Nine: Piute Creek|
|Total Elevation Climbed: 23,600′||- Day Three: Thousand Island Lake||- Day Ten: Evolution Lake|
|.||- Day Four: Red’s Meadow||- Day Eleven: Le Conte Canyon|
|- Day Five: Crater Creek||- Day Twelve: Bishop|
|- Day Six: Virginia Lake||- Final Thoughts|
“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
Today is the day I must finally leave the trail.
I wake at 6am to another cold morning, eat a quick breakfast and start walking. The Ranger Station next to my camp has a map to the pass posted on the wall so I snap a photo of it. The trail to South Lake, and then Bishop starts just past my camp and starts heading uphill immediately.
I pass by a group of deer munching on their breakfast. The sun is just starting to rise up over the range. The air is calm and clear and it’s a perfect day for walking. I’ve been enjoying the long periods of solitude throughout this trip, but now I’ve become even more aware of the life around me; the lively ground squirrels, the sweet birds filling the groves with music, clouds of insects in happy concerted motion, the giddy streams rushing to the sea… but most of all, the vast wilderness itself – seemingly infinite beauty and just as soulful.
I’ve been told by a couple people along the way that this section of the trail is incredibly challenging and I’m actually looking forward to it!
The climbing is steep, and I take frequent breaks to look down upon Le Conte canyon and the John Muir trail which has given me so much over the past twelve days. It’s a feeling of proud accomplishment, but bittersweet as I realize I’ll likely be back in civilization by the end of the day.
I reach Dusy Basin about halfway up the climb and it is magical! There’s something about how the rocks and trees and mountain range frame the lakes – as though everything has been intentionally placed in the most pleasing way. It’s eerily calm and quiet and I sit on a rock for a long while, just soaking it in and meditating with nature.
From there I start the final pitch through the sparsely forested basin, with views of the Inconsolable Range to the north. The landscape becomes more and more barren, at times going over bare rock.
I reach Bishop Pass (11,972′) and a nice couple, Bill and Jean, take my photo, and then offer to give me a ride to Bishop! Sweet! I was wondering how I was going to get to town, and wasn’t really looking forward to hitchhiking the 22 miles after a long day of walking.
The trail crests the pass and then starts the long descent down – with fantastic views of Owens Valley.
The footing is loose and steep, and I meet up with another ranger, Keith Waterfall – yes, his real name – who has been a Ranger here for 27 years!
I descend through snowfields and reach Saddlerock Lake, two miles below the pass. From there is a gradual descent through tundra past a series of small glacially carved lakelets.
The forest gets denser and then finally opens up at South Lake, and then a short distance later, the parking lot. It’s 4:30 in the afternoon.
The walk is finished.
I try catching a ride from passing cars for a little while with no luck and then along comes Bill and Jean! Natives of Bishop, they happily give me a ride into town, tell me about great places to eat, stay for the night and how to catch the bus to Reno. Thank you so much! I really appreciated your kindness to a scruffy traveler.
I check into the hotel, take a looooong hot shower and wash some of my clothes in the sink. Just behind the hotel is the Bowling Alley, where I was told to go for the best burger in town and WOW was it ever! Blue Cheese and bacon burger with fries and a pitcher of Sierra Nevada beer. I spent a great night of drinking whiskey with Tom, the owner and my newest friend, Mike – a physician from Phoenix. It was a terrific way to end an epic adventure!