We hiked to Strawberry Peak from Colby Canyon, my first time hiking that route. This took us up a few sections of class 3 climbing that challenged my fear of heights and was pretty adventurous. The climbing part wasn’t half as bad as I expected it be; it was 3/4 as bad. I knew there was some rather tedious climbing involved but I thought it would be a little more straightforward than it was. Thankfully, we did this hike as a one-way car shuttle to Red Box so we didn’t have to down-climb those boulders. From the peak, we enjoyed amazing views in every direction and feasted on chocolate covered strawberries for a treat. It was a beautiful day with great company.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into on this one. All I knew was that it was an endurance trek. Thinking that it couldn’t be any worse than a Mt. Baldy snow hike, I saw it as a piece of cake. This ended up being 9 of the toughest miles that I’ve hiked on any trail. We started out on a real trail and then took a “use” trail shortly after that. This consisted of miles of bushwhacking while ascending and descending steep, rocky terrain. At times, we could feel the terrain collapsing beneath every step. I have learned to never trust the rocks in the Santa Monica Mountains. Most of them move. They move under your feet, and they break away when you grab them to try and keep your balance or prevent a fall. I witnessed quite a few falls during this adventure, and three of them were mine. Two of my falls were caught on video, which you will see here.
A lush aspen forest, multitudes of wildflowers, pristine alpine lakes, all leading up to a pass overlooking an alluring backcountry. Piute Pass provides the quintessential Sierra experience. The elevation gain is gradual enough that anyone in relatively good physical condition can accomplish this hike in a day. The hike is 10.3 miles round trip with 2,300 feet of elevation gain, so it should take anywhere between 5 to 8 hours to complete.
This hike had been on my list for a long time, so I set off on the adventure on the last day of August when summer was still in full swing. Come along on the journey with me and see why you should add Piute Pass to your list of Sierra destinations.
Hope you enjoy this latest episode of Tales of the Trails! 🙂
It all started that morning at the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center as our group waited to board the bus that would take us to the trailhead. I saw a nice ranger standing by and asked her to verify some information on the hike I wanted to do, which was slightly different from the group’s goals. I told the lady that I was going to Thousand Island Lake and inquired about the River Trail, which was the route recommended in my guidebook, “50 Classic Day Hikes of the Eastern Sierra,” by Devon Fredericksen and Reed Harvey. I wasn’t quite prepared for her response.
Oh, you’re going to Thousand Lake? That’s a tough one. You shouldn’t take the River Trail, that’s steep. You need to take the High Trail. It will be more gradual.
I was perplexed.
But the guidebook I have suggests taking the River Trail. It’s supposed to be 14 miles round trip and can be done as a day hike.
She remained adamant.
I don’t know what guidebook you’re reading. That’s going to be really tough.
She then took out a map and showed me the trail from Agnew Meadows, which was the starting point, all the while trying to encourage me to take the High Trail, which was about two miles longer, but supposedly more scenic. I didn’t have my own map of the area and the store where I could have purchased one wasn’t open yet, so I stuck with my original intent to follow the advice of the guidebook and take the River Trail. I admit, after the ranger’s reaction, I felt some apprehension.
About a mile or so into the hike, I was off and on my way to Thousand Island Lake. Since the guidebook stated that this was a popular trail and that the lake had been nicknamed “Thousand People Lake,” I figured I wouldn’t be alone. Yet, for the most part, I was. It didn’t bother me much, though. I often prefer solitude when trekking in the backcountry, although it is nice to have a partner sometimes.
The trail gradually ascended, never straying far front the San Joaquin River tumbling down below. At one point, the trail got really close to the river and I took a slight detour to check out a cascading waterfall.
Shortly after I returned to the trail, I met a group of backpackers coming toward me, each carrying packs that appeared to weigh at least 50 pounds apiece. We greeted each other and, of course, they asked where I was headed.
I’m going to Thousand Island Lake.
I braced for the reaction.
Oh, wow. That’s quite a slog. You’ve got a ways to go and it’s a trudge from here.
I tried my best to appear unfazed.
Well, I’m used to long day hikes. I’ve hiked twenty-two miles in a day before.
Their eyes widened.
Wow, you must be a serious mountain woman!
I bid the backpackers a good day and they sent me off with well-wishes as I was on my way again. Shortly after that, the same thing happened. Backpackers coming down the trail were once again astounded that I was going to Thousand Island Lake as a day hike, as if they didn’t believe it could be done. I assumed that they were on their way back from the lake.
Is that where you guys are coming from?
The backpackers looked amazed.
No, we were at Garnet Lake. That’s a little bit closer.
As we parted ways, I began to question the path I was on and thought that maybe I should change my goal to Garnet Lake, which, as the backpackers said, was closer. I reasoned that a lake is a lake and they all probably look the same anyway. Maybe I didn’t fully understand the description in the guidebook, although I studied it at least 100 times before setting out. Maybe the book was wrong.
I set a time and decided that no matter where I was at when that time came upon me, I would turn around. This was an unfamiliar trail to me and I didn’t want to get so far in that I couldn’t make it out at a reasonable hour. I also didn’t want to miss the group who were hiking the same mileage on a different trail, but at a faster pace than me. I wanted to make it back to the Adventure Center around the same time because we were to have dinner that evening in town.
The trail continued to climb and I found myself in a forest. Not too long before that, I had emerged from a short section of forest and reached a clearing that I thought would finally provide clear views of my goal. But it just led me to another forest. While I was grateful for the shade, the trail became a constant uphill slog and I realized that what one of the backpackers said was right. I took a break to snap a few shots of flowers just off the trail. It was hard to silence the doubts as they consumed me like a giant wave.
I began to think in my heart that I had failed and was going to have to go back as my turnaround time closed in on me. I thought to myself that if I could just see where I was going, I would have hope and be motivated to stay the course. But the arduous climb continued and the scenery around me wasn’t changing. All I saw were trees. I never saw a lake, not even Garnet Lake, which was supposed to be closer. The climb seemed no longer worth it, so I just wanted to stop and go back the way I had come, back to what was familiar.
A little less than an hour before my turnaround time, I saw what appeared to be two day hikers coming down the trail toward me. They weren’t carrying big heavy packs. At this point, I just wanted confirmation that I should turn back because I had already prepared myself for the disappointment. I greeted the couple and asked if I was getting close to Thousand Island Lake. They gave me the most encouraging news I had heard all day. I was about a couple of miles away from a pass and once I reached the pass, the lake would be right there, just on the other side of it. I thanked the couple and pressed on.
Even with the affirmation, I still had doubts as I trekked through the somewhat dense forest. I contemplated turning around for fear that it was getting too late. For some reason, the altitude really affected me on this hike and I was troubled that I didn’t seem to be getting any closer to the pass. I couldn’t see beyond the trees.
Twenty minutes before my turnaround time, I was about to throw in the towel. Then, I realized that I owed it to myself to at least continue until 1pm, which was the time I had set. Certainly, I could hang in there for twenty more minutes, despite the seemingly endless slog.
Exactly twenty minutes later, I was blessed with one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. Mt. Banner came into view just beyond a small pass, and shortly after that, the most beautiful, sparkling lake glistened before me. It wasn’t a mirage. It was real. I could finally see it, touch it, taste it. All of the doubts that tried to kill my dream, my vision of this wonder, were at once silenced for good. My goal had been validated by what my faith and action produced.
What sort of tale did I find myself in?
Just because the circumstances conflict with your inner vision, what you know to be true, it doesn’t mean that you’re on the wrong path. You may have naysayers telling you what can’t be done, but you have to realize that people often speak from what they know based on their own experiences and background.
Those backpackers who provided their input, the ones who almost discouraged me from going on–they were carrying 50-pound packs and they may not have been regular hikers, so of course they were going to see my goal as a slog and an impossible feat. I hike consistently and am used to long day hikes, so I’m well-acquainted with my strengths and abilities. I’m also aware of my limitations. However, I knew in my heart that I could do this.
Had I given up, I would have missed out on one of the most beautiful treasures of the Sierra. I would have done all of that work for nothing. It was a nice hike and there were some really cool sights along the way, but the money shot was the lake, and also the return route as I decided to take the scenic High Trail on the way back.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times where it’s in your best interest to turn around, such as when you’re in imminent danger as I was on a previous hike to Cloudripper Peak. Sometimes in life there is danger on the path and you have to turn around, not to give up, but to reconfigure the approach to your goal and try again.
Even if that is the case, the theme remains the same: Never Give Up. Never let anyone or anything talk you out of your goal. Never let yourself or your own doubts talk you out of your goal. You can either be your own worst enemy or your biggest cheerleader.
Maybe you’ve been praying for something over the years and nothing is changing, as if you’re in that forest I was in where I couldn’t see where my path was leading me to. Perhaps everything around you contradicts the very thing you’ve been praying, hoping, wishing endlessly for. Don’t stop because even though it may not feel like it, you are ever closer to your dream come true.
Never give up then, for that is just the place and time when the tide will turn.
~Harriet Beecher Stowe
The Inconsolable Range is a small subrange in the area north of the Palisades and situated just outside Kings Canyon National Park. Within that range of inconsolable peaks, Cloudripper beams above all, standing tall and magnificent at an elevation of 13,525 ft.
In this latest episode of “Tales of the Trails,” I set off on a solo adventure toward the majestic Cloudripper Peak in the California Eastern Sierra. Was I successful on my maiden voyage to this boulder-laden peak? And what sort of tale(s) did I find myself in?
Watch and enjoy!
This is Part 2 of my interview with Rebecca Walsh of “Just Trails” and “Hike Like a Woman.” Today, I talk about barriers to entry in the outdoor community and much more, including my newest “mountain crush.”
Here’s an excerpt:
We’ll take it away and start right where we left off yesterday.
Q: Sometimes I feel like there are a lot of barriers to entry in the outdoor community. These barriers can be novice hikers feeling like they don’t have the perfect gear, the physical strength or the experience to take on a trail. When you started hiking did you experience any barriers? What advice do you have for people who might be a little apprehensive about lacing up their hiking boots for the first time?
Yes, I have experienced those barriers, which I sort of described yesterday. I look at it like this, a barrier can only hold you back as far as you let it. (Amen Joyce!)
I admit, I was toast on my first few hikes, which were under 3 miles each. I could have given up and said hiking wasn’t for me. I know people that have given up after the first hike or two. The key is that you have to keep doing it. As your body gets used to the activity, it will adapt. Of course it’s going to scream at you and you’ll be sore for a few days, but that soreness will go away and you’ll feel yourself stronger the next time you go out. You have to just do it and keep doing it. Your spirit has to tell your body what to do, not vice versa.
Read the full interview here.
This is Part 1 of my interview with Rebecca Walsh of Just Trails and Hike Like a Woman.
Here’s an excerpt:
As I meet people in the virtual and physical hiking community I’m inspired by their stories. Last week’s interview with Rachel is just one example. I think everyone has a story to tell, we all have something in us that makes us special and unique and I’m on a mission to find those stories and share them right here. When I first heard Joyce Britton’s hiking story I was inspired by her positive “I can do this” attitude. I think as you read the interview there’s a point where her words will give you goose bumps and you’ll find yourself cheering her along the way.
We broke Joyce’s interview down into two parts. So be sure to check back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!
Let’s dive right in as Joyce tells us about her hiking background, her online Hyker Girl community and her latest project, Tales from the Trails.
Q: How long have you been hiking, when and where did you get your start?
I have been hiking for just over five-and-a-half years. It was something that I had to be introduced to and I didn’t hike until I moved to California. I grew up in an area of Texas that was all flat and green, so any talk of hiking was completely foreign to me. My impression of hiking was more like serious mountaineering with ropes, picks and harnesses, not a nice walk in the park up a gentle incline, which some trails offer.
I was introduced to hiking by the vey first friend that I made when I moved to California in 2008, John Ellis’ wife, LynNita. She invited me to hike with a church-related hiking group and said it would be a good way for me to meet people since I was new to the area. At first, I was like, “Excuse me? I don’t hike.” I thought it was something really dangerous and far beyond my capabilities, but she convinced me to go and I had a blast. We hiked at Vasquez Rocks in Santa Clarita, CA.
You can read the full article here.