Wingman from the Roadside:
A couple of quick cups of coffee, cereal, and we were in the truck headed back up the Horseshoe Meadow road to the trailhead. We got hiking and soon cut right off the Horseshoe Meadow trail toward Cottonwood Pass. It was nice to be able to actually hike a bit with Runningbird as the trail weaved through a meadow and we crossed over meandering streams on logs and large rocks. After a short while the trail began to climb steeply with multiple switch backs. It was about 4 miles before we reached Cottonwood Pass at 11,160′ and the PCT, which at this point was the John Muir Trail, with spectacular views in the morning light. As we crested the top we heard voices and came around the corner to meet “One Gallon” and a strong young woman from Thailand who he had been hiking with. Runningbird and I said our goodbyes and confirmed where we would meet up in a few days. One Gallon was heading into Lone Pine to resupply so we hiked out together and I gave him a ride into town.
After dropping One Gallon at the post office I went on to the Forest Service office to give them our thanks for the information they had provided us. I then headed north up 395 to check out the town of Independence and the Onion Valley Trailhead that would take me to Kearsarge Passage. It was another steep winding road and I was happy to not have the trailer in tow. Once at the trailhead it became apparent that we had moved on to a different kind of terrain. There were cascading waterfalls, lush trees, and snow capped peaks. The temperatures were cooler up here and hikers were coming down from the trail and removing coats and trading long pants for shorts.
In two days I will be coming here again with a pack full of resupply gear for Runningbird and heading up this steep trail toward Kearsarge Pass and down the other side to the PCT. The hikers I met at the trailhead advised that I get an early start while the snow was still hard. In the afternoon the snow would get soft and there would be a lot of difficult hiking. As I knew I had to turn the 13.4 miles in the one day, plus the time it would take us to swap gear, I was going to have my work cut out for me. I quickly remembered all the work Runningbird has been putting out, day after day, without complaint. Time for me to buck up. Hopefully tomorrow night I’ll be slappin’ belly and enjoying crawfish and sipping rum with my campground buddies.