Day 44 – May 17, 2022
Mile 716.5 (Kern River/Monache Meadow) to 735.1
18.6 trail miles | 18.0 tracked miles | 4,476 ft elevation gain | 71.6 F / 22 °C
My first night in the Sierra Nevada was bliss, but I can already tell that cool temperatures will add another challenge to my already slow and tedious morning routine!
As we hiked north of Monache Meadow, the trail gained altitude rapidly and we arrived at the junction with the Olancha Pass Trail. Although my maps indicated the presence of a large body of water nearby, Summit Creek Lake has completely evaporated. The area has turned into a meadow and a dry marsh. While the terrain view on Google Maps still depicts the lake, the satellite images expose a naked, green basin.
The area isn’t completely dry yet—a few streams were trickling in the vicinity, but the fact that an entire body of water can disappear is terrifying.
The trail continued to climb, eventually passing the 10,000 foot mark in the vicinity of Olancha Peak.
Then, we descended into the spectacular but dry Gomez Meadow, which was dominated by impressive rock formations.
We passed a few marginal water sources around lunch time, but had to come to terms with the fact that we’d have to dry camp again tonight. I might be in the Sierras, but I am still close to the desert, and 2022 is a low snow year—which means easier travel, but also less water sources.
I carried four liters of water on top of seven days of food, my bear canister, and my spikes. Although it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience, it wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated. This is a testament to the strength I have gained in six weeks.
As the trail climbed towards Owen Valley, we were treated with superb views.
Owens Valley is at the heart of California’s “water wars”, a series of conflicts between the city of Los Angeles and local residents over water rights. Owens Lake dried up in 1926, only 13 years after Los Angeles began diverting water. Today, Owens Valley is still the source of one-third of the water of the metropolis: the Owens River feeds the aqueduct that I followed in the Antelope Valley eleven days ago.
Our campsite, perched at 11,000 feet, boasts fabulous panoramic views. It’s going to be a cold night, but I’m a warm sleeper and I have a fantastic quilt.
In the next few days, we will reach the “true” High Sierra and start climbing the highest mountain passes on the PCT. I will also make a short detour in order to summit Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental United States!