(Panoramic of Shadow Lake)
One of the most beautiful places I have been is on the Eastern side of the High Sierras out of Mammoth Lakes, CA. My first trip there was when I was 2 1/2 years old. I remember my dad hiking ahead of my mom while she attended to my brothers and I. We were slow and demanding of rests and probably, basically little pains in the asses. We all carried something and my job was to carry the wash pan around my neck. Mom's job was to suffer with us in tow while hauling a huge tin box backpack that my dad made for her full of gear . She just wanted to vacation in a nice hotel and it never happened. My poor mother.
Somehow I inherited the gene to "suffer for the reward later" (hence loving endurance riding) and while I love staying in a hotel, there is nothing like camping in a tent. And I have done plenty of it the last several months. It has suited me and awaked in my soul, what I have been missing for some time now.
My dad's famous words when backpacking were "It's just over the next hill".....I know it well but carrying a huge amount of weight for my age & size did cause suffering. All the trips up to High Sierras included us stepping off to the side of the trail to let pack strings pass. And, every string that passed us, I'd say to my dad "Can we please do that one day???????". To me, this was the ultimate trip into the backcountry and I yearned for it like no other.
So, it seemed to be natural to plan a trip with Bill & the horses ~ a no-brainer. My adventurous and darling friend.
My brother Alan & fiance Rochelle were suppose to meet me last year with Aura & a couple of collies after my Bridgeport ride. Things came up shortly before the trip and we put it off for this year. I haven't been on a trip with Alan since about 10 years ago, when Pierre & I (and Kaia & Zoe) met him, Brian, my dad's hiking buddy John & a few others for a trip. Way too long to put off stuff like this with family. Epecially in The Mountains Of My Soul.
Cows being moved across the road near my house. I've lived here 5 years and never seen this. Leave it to Bill to see the cool stuff. While this is super obvious, these cows, he sees stuff that I never see. Must be a hunting thing....and he even took a picture for me.
We originally were going to take Winnie, Tirzah & Sage but 4 miles from home Winnie had an issue and we had to turn around. Seems my vehicles always take care of me and don't leave me too far stranded. One of us needed a ride home to get the van to take the horses back home in the horse trailer and there out of the blue was my neighbor Adam showing up at the gas station. I cannot stress how wonderful he is. He was able to drive me home so I could "re-arrange" our trip.
And "Plan B" was put into effect. We made the quick decision to fling stuff into the van and tent camp. Unfortunately Tirzah & Sage stayed home, but it was going to be less stress to worry about them while we rode horses all day. What I love about Bill is he is as game as I am for an adventure and this was just another one of many we've had. No stress. Just do it. Bliss.
We ended up leaving around 4:30 pm, much later than I wanted and arrived at Agnew Meadows at around 11:30 at night. Alan & Rochelle were already set up in their RV with Sage (their black dog), Mush, Alan's 35 year old Standardbred & 6 year old Thoroughbred Titanium. We put the horses in a big corral, fed them, had refreshments, put the tent up and we were off to beddie.
In the middle of the night I got a migraine. I haven't gotten too many lately, but this one really wanted to go horse camping and there was no convincing otherwise. The first day wasn't as bad as the second day (it's a 48 hour deal) but I have that "suffering" gene from my dad so I sucked it up and rode. Worse things have happened to me and this wasn't going to ruin my trip.
(Ali'i grabbing grass as we ride.)
Our first trip was to Shadow Lake/Shadow Creek. This trail is one I have hiked more than any other trail on this side of the Sierras. We used to be able to camp at Shadow Lake and I have so many memories of trips there. It's about 3 1/2 miles to the lake, then another 1 1/2 to Shadow Creek. The trail is technical in spots and much more dicy on horseback, though pack strings go up there all the time. And while I have 2 Tevis buckles it doesn't mean I'm still a little nervous in spots. Rocky, narrow, steep, stair stepping slippery spots with big drop-offs.
This clip is on the first mile before we cross the San Joaquin River and make the ascent up to Shadow Lake. Alan's horse Mush cut her fetlock on the way up so they decided to go back and Bill & I went ahead.
Shadow Creek ~ this is the other side of where we used to camp. The meadow with the meandering stream often has pack stock grazing. Beyond are the Minarets ~ Banner & Ritter Peaks, which my brother Brian has hiked up to. Off to the right is Iceberg Lake & in front, Lake Ediza. Somewhere in my storage I have plenty of photos of these places. Pretty, pretty. Rugged. Not for the hotel type of vacationers.
Shadow Creek. I love this place ~ love this photo. Except for being a pain about eating and drinking (though Aura did graze), she was good to ride. I put Bill on Ali'i for about a mile coming back and he preferred her. Ali'i is not the most comfortable, but he does take care of himself. We're pretty sure he gained weight on this trip.
This link is of Bill filming and riding down from the top of Shadow Lake. I had told him (going up AND going down) I may get off in spots where it gets rather narrow and slippery, but I didn't. He filmed all the way down the scary parts. Brave fucker. I was holding my breath the whole way down watching him. Aura was stellar. The video doesn't really show the descent like in real life, nor can you see how close the drop-off is to the waterfall, but let me tell you it's knarly. I can't say I've heard of anyone dying going off this trail, but I'm pretty sure someone would. A horse would not make it either.
Back at camp we had marinated Elk. Bill's Elk, mom's marinade recipe. It was so incredibly tasty and made a believer out of Rochelle that when someone gives you Elk, you eat it yourself and not give it to the dogs.....
Alan & Rochelle. They are so cute together I can hardly stand it!
How cold it was the first night. The second night was colder.
The next day I wanted Bill to see Minaret Campground and then Devil's Post Pile. Minaret was where we always camped and it's still as beautiful as it was years ago, though several of the prime camping spots we had have washed away in heavy rain years. When I was 7 I fell into the river and was sure I was going to die, but was able to grab ahold a willow branch and save myself; but after my dad had jumped in after me. Rainbow Falls is down the river, but in my 7 year old mind, it was only 50' away and I knew I was a goner. All I remember is the river was about 6' high and I opened my eyes underwater and just saw rushing rapids in freezing cold water. Then I grabbed the willow branch and was saved. I was crying so bad my mom actually told me to knock it off and calm down. Memories.
Anyway, Bill & I rode from Agnew to the campground, which was about 5 miles on the trail. Alan & Rochelle had taken the asphalt road so were already waiting for us and texting. How cell phones worked up here is amazing to me, but it just goes to show we are never really out in the wilderness anymore. We were on the other side of the river and there was a huge storm a few years ago that took down thousands of trees so to get from one side of the river to the campground took a little investigating. Investigating ~ Adventure. Places we thought we could get thru, we couldn't, so we'd backtrack and look for another route. Finally we had backtracked about a mile upstream and Bill walked down to a steep slope in the pumice and found a place to cross the river. He wanted me to walk down to make sure I thought it was good to go and I said yes, but I was going to lead Ali'i down on foot. He said "Oh, I thought we'd ride them down because we'll end up in the river". So that was a novel idea. Seems I'm a little wimpy. I got on my horsey and we were off down the slope, thru a small break in the willow bushes and out in the river and up the other side of the bank which had it's own steep and narrow spots. Frickin' fun. I was ridin' bravely with my adventurous photographer!
After socializing with Alan & Rochelle and having some moderately cold beer, Bill & I were off to the Post Piles. There also was some adventure there because of the downed trees, but it was, for the most part, an easy ride.
Lots of trout fishing in this river as a child.
Devil's Post Pile. I can remember being on the top of these as one of my first memories. Incredible, our world. And blessed are we to visit.
We rode the horses to the top of the Post Piles. I told Bill he had to see it from on top. The trail was stair-stepped most of the way up with the stairs rather high and steep. The horses did great. Cougar Rock training. Someone on FB mentioned we'd have to tie the horses up at the bottom to go visit. Whatever.
The top of the Post Piles. Fascinating!
People are always willing to take your photo, especially if you take theirs. We were going to ride to Rainbow Falls/Reds Meadows, but decided to turn back. Our second day trip was about 16 miles. We were bumping up mileage every day.
On the way back Bill suggested we trot. The footing was so nice and we made up quite a bit of time. Aura has a huge trot, so Ali'i was really stretching his legs to keep up. It was so much fun and even with my migraine, I was enjoying this trip so much. Aura has similar qualities to Bill's Tevis horse Nadjii so I wasn't worried about telling him she may duck and spook. He's a great rider and Aura loved him.
Ali'i liked all of this trotting and thought we should go faster, so when we came to the last uphill, Bill thought Ali'i would slow down a little. Not so. He dragged me into Agnew with plenty of energy. Chubby has quite a nice walk when he wants to get somewhere.
The second dinner was made by Rochelle and it was quite welcomed. I was still feeling rather pukey but not as bad as earlier and my headache was on it's way out. Mike, a friend of Alan & Rochelle's had come up from So. Calif. with his pack horse & green molly mule. I had met him on a trip Brian & I did in 2007 when we were actually able to camp in the horse camping spots (which were destroyed by the windstorm). He rode with us on the third day which was planned for 1000 Island Lakes.
Bill & I left a few minutes before they did and took the High Trail to 1000 Island Lake. There are a few routes that I am familiar with. One is thru Shadow Lake, up to Garnet Lake, then 1000 Island. The other way is the River Trail, which is below the High Trail and partially used to get to Shadow. The High Trail is spectacular as far as views.
A panoramic shot looking towards the Minerets. It's hard to see in this photo without it being blown up, but Shadow Lake is in there.
This is a better shot of Shadow. I love this photo of Ali'i & I..........
Bill & Aura ♥♥
It was about 9-10 miles to get to 1000 Island Lake and took us 3 hours at a walk. 3rd day out and the horses were getting better and better. Ali'i stumbled a lot the first 2 days (and that was a ton o' fun coming down from Shadow Lake), but the 3rd day he did really well.
This photo really doesn't do this lake justice, but none of these photos do. Ya just gotta go and see for yourself.
Bill took this photo of Mike with his horse & mule. Great shot. Sage is Alan's doggie.
Beer for your horses???
We stayed for about 1 1/2 hours, then started back. Bill & I took the River Trail for change of scenery and the others went back the way they came. Ali'i was in front most of the way and had a walk on him to die for.
Getting back on the part of the Shadow Lake trail, Bill pointed out an Elk carved into a tree on the way up to Shadow 2 days before. Had to get a photo of it. I guess had it been a collie I may have noticed. Or I need glasses. We laugh at how dense I am about seeing stuff but Bill still likes me....so I take a picture, we laugh and eat a zebra.....
Back at camp the horses were TIRED. Aura finally decided to eat a little bit but she still stresses me out as she could eat & drink a LOT more. Multi-days may be in her future to help her learn.
We all needed a power washer after 4 days of camping, including my poor horse trailer.
This was such a nice trip and so easy. There were some big, unexpected road blocks to try to prevent us from going and/or enjoying it, but I learned a long time ago shit happens and it's how you deal with it, or feel about it that makes all the difference in the world. I have been blessed to know someone who's game and very flexible on this life we live and willing to play it with me. So, this, I am happy.