Its dry, hot, dusty, cold, windy, snowy, rainy; unforgiving. Its big, grandiose, epic, awesome, righteous; spiritual. The Eastern Sierra kind of rules all of California, reigning over it from the east side and laughing in the face of those in the west who think the trip is too much work; the east doesn’t want you, the east doesn’t need you, and most importantly, the east doesn’t care.
The area in and around Mono Lake is full of secret hot springs, craters, and fourteeners no one has heard of. It boasts memories of our presence and departure through abandoned towns, mines, cave dwellings and petroglyphs. This area tells us the story of its history through volcanic shapes and remnants.
The Fissures are a kept secret of the East side; hidden in plain view atop a hill made of volcanic ash just waiting to be explored and treasured. They are a series of slot canyons 20-50 ft deep and 2-6 ft wide, shaped volcanically telling an intrinsic piece of the geological history of the Eastern Sierras and Mono Lake. Finding them can be tough but is worth the short jaunt for such a massive reward.
Emigrant Wilderness – Out and Back – Kennedy Meadows to Kennedy Lake
16 miles Total
Saturday – 7 miles in and creek side camp
Sunday Morning – A soggy mile out and back to Kennedy Lake
Sunday Afternoon – 7 miles out
The Emigrant Wilderness’s namesake stems from several groups of Emigrants (folks leaving one area to reside in another) that passed through this wilderness but eventually its use as a route was abandoned as the pass was too difficult and there were safer options. As we hike through fall fields walled in by sweeping granite mountainsides and side step small creeks meandering through the vibrant autumnal yellows, we can reflect on the people that made those difficult and dangerous treks through unknown lands and what that must have felt like.
The idea of leaving one’s home for another strange distant land, whether in search of wealth, opportunity, or community is baffling yet was and is commonplace. The essence of the unknown is a terrifying and at the same time enticing or exciting enterprise and so the mix of emotions that these people would have felt is mind boggling, and yet they did it; scared, unsure, nervous, and excited, they made it work and took that leap to the unknown. Their influence still holds true as there are numbers of us daily (young, motivated, inexperienced, and scared) making the decision to take the leap and see it through.
Climbing up the 10,856′ Mt. Hoffman, it’s hard not to reflect on those who made it possible for us to enjoy it now. John Muir first ascended Hoffman on July 26, 1869 nearly 150 years before us; it’s incredible to think that after the century and then some that has gone by, that what we experience can still be so similar when everything else in the world is so drastically different.
In May of 1903, John Muir and then President, Theodore Roosevelt met in the Yosemite; they rode, hiked, ate, slept, appreciated, and pontificated under the magnificent blanket of the unimpeded starry Sierra night sky. It’s common to say that Muir gave Roosevelt a mission on this visit, a mission with which our President was familiar, but a mission at that; one of conservation.
On his journey back to Washington, President Roosevelt made a speech in Sacramento, he ended with this, “We are not building this country for a day. It is to last through the ages.”
Sunday – 2 miles to Lower Canyon Lake for a dip and 8 miles out
There is just something about waking up a bit earlier to catch the stillness of the early morning light creeping through peaks and trees to illuminate the vibrant green and powder white of alpine terrain. Sitting on a rock, a stump, a blanket; stretching your arms and yawning, taking in your first cup of coffee. It’s as if the world isn’t spinning, eternity has stopped, and its just you and everything else; stone in a brisk mountain breeze, waiting for the sun’s tendrils to brush your skin.
“I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found.”
– John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938)