Lake Two>Rock Creek Crossing, 12.0 miles
It’s a little chilly overnight, and I do not get a solid night’s sleep. I have my watch alarm set for 6:00 am, but it doesn’t go off, or at least we don’t hear it. The sun rises and begins to warm up the tent, and, after finally falling into a deep sleep, I wake up because it is too hot. I am playing possum in my sleeping bag when I hear a distinct drip! drip! drip! sound inside the tent. We are camped close to water, and, with the warmth of the sun, all of the condensation on the tent fly is beading up, and it is actually raining inside the tent. Uh oh, time to get up!
We look outside and see bright, clear blue skies and rush to get out to take some photographs before the sun rises too high in the sky. We run around like crazy people trying to capture our cool campground in the early morning light. I especially like the rock wall behind us. It has deep geometric-shaped fissures that make it look like it was constructed by the ancient Incas.
We are slow-moving and don’t hit the trail until 9:00. We start off by winding our way up to High Lake, where we meet a group of six hikers from Coastal California (Santa Maria) who are also heading up over New Army Pass today.
From the lake, there are long switchbacks taking us through the stark, barren landscape of strange white rock formations. Occasionally, there is a patch of diminutive bright pink or purple flowers that are so striking against the desolate landscape that they literally stop us in our tracks.
Snow covers the very last switchback at the top of the pass, and we have to do some scrambling over some boulders and through some snow to make it to the top. Team Coastal California is already there, and one of the guys comes to help hoist my pack up the sketchy section from the rock ledge above. I am so thankful.
We have made it to the top of the first of many, many passes to come, and it feels good to have at least one under our belts at the moment. The view from the top is awesome with all of the lakes in Cottonwood Basin laid out before us like jewels on a fancy necklace. There is a fair amount of snow still, and the cool rock formations all around us make for enticing photographic subjects.
We eat our lunch and then head over the pass dropping elevation quickly into the long valley stretched out before us. Usually, I prefer uphills to downhills, but the grade is so gentle that this descent feels good.
We stop by a creek for a rest and to filter some water before continuing on. We hope to make it to the crossing at Rock Creek, but the mileage is a bit longer that we were expecting. By the time we finally find our first flat campsite by a water source, we have already traveled 12 miles.
We set up our tent in an established site near a babbling creek and do all of our camp chores. There is a solo woman named Susan in our camp who is a retired teacher in her early 60s. She is section-hiking the PCT from Cottonwood Pass to Tuolumne Meadows. Before long, two young guys from Alabama arrive in camp. They are friends from Auburn and came in all the way from Cottonwood Lakes today. They are pretty beat and are laying low in camp. They are hiking the JMT, too, so we will most likely cross paths with them again in the future.
After dinner, we chat with Greg from Team Alabama. He is really into photography, too, and will be fun to shoot with if we cross paths again. We watch two deer browsing in the meadow beyond the creek, and Matt notices a doe with two small fawns closer to camp who are so young they are still nursing. As it gets dark, a cold is settling into our valley camp. I predict it is going to be another tough night of sleep for yours truly.