Onion Valley to Charlotte Lake, 8.4 miles
Breakfast is at 7, and we are served fresh scrambled eggs, English muffins, coffee and tea—a welcome change from trail breakfast, which tends to be our least favorite meal in the backcountry. By 8 we are loading our packs into Strider’s SUV and heading back up the road to the Onion Valley trailhead, where we will retrace our steps up to Kearsarge Pass.
We’d definitely be lying if we said it wasn’t a bit difficult to set out again. Our stay at the Mt. Williamson Motel was the perfect getaway, and it was fun to hang out with Strider and the other hikers for an evening. But the real issue is that we are loaded up with seven days of food again. Our packs are as heavy as they have ever been, and we are facing a 2700’ climb. We snap some photos, bid farewell to Strider and the other friendly folks we met at the motel, and then start up the trail.
It’s not long before we run into Susan who we met on Day 2. She is back on the trail after being resupplied by her husband at the Onion Valley campground. We trade stories of what has happened since we last saw each other. It has been a while since our last encounter on Day 4 on the way down from summiting Mt. Whitney. We also discuss our plans for the next few days, and it appears that we will likely cross paths again.
Next up, we run into Team Alabama, who we also saw last on the way down from Mt. Whitney. We are relieved to see them both, especially Greg who was suffering so badly from a combination of asthma and altitude sickness when we saw him last on the Mt. Whitney trail. We feared that they had been forced to leave the JMT, but it appears that this is not the case. Greg said a zero day at Crabtree Meadows and a course of Prednisone was getting him back on track, and now they are headed out to Independence to resupply. These two are fast hikers, and they will surely catch up to us again as well.
The rest of the hike was pretty uneventful. Kearsarge Pass was much less windy today, so it was nice to explore the pass a bit more without fear of being blown off of it.
To shake things up a bit, we decide to take the high trail back to the JMT, which runs almost parallel to the low trail we took yesterday. The views of Bullfrog Lake and the surrounding mountains are even more impressive from this perspective.
When we reconnect with the JMT, we turn off and take a spur trail to Charlotte Lake where we will set up camp for the night.
We arrive at Charlotte at 4 pm, our earliest day yet. It is nice to spend a few hours relaxing a bit, and we get all of our camp chores done well before dark, which is a rarity for us. Charlotte Lake is pleasant and set down in a bowl of surrounding mountains. There are a lot of campsites strung along the shore, but very few people seem to be camping here tonight.
It’s sunny and warm so we take our time filtering water and find a pleasant place to journal near the peaceful lake. We talk to one couple camped near us who are planning to climb nearby Charlotte Dome in the morning. They are from Mammoth and get to spend a lot of their weekends doing adventurous outings in the High Sierra. Lucky them!
We are both exhausted from our long day of hiking with heavy packs and are looking forward to a good night’s sleep.