Day 2, Sawtooth Pass and Lost Canyon

July 22, 2020

IMG_4478Barbara and I set up camp at the foot of Lost Canyon, among the lodgepoles next to Lost Canyon Creek, where we join the trail north to Big 5 Lakes. We wanted to go farther, but we were exhausted. Last night’s camp turned out to be in a wind tunnel, and the tents were so noisy, flapping in the wind, and close to collapsing all night long. We were on a hard-packed mostly granite area, and had used rocks instead of stakes to put our tents up. It was tough. The wind blew the rocks around, and they weren’t little ones! We both got up (not “”woke up”) at 5:30, and hit the Sawtooth Pass trail by 7ish. It was only 1.2 miles to the top, but it took 1.5 hours to get there. Looking back, I would love to have another chance to find the “right” trail! The way was braided with dozens of different paths, and it was impossible to stay on whatever the best one might have been. Lots of walking through granite sand and gravel on steep slopes, where you take one step forward and slide halfway back. Later in the day, we ran across a fellow who said he has a friend who has hiked over Sawtooth Pass five times, and had never taken the same trail twice.


We set out long before the sun had cleared the ridge, which helped with the climb.


Even when she’s miserable, Barbara finds reason to smile. And why not? Just look around.


Looking out into the San Joaquin Valley at the smog, and smoke from the Coalinga Fire. Glad to be above it all!


The last push for the top of the pass.

It was incredible scenery. Lost Canyon Creek is gorgeous—classic high Sierra scenery. Then we entered a lodgepole pine forest as we got into lower elevations. There are great views across to Mt Whitney, which felt surprisingly nostalgic for me, thinking back on my John Muir Trail trip.

Wildflowers everywhere! And as we rested among the trees, we were visited by a varied thrush. He didn’t sing, but he looked beautiful. And a dipper bounced up and down on the rocks in the creek.

We think we brought too much food AGAIN! Or maybe we just don’t want to carry it. I recovered from altitude sickness, and feel pretty good today, just very weary, but so alive.


Sawtooth Peak, up close and personal.


Looking down towards Columbine Lake from the pass.


Columbine lake, with Mt Whitney in the far distance. It’s that left-leaning bump a little to the left of center. The highest point in the continental USA.

There aren’t many people out here, but everyone on the trail is so nice. B’s phone says we hiked 9.2 miles. Mine says 7.5. Yesterday, hers said 6.5 miles, and mine said 4.9. I choose to believe hers.


Looking down into Lost Canyon. Whitney straight ahead.

dancing trees


Even in death, the trees can’t stop dancing!

I had a bonehead/too-tired accident today, while trying to adjust the contents of my pack while on a slick mirror-smooth granite slab, and my little Soto stove got away from me and rolled into a stream. I had to jump in to rescue it. Now, at dinnertime, it won’t light. Finally got it going, with the help of a Bic lighter and a little patience.


Looking back up toward aptly-named Sawtooth Peak.


Columbine Lake panorama

We had a socially-distanced dinner party with a young woman named Miranda, a location scout for movies in Los Angeles and excellent photographer, exchanging stories about hiking the JMT and sharing tips on trail gear. Miranda is very up on the latest gizmos! We had met yesterday at Monarch Lake (where she was lucky enough to snag a campsite out of the wind).

Now it’s 9:30 pm. I went to bed to read at about 6:45, and fell into a deep sleep. I woke as the sun was hitting the peaks with pink alpenglow. Fell asleep again, and now the stars are snagged in the lodgepole all around the camp. It’s so beautiful. A cool, perfect, quiet night. So much needed after last night’s hell. Even B, who never complains, said “It was terrible!”

7.9 miles. Not much, but plenty for sure.

5 thoughts on “Day 2, Sawtooth Pass and Lost Canyon

  1. Wonderful! Thank you my friend for sharing. You are truly an inspiration. Someday, try a hike in Idaho. I recommend the White Cloud mountains north of Ketchum, Idaho (Sun Valley). It’s beautiful and very few people.


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