Day 2 Virginia Canyon and Matterhorn Canyon



Brrr! At 6:00 AM, Cold Canyon lives up to its name.

IMG_4892IMG_4895A grueling day! I had a bad night of very little sleep, though I was rewarded by the sight of a long, bright meteorite streaking across the velvety black moon-free sky during one of my awake and out-of-the-tent moments. I couldn’t get comfortable, and it was cold (unless I hunkered down in the bag). We camped in Cold Canyon, just past Cold Mountain, and it is aptly named. I got up at 6:00 AM to the meadow covered in frost and a low white mist just below us. Then, when the sun finally hit, the ground sparkled like diamond dust. It was very dewy last night, and we had to wait for the tents to dry before we could pack up.


Here comes the sun!

Today was mostly unrelentingly uphill, except for the steep, unrelenting downhill into Virginia and Matterhorn Canyons. We went up to lodgepole and down to to red fir and back up to lodgepole and then to red fir numerous times.


Looking down into Virginia Canyon. Somewhere down there is our water source, after 7 miles of dryness (if you don’t count rain and frost).


We were greeted by a dipper running through the granite puddles when we got to Return Creek, at the bottom of Virginia Canyon.


Fantastic fungi!

When we finally got to Miller Lake, a brief swim saved me. I had really been hitting rock bottom energy-wise, and B had given me a couple of magnesium capsules, which were supposed to help with oxygen absorption in the blood but instead mostly messed with my intestines. Ugh! Meanwhile, Barbara was just chugging along nice and steady, and I was thinking to myself, “So this is what 70 feels like. I don’t like it,” but throughout it all, the landscape was spectacular. I didn’t take many photos, as I was too busy just keeping going. I took to referring to B in my mind as “The Kid.”


The Kid


Peek-a-boo views of distant ridges.


The graceful mountain hemlocks were everywhere.

We met one lone young man, hiking from Sonora Pass to Mt Whitney, who told us about the incredible thunderstorm he had been in the night before. It sounded like B’s and my night below Elizabeth Pass. Scary! Briefly met another couple who were on their 320th trail mile. They had that look of wild ecstasy in their eyes. And when we got to Matterhorn Canyon, we met a young woman standing alone in the meadow waving her wet socks around her head. She was hiking with someone else, who we didn’t see. And that was it for the day. This is the Pacific Crest Trail, and I had expected it to be much busier. Thankful that it wasn’t.


Miller Lake showed up just in time. I thought we’d never get there. A brief dip in the cold water brought me back to myself. It would have been longer but for the unrelenting wind. Cold! Clark’s Nutcrackers made a racket from the far side of the lake.

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The trail leads on, with a sharp right turn away from Miller Lake to the lip of Matterhorn Canyon.

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The Sawtooth Range, and Matterhorn Peak! Now it’s down, down, down to the canyon floor.



The very steep switchback trail down to Matterhorn Canyon didn’t allow for any panoramic views, but the lighting among the trees was soft and golden.

Now, at the mouth of Matterhorn Canyon, we have a lovely campsite, with a beautiful stream nearby and lots of very unafraid large deer. They know that they are living in Paradise. We rinsed out our clothes and set up camp. Barbara walked over to an area she didn’t think she had been in before, and found one if the Wright socks that she had recently bought two pair of.. She said, “Oh, I must have dropped my other!”, and searched unsuccessfully all over the camp area, until she finally realized that all her socks were, in fact, accounted for. She was wearing one pair, and had the other in among her washing. She just happened to find a stray sock, same color, size and make, that someone else had lost! We now use it for our potholder. If you lost a sock in Matterhorn Canyon, I have it. Drop me a line.


Matterhorn Canyon, our own private Yosemite Valley.


Our granite bathtubs at camp. Cold water!


A camp visitor. We have to make sure that any sweaty clothing is not available for the salt-loving critters to munch on.


We didn’t have any fires, but used the former fire ring as our kitchen.

I have been struggling all trip so far with my drinking apparati. Since I lost the water bottle clip (I think it got accidentally “recycled” at home), I have been trying to figure out how to either attach my bottle somewhere that I can reach it more easily than the side pocket of my pack, or rig up a bladder-type apparatus to my pack, which isn’t made for such a thing (a disadvantage to the stripped-down very light pack I have). Today, I decided that my Macgyvered “fix” is much more trouble than it’s worth. Plus, I miss being able to gulp water straight from the bottle. Now, though, my water bottle has a hole drilled into the middle of the cap, so I need to be very careful when I set it down, that it doesn’t spill. And in dry places, ants seem to like to crawl inside.

It was a hard, hard day. Tomorrow will be equally difficult, if not harder. I’m going to sleep early, probably by 8:00 PM.

13.3 miles. Good night.

One thought on “Day 2 Virginia Canyon and Matterhorn Canyon

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