SHR day 1: Onion Valley to Grouse Lake

West from Kearsarge Pass

West from Kearsarge Pass


I woke at 5:30, put most of the edibles in my car in a bear box (for a change — I doubt the bears could smell anything besides my old shoes, but I would be gone for awhile), and hit the Kearsarge Pass trail shortly after 6:00. Roper’s Sierra High Route (not to be confused with the High Sierra Trail) annoyingly starts on the west side and finishes on the east, and eastern Sierra exits and transportation are easier, so a “commute” to Road’s End seemed best, despite incurring a 30+-mile day and 7500 feet of gain with my full pack. My plan was to follow the High Route to either Mammoth or Tuolomne Meadows, perhaps tagging some peaks along the way.

Most of the trail to Road’s End was all to familiar, so I tuned out the world and listened to NPR as I made my way over the pass, down to Vidette Meadow, and along the endless miles of Bubbs Creek. Occasionally, I stopped to eat an apple or sandwich, bulky foods I had to consume the first day, from a bag tied to my pack. The soles of my feet started getting sore, but I ignored them other than stopping to retie my shoes and readjust my socks. The “face flies” — tiny, non-biting insects that swarm around your face — were out in multitudes in the last couple thousand vertical feet.

Dreading the 5,000+ foot climb to Grouse Lake, I spent some time talking to the ranger, then headed up the road to start the slog toward Glacier Pass. The face flies reached higher elevations on this south-facing trail, and between them, the heat, and sore feet, there was much suffering. I nearly went too far, descending into Granite Basin, but stopped at a benchmark to check my map, then side-hilled cross-country to Grouse Lake, reaching my first camp in just under 12 hours. I completed my evening routine — lay out tarp, pad, and bag, cook and consume dinner glop, brush teeth, zip into bag — and was asleep before dark.

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