PCT 2019: Day 140, Dutch Meadow to Cow Creek

Didn't get to sleep that night 'til the morning came around

After another difficult night's sleep on a deflated sleeping pad, I tried again this morning to patch it. Convinced I did a better job this time to find and cover the leak, I rolled it up and put it in my pack.

Can you guess where this story is headed?

DateMonday, September 23, 2019
WeatherPartly cloudy, then clearing in late afternoon; high temperature near 60
Trail ConditionsMostly easy trail except for a few rocky or overgrown sections 
Today's Miles23.8
Trip Miles2104.7

Our campsite wasn't directly at Dutch Meadow. It was about 200 feet off the trail and on a slope about a tenth of a mile above the meadow.

Before Bluejay left this morning, I checked with her to make sure I knew where the water source was. She told me to follow a faint trail down the slope toward the meadow, where I would find a spring.

I was glad I asked her because the spring wasn't easy to find. And I was especially glad she had given me some water last night when I arrived at the campsite. I doubt I would have found the spring if I had to search for it in the dark.

A stream trickling down from the spring was obviously a popular spot for cows and horses. I made sure to get my water as close to the source as possible, and I carefully filtered it.

Once I returned to the trail, I finished the long descent I had started last night in the dark. The trail continued down about 1.5 miles before beginning a climb.

Muah Mountain stood directly ahead. The trail would eventually reach the bottom slope of this 11,016-foot mountain, then turn to go up a different ridge.

Muah Mountain's unusual name probably comes from a Panamint Shoshone word for moon.

The descent and the climb weren't steep. Going up, the trail went more than six miles before finishing a 1,200-foot climb.

Another mountain soon came into view when the trail began its next descent. Olancha Peak stood 12,123 feet above sea level. The origin of this mountain's name is a little more obscure but is probably derived from the names of the Yaudanchi or Yaulanchi tribes of Yokut Indians.

In Yokut lore, these Native Americans are among the original people to settle in California.

The trail would eventually pass along the foot of Olancha Peak, but this morning it was ascending an unnamed peak.

At the top of the climb, the trail zig-zagged between giant boulders and old juniper trees. Some boulders were the size of cars and buses.

Between the granite crags and pinnacles, I could see Owens Valley stretched out far and wide below. It is the deepest valley in the U.S.

The meager remnants of what was once Owens Lake could be seen from here. This was the body of water that was drained and diverted to Los Angeles in the California Water Wars.

Many of the craggy outcrops on this summit looked as if they were stacked bricks. Their rounded edges and cracks showed they had been well-worn by time, weather, and glaciers.

After going up to nearly 10,700 feet, the trail began a gradual descent to a stream. It had a disturbing name, Death Canyon Creek.

I was unable to track down the origin of the canyon's name. It is located due west of Death Valley, but the distance between the two makes that seem like an unlikely source.

On the way down, I found a boulder that was the perfect size to sit on, so I stopped for lunch. The view from my rock looking west included a range of several mountains. Most were between 10,000 and 12,000 feet high.

I also saw a large, grassy meadow. It surrounded the round peak of Templeton Mountain.

Although I couldn't see water from my lunch spot, below the mountain range I saw the upper edge of a canyon. This was where the South Fork of Kern River flowed.

This river is one of two streams that are the native waters of California's state fish. The other stream is aptly named Golden Trout Creek.

The prized fish has been transplanted to other streams and lakes in the Sierra and even as far east as Wind River Range in Wyoming.

Since late yesterday, I had been walking in Golden Trout Wilderness.

When I reached the bottom of the descent, I stopped at Death Canyon Creek to filter some water. The trail then began another climb, which was up the shoulder of Olancha Peak.

On the ascent, I was alarmed to see in the distance what appeared to be smoke. It looked like it was rising from the other side of Kern Peak.

Near the top, the trail left Golden Trout Wilderness and entered South Sierra Wilderness.

The top of the climb was nearly 10,600 feet above sea level. When I arrived there, it was the last time I would be above 10,000 feet for the remainder of my PCT hike.

Within an hour of when I first saw what appeared to be smoke, the sky was clearing. There were fewer clouds, and I didn't see anything that looked like smoke.

Apparently, what I had seen were small cloud downdrafts.

Right now was prime forest fire season, so I was grateful to know I was wrong about what I thought I saw.

The last descent of the day first followed Brush Meadow down the mountain, then another called Bear Trap Meadow.

On the way down, Yayy and Jaws caught up to me. They told me they intended to stop at the same spot Bluejay and I planned to camp.

Near the end of the descent, the trail went through some overgrown bushes that scratched my legs.

When I arrived at our campsite at 6:30 p.m., Bluejay was already set up. Yayy and Jaws were just finishing setting up their tent. There weren't many flat spots to pitch a tent here, but I found a suitable space for mine as well.

When I crawled into my tent after dinner, I felt confident my patched sleeping pad would hold air tonight.

It was nearly flat by 11 p.m.

I lit out from Reno, I was trailed by twenty hounds
Didn't get to sleep that night 'til the morning came around

Set out running but I take my time
A friend of the devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight I just might get some sleep
Tonight

From “Friend of the Devil” by Robert Hunter, Jerry Garcia, and John Dawson (Grateful Dead)

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