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KNAPSACKING IN THE KINGS-SAN JOAQUIN
By A. L. JORDAN
N THE 12th of June, 1917, we left Cascada, the terminus
of the San Joaquin and Eastern Railway, with knapsacks and outfits weighing between fifty-five and sixty pounds apiece. My companion was Mr. H. H. Bliss of the University of California. We traveled via Huntington Lake and Badger Flat to Kaiser Pass, where we had a fine view across the South Fork of the San Joaquin of Saddle Peak, Red and White Mountain, Mount Abbott, Mount Gabb and others. The South Fork seemed larger than the Merced at Yosemite. We had a bath in the hot sulphur spring, then crossed the suspension bridge and went onward.
Leaving the trail, we explored a peculiar rock mesa which we had seen from the pass. It was of volcanic nature and had vertical cliffs, accessible in only one or two places. We called it "Jericho Mesa." We next came to Mono Meadow and then to Vermilion Valley, where we passed through some aspen thickets and noted many evidences of avalanches. On leaving Mono Creek we entered a country with no trails, and going on into the Second Recess, climbed the steep right bank of Mills Creek at about nine thousand feet.
Here we discarded our moccasins, put on caulked shoes and began "hitting the snow.” On the way to the pass a large coyote was seen, and the tracks of many others were noticed in the snow. We called it "Coyote Pass" (12,200 feet). Leaving our packs here, we started for Mount Gabb, and finding only a few steep places, reached the summit about two o'clock. The reward was one of the finest views I have ever seen- a great vista of gigantic peaks, rock-masses and snow. Finding no evidence that the peak had been climbed before, we made out a statement, placed it in a “dehydro” can and left it in a cairn on the summit. The elevation marked on the map is 13,700 feet.
We made a speedy descent, resumed our packs and started
on. The great shadow of the mountain warned us that we had but three hours of daylight in which to get down to timber line. The packs were heavy and we were tired and the shore line of Lake Italy is a long one. As one weary pilgrim put it, “That lake is strung out like a piece of macaroni!” So it seemed quite a time before camp was made, at 10,800 feet, in the Hilgard branch of Bear Creek. The nearby peaks were bathed in the beautiful pink of the alpenglow.
Next day we went on down Bear Creek, crossed the branch on a rough log bridge about a quarter of a mile above the junction, and continued on up the right bank of the East Fork. Here we had to make our first ford. The water was not up to our waists, but there were ice-floes near and H. H. did not like the temperature. A little farther on we left our packs again and climbed Seven Gables (13,066 feet). There were a few cliffs and one chimney with slide-rock, but most of the climb was plain snow-plugging. So far as we know, the peak had been climbed only by Messrs. Le Conte, Cory and Hutchinson before us. The next day we went on to a gap ahead which we christened “Hardscrabble Pass” (about 12,200 feet), then made quick time over the snow down to Piute Creek in French Cañon. We made camp here, though we walked farther down to the junction with the San Joaquin and saw the fine new bridge across the creek.
On our way up the stream the following day we saw a big porcupine, and had great fun trying to get him to pose for a photograph. Passing on up Piute Creek, we got a fine view of Mount Humphreys (to the north) and at last reached Piute Pass. We noticed that some timber extended clear to the top (11,400 feet). Plunging down through the soft snow, we followed the North Fork of Bishop Creek to a wooded region called Bishop Park. Farther on we came to the intake for one of a series of hydro-electric stations and spent some time examining the gate mechanism. We were then being scrutinized by the watchman, not only because of our unshaven and vagabondish appearance, but for a reason which will appear later.
Following the pipe line, we soon reached Andrews' Camp, where we were welcomed by the proprietor. We had been thirteen days from Cascada and our packs weighed about thirty-seven pounds each.
After resting and loading up with groceries we were ready to depart. Mr. Andrews called us aside and told us that the telephone wires were hot with instructions for the men at the next dam to be on the lookout for "two fellers with packs who acted suspicious and might be German dynamiters!” We thanked him and started. Our packs now weighed sixty-eight pounds apiece, so we found that one mile was far enough for that evening. We went on up Bishop Creek, past South Lake, and at the end of the day came to the most beautiful campsite of the trip on the shore of Long Lake. The lake is set like the jewel of the poet, between great colored mountains. Our camp was in a little clump of limber pine and tamrac. The elevation is 10,800 feet. We were awakened by our familiar friend the Gambel sparrow, who sings just before dawn, and we rose while the stars were still visible. The lake was frozen nearly over.
On our way up toward the pass we met two young men from Bishop, with five burros, who were returning after their second attempt to get their animals over. After a long hard climb we reached Bishop Pass and crossed into Fresno County again. Our course was now over great snow-fields into the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Kings. It was after midday and the snow was soft. My companion was ahead breaking trail when he went through the crust and wrenched his ankle. Luckily we had reached timber line, and we soon found a good camping-place on the Dusy branch, where we stayed for two days. I explored a little, finding one easy pass (for knapsackers) over into the Palisade Basin. We finally got off again, myself with the larger load, down, down, into the cañon of the Middle Fork. The injured ankle improved rapidly and we made the junction of the Dusy branch and the river. We here struck a recently completed portion of the
. John Muir Trail, so travel was easy. After awhile the trail stopped. The workmen had blasted a way half the distance up a water-worn cliff and then quit for the season. By using the rope we worked our way up a cleft in the rock. Toiling upward slowly, we camped on the edge of a lakelet, about a mile