Bullfrog Lake to Bishop, CA
Mile 788.5 + 13.5 Mile Exit Trail
The night at Bullfrog Lake was chilly and condensation covered all my gear by morning. The snow covered trail benefited from the cold and soon I had donned my spikes for the walk out to town.
It was not long before I encountered another group exiting the PCT over Kearsarge Pass just as I was (I’m fairly sure most all people did). I was gladdened to see it was SilverFox, Nacho, Yeti, Flame, Chris, Sam, Neal, and Sinatra. At one point or another I had met all those folks along the way and so joined their merry band headed toward the Onion Valley Campground. That Sam’s father was meeting him there with a van for the drive to Bishop encouraged me to keep pace.
After clearing more snowbound forest, the trail up Kearsarge improved and offered incredible views of mountains beyond mountains. At the top of the 11,800 foot Pass we got word from a German couple that the road to Onion Valley Campground was closed due to a washout due to high runoff. If true it meant an additional 6 mile road walk beyond the trailhead. Knowing that town lay ahead, the group was not too disheartened with either eventuality.
Soft snow and a bit of glissading followed as we shed altitude quickly. The trail was still buried under snow and proved treacherous through the woods. I took a bad step, post-holed, and pitched forward headfirst into a rocky area shredding my palm.
After some quick first aid, I continued down and as if it was Christmas morning, a bare dirt trail emerged from the snow. Legs swinging free, progress quickened and I passed several half frozen lakes that invited exploration as the day’s heat rose.
June 21, Summer Solstice, also happens to be International Hike Naked Day. While I never actually hiked naked, it was good enough reason for a quick dip. Sinatra, a 21 year old from Portland who reminded me much of my son Connor, joined the core temperature dropping excursion.
It turned out to be a good thing to have done because at the trailhead the road closure was confirmed by a sheriff’s note to evacuate the area. It was about 95 degrees at 10am and we now faced a circuitous road walk 6 miles further down to the valley floor. Nacho, Yeti, SilverFox and I passed the miles telling jokes and stories to alleviate some of discomfort.
Upon arriving at the barricaded closure, my belief in Santa Claus was restored. Sam’s dad was there with a minivan but there was no way it would fit nine hikers and backpacks. Cue Santa’s Helper, the same trail angel from miles ago who had been handing out soda and treats, was there too. Magic!
The group split up and soon reconvened at a Mexican restaurant in Bishop, CA taking down enormous amounts of food and drink. Have you ever seen 5 platters of Mexican food so clean?
I grabbed a room, showered, and did my laundry before wandering over to the local brew pub. Many hikers had gathered to compare trail notes and gather information about the trail ahead. What emerged were scary tales of folks getting partially swept away in the rising creeks. The heat wave in Southern California (it was 105 in Bishop) is expected to continue and I can attest that there remains tons of snow left to melt up there. It left everyone mulling options few if any of which were walking the road closure back up and over Kearsarge to rejoin the PCT there. The creek crossings ahead will have lost all snow bridges and aren’t expected to crest for at least a week or two. “What to do?” says AppleJack.