Sunday October 4, 14.1mi/22.7km
Rock Creek Camp (760.6/9537ft) to Cottonwood Pass (750.3/11,132ft) + 3.8mi side trail to trailhead (CA)
It was another cold night, though I think the loss of insulation in my sleeping bag (and my body) is also affecting my perception of the temperature. We packed up quickly, and had a brisk pace all morning. Our packs were light, and we were motivated by the predicted 4-12 inches (10-30cm) of snow that was predicted! The first 4 miles went by quickly, but by 9am we could see the storm coming towards us.
An hour later, we were enveloped in clouds and blowing snow.
We tried to keep a good pace, but got stuck behind some slow pack mules, and the guy didn’t let us pass for a long time. To make matters worse, the animals were destroying the trail surface, and it was like walking through loose beach sand. Yuck. Finally after 2 miles, he let us pass by, and we were flying through the blizzard!
As we approached the trailhead, we started to see a few other hikers, which was a relief. It can be difficult to hitch a ride from this remote trailhead, and especially so in bad weather.
We arrived to the trailhead parking just before 1pm, and there were very few cars there. So, we were very proactive in getting a ride, and directly asked several people for a hitch. A nice Columbian couple, who had just dropped OFF their son to hike into the storm, agreed to take the three of us down into town. Excellent!
Except, their snow-driving skills were non-existent, and I had the most terrifying ride of my life. A winding mountain road, with no railings and a two thousand foot cliff, is no place to learn those skills. Once we skidded off the road, but thankfully into the uphill side and into a small pullout. I repeatedly offered to drive, but that was probably lost in translation. Eventually, we made it down into Lone Pine. It was fun to watch the storm rage from the warmth of a car interior.
We got a room at the hostel in Lone Pine, took nice warm showers, and got dinner. After looking at the weather, Bonus Miles and Cheshire Cat decided they wanted to have a double-zero (two rest days) to wait for the snow to melt. I was done with my JMT hike, but I decided to stick around for a couple days and spend time with my friends.