30 June 2016

Cone Peaks: Templeton Mountain

Inyo National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4

(Day 3 of 4) Templeton, the original impetus for this trip plan, sits serenely across a short meadow and a random little hill. Should I get to a "better" position to start up it, or just clamber right up it and that little hill for good measure? Packed up, I go searching for that elusive trail, but there really is no certain sign of it. There is a funny looking post on the far side of the meadow that looks to have trail beside it. Maybe. And maybe that is a line there. As I hit the creek, there are a couple rocks set out to help hop it without getting my feet too wet, although the meadow plants are doing a good job of wetting my shoes already. The post turns out to be another location poster with an unfamiliar format, but this one is only about 7 years old. It is at the edge of dry land and points to something right by the creek only 51.6 meters away. I look, but nothing is obvious.

location poster
Location poster at the edge of the meadow at the foot of Templeton Mountain. You watch, I will regret not actually going and looking for this one.

It seems like a bad place to put something and the grass is wet. Still, so close. Keeping to the dry wins. However, it does not appear that there is any more trail here either. Clamber wins too. Up the hill, up the mountain. It is a rocky expanse dotted with trees and very little short stuff to hinder any route. Some of the rocks are quite interesting.

bubble filled layers
Bubble filled layers in the metamorphic rocks.

Templeton Mountain
Templeton Mountain, the goal for today, is just over the little hill.

back to the meadows
It seems I camped on the edge of a little hill with plenty of rocks at the top even if none were visible next to the tree edge.

Strawberry Meadows
Strawberry Meadows below and the changing face of Olancha Peak behind them.

The trees seem to get bigger as I climb. Certainly not taller, but much more shout. Once the slope gets itself set to steep, it just stays there. When looking at the map, I had always taken this as a cinder cone with such perfect sides, but the rocks at my feet are definitely not cinders.

the slope
Going up.

scarlet buggler
Scarlet bugler must have quite a large range.

The slope starts to get lumpy as it levels off again. There is an area that seems like it could be a peak, but looking more carefully, there is still some very slight uphill. Following up, the view vanishes into the trees that decorate the top of Templeton Mountain. I keep going up until there is an old stick stuck upright with a load of rocks. Past it, things seem to go downhill again. I peer into the rocks to see if there is something more. Unexpectedly, there is a peak register tucked away in the rocks. It goes back to 1984 but is a quick read. There are a few repeated names. One fellow likes to come by with his dog every few years. Another came up for some signal while building one of the fish barriers and then popped up a couple more times during the week the work required. I guess the fact that Bob Burd could not be bothered to get up to this one until last September is a testament to how unspectacular the peak is expected to be. His is the most recent dated entry, but there is another filling the next page.

one old stick
Maybe this is the benchmark left by some pre-1905 surveyor or perhaps it is just a stick some forgotten climber stuck where it felt like the top.

It is not quite so dreary up here as expected from seeing all the trees below. There are plenty of openings. After adding my own scribble, I continue north and a little bit east as I was going before to a nice outcrop that looks out northwest. It is a good place for some snacking. I would pull out the watercolors, but again I was a little skimpy about how much water to bring up and am a little worried about it now.

Mount Whitney
Toothy Mount Whitney rises over the huge shoulder of Mount Langley. The tall one is next peak with a big slope to the west, not the pinnacle.

Templeton Meadows
Templeton Meadows below.

I want to head down the west side of the mountain to get to Templeton Cow Camp and then over the pass. This may be the driest area of the meadows and I do not expect water at the cow camp or above it, so I want to try to hit Movie Stringer a little north of it on the way to refinding trail. That should be easy enough to do. Just head toward Kern Peak.

Kern Peak
Kern Peak is easy to spot almost directly west and poking up past the tree line.

Ramshaw Meadows
More openings in the thin trees lead to nice views like this out to Ramshaw Meadows.

The meadows below really do look dry, even next to the lines that should be streams. I do not see anything specifically attractive down there as I navigate the rocks on the steep slope. I get to wondering why there are apparently no springs on this little mountain when I noticed that that is not true at all. There is a sudden burst of green to my left although above it is as dry and barren as the rest of the mountain. If I could get water from that, I would not need to go the extra little bit to find the stringer.

line of green in the woods
A sudden change of plants from sparse and grey to close and green looks like the sign of a spring.

I go over to investigate and there definitely is a spring. Water wells up out of the ground in at least four spots with the closest one creating a slow, but steady stream. There are small, shallow pools up by the top. However, having only big, soft sided plastic bottles to do my water collection makes getting water from here very difficult. I should put some thought into changing the system a little in the future. I play a little with what I have to try to get something to fill without too much dirt in it, but it is all a diversion and not useful. And so I continue down. My path takes me right past an old toilet from a camp that might have utilized the spring above. There are also a few old cans on my way to the edge of the meadow.

northern peaks
It is a much different viewpoint from down here on the meadow.

Out across the meadow, there is something that looks like it might be a failing cabin wall. It is a little north of Kern Peak, so situated about where I want to go. I decide to go for it since walking toward something specific will keep me in a straight light as I cross the expanse of meadow hoping to cross something with water. And so I leave the nearby trees with their offering of shade to cross under the unrelenting sun. It has gotten warm. The first rocky line of creek is a little muddy like there might be some underground flow. That is even less than the spring. By the next channel, things are worse. It is bone dry. So is a third. The cabin, however, does seem to be that, once, and it has a nice tree offering some shade just behind it. As I reach the tree, a cloud finally offers its shade, too, and the cabin is starting to look a little funny.

cabin ruins
Log cabin ruins in Templeton Meadows.

The failing log cabin appears to actually be two. The one on the left has four sides, but the one on the right seems to only have something more like two and a half. There is no indication of roofing material anywhere. Where the floors should be is just lumpy and rocky. Surely, even for unfinished floors, someone would take the time to remove the rocks and flatten it? In the process of living there, they would stomp upon that ground over and over and over until it was well compacted and little could grow. The plants here do not even seem a bit stunted in the floor area. My shade tree is actually inside the cabin if the rectangle is completed based on the visible walls. All this is not quite so important as the water that I still have not found. Looking around again, there does seem to be the slightest depression just past the cabin. It looks no more promising than the others did, but I have a look. Water! The Movie Stringer comes through for me again. With the simple things fulfilled, I can go back to pondering the old backdrop and maybe even pull out the watercolors.

Movie Stringer
I may not be in quite so dire straits as when coming down off Kern Peak, but the Movie Stringer full of water is just as beautiful a thing to see.

paintbrush and dandelion and sage
I can also stop to smell the flowers like this paintbrush and sage.

I did cross something that looked like it could be the trail on the way in, but it does not pan out when I try to follow it down to the cow camp. I meander southward and into the trees of the low rise separating Movie Stringer from Strawberry Creek. The rocks look particularly familiar, but this time I do not seem to run into a bit of trail. Maybe I should have turned and gone the way I think I did before. Eventually there is a fence line and a trail next to it to follow up to the cow camp.

A lovely two colored delphinium.

sign beside the cow camp
I have explored Templeton Cow Camp before and it looks just as dry now as then. Like Brown Cow Camp, this one is a remote outpost for rangers and once had a telephone.

It is still a long way to my planned camp. First, it is uphill two miles to a pass that is, ironically considering the peak bagging, the highest point of this trip. The creek above the camp looks plenty dry even when there is no longer a meadow to soak into. I wonder what that camp did for water. Around me, it is clouding up and there is even some thunder, but where I am continues to be sunny and dry. I seem to be moving slowly up this hill, but then there appears to be a top. The joy of reaching the top is followed by annoyance as the trail turns and starts up one of the ridges. That was not the top at all. It was the last chance to look out to any sort of view to the east, though. There is a pair of hikers heading for the cow camp, so I want them there may not be any water and tell them where it is reliable. I saw some people in cars in the distance in Monache, but these are the first I have actually met on the trip.

almost a view
Last chance at some sort of a view easterly as the trail meets up with the old blazes once again and appears to hit a saddle. All around is stormy while the sun still shines warmly on me.

Finally, the top does really come. Now it is time for seven miles of downhill to get to the lowest point of the trip. It is a bit later than I would hope to start that, but I dallied too long at places in the morning. Still, there is just enough time before sunset to finish this day's hike.

Indian Head near Redrock Meadows
Just over the top and trying to look into the distance in the still heavy air. Indian Head is easy to spot high above Redrocks Meadows.

I start down. The land is much steeper on this side of the pass. It is also much wetter, and it is not long before there is a stream of water running near the trail although it is not altogether accessible. Lower down near a stream crossing, there are patches of green through the trees as meadows start to show up. The meadows mark a more gentle downhill. The meadows last a while before a turn brings me to another ruined cabin and a trail junction.

Redrocks Meadows
Looking down on a larger meadow.

falling cabin
Another ruin of a log cabin beside the junction.

That was quite enough downhill, but it is not even halfway. I follow the sign for "Kern River" to get to a second junction, then follow it again. The trail is climbing now and it feels nice although I know I just have to lose more altitude. As it passes through meadows, the foot bed is lined with sticks to help make it clear. It gets almost to the foot of the big red rock that seems to be Indian Head before finally turning downward. There is a thick use trail heading out to the rock. I could have one more peak so easily. The rocks look very vertical from here and the time is very close, so I leave it and start down.

Indian Head
Indian Head. One more peak is just there through the trees and a short way straight up.

Ahead, I can see what I am most wary of. There is burn area ahead. Starting my descent, I can hear a low thumping out there somewhere. Is someone down there with a big drum? No, it must be grouse. It does seem a little late in the season for that. The calls continue as I make my way down into the canyon. Things get greener as I go. A flutter of wings to one side struggles to a nearby branch and lands to settle into the shape of a grouse chick just old enough to take a short hop. An older one scrambles away near the ground. There are definitely grouse around here.

canyon ahead
A long way still to go down and burn area ahead.

Indian Head
Another look at Indian Head. It is hard to find a vantage point for this that is not blocked in some way.

It is a pretty little canyon and it is nice to see water flowing. And then there is the burn.

Redrock Creek
Redrock Creek in the evening.

into the burn
Heading into the burn.

My feet are hurting as I enter the burn, but I cannot stop. There are hazard trees everywhere. Most higher up have broken off in the 14 years since the fire, but many lower ones are still standing their full height and far too many still have plenty of height standing to call them safe. I cannot even slow down since I would really like to get down to camp by sunset and that is just about all the time I have. The burn may be hard to look at, but there are still some delights along the way.

tiger lilies
Almost a Humboldt lily, but a bit smaller and the leaves form a different pattern.

Some 30 or 40 feet of waterfall among the standing matchsticks.

My feet really hurt after all that downhill as I finally arrive at my destination. Jordan Hot Spring, and it looks like there is no one else here. I make my way around to the old camp buildings, and there still seems to be no one. Yes! I pick a spot and get some supper and even have a nice seat while eating it, then head down to the hot spring. Nothing more to do except soak in the waters under a night bright with stars and no moon in sight until the dawn light is chasing away the stars anyway. Heading down, there is a group setting up tents in the meadow. Ah well, cannot have everything. There is no one in the tub and the milky way is bright. The water is a bit too hot for a long soak since the creek is quite low and there is very little cold water coming in tonight. I feel a bit lighter after as I climb the hill back to camp after the soak.

Continue reading: day 4

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 5 July 2016

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