Day 3: Near Lake of the Lone Indian over Silver Pass to Quail Meadows (10.7 mi.)

July 30: We have a long day today so there’s some attempt to get going a little earlier, but it’s almost 9:10 a.m. before we leave camp.  Breakfast today consists of French toast and bacon.  The honey-cured bacon quickly becomes a group favorite. 

It’s about 4 miles and 1200 feet of net elevation gain to Silver Pass (10,900).  Along the way we skirt Squaw Lake and several small tarns before climbing between Chief and Warrior Lakes. 

Winnett and Morey’s guidebook says that “In early season there may be a sizable snowbank through which you must climb on Silver Pass’s north side.”  Well, here it is, the end of July and the snowbank still exists.  James and Andrew take the opportunity to express their artistic talents by creating a miniature snowman while waiting for us slower hikers to arrive. 

From Silver Pass we have great views of Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak.

Below the pass, but still above the tree line, the trail passes Silver Pass Lake to the east close to a much smaller, unnamed tarn where we stop for lunch.  Several of us take the opportunity to soak our feet.

From here we descend gradually from one bench to the next until we reach and cross Silver Pass Creek (9640).  We follow the creek on a “steep, loose, rocky, exposed descent[1]” as it cascades down the canyon.  We recross Silver Pass Creek and then cross the North Fork of Mono Creek (8940).  Both are listed as being dangerous crossings early in the season, but we have no problems.  About 3 p.m., just before reaching Pocket Meadow, we stop for a rest and foot repair next to the creek.  The sun is still shining, but the clouds are rolling in.

We continue down and recross North Fork Mono Creek at about 4:15 p.m. on a double log “bridge,” the last of the “dangerous early in the season” crossings for the day.  Since none of them were terribly difficult, we are lulled into what turns out to be a false sense of ease. 

Within a few minutes of crossing the creek, it starts to sprinkle—again, and by the time I reach our campsite in Quail Meadow (7750, more than 3000 feet below Silver Pass) about 10 minutes later, it’s raining. 

This has been a long day, and everyone is tired.  The 1200 feet up Silver Pass was relatively easy, while the 3000 feet down was long, tiring and not so easy, what with rocky, uneven trail and non-straightforward stream crossings.

The horses and mules arrive about 20 minutes later—4:45 p.m.  Somehow we manage to get our tents up between showers.

For dinner, we have thick, juicy pork chops, stuffing, apples, and green beans with stewed tomatoes.

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[1] Winnett and Morey (2001), Guide to the John Muir Trail.