'Hell For Sure Pass' and shooting stars

July 2, 2013 

How about another hiking adventure past Courtright Reservoir, over Hell For Sure Pass, down to Goddard Canyon, through the National Forest on the John Muir Trail and finish at Florence Lake?

To start one needs two vehicles, one at the Courtright Reservoir trailhead and one at the Florence Lake parking lot. Drive on Route 168 to Shaver Lake and turn right at the sign to Courtright Reservoir. On the route to the trailhead you'll experience the narrow roads and steep cliffs surrounding the reservoir before arriving at the parking area at 8,170 feet.

This trail is easy to follow as it winds its way through the pine and cedar trees of Long Meadow. The boarding mountains offer a unique back-drop from this trail as it leads through the many canyons.

My first campsite was within 50 yards of a major run-off stream. After walking around this natural flat area I could tell I was not the only person to have graced this location. There is American Indian grinding holes within 50 feet of the stream and mutable sizes of setting rocks placed throughout the area. Further investigation revealed small chips of obsidian scattered over the ground. This area looks as if the American Indians centuries ago found a location to escape the hot temperatures of the valley.

My second campsite was at Fleming Lake at 9,724 feet. This lake has a huge granite back-drop that hides an elevated canyon and a smaller lake with brook trout just waiting to bite my hook. The following morning after looking at my map, I realized if I hike past this smaller (no name) lake this route should be a short cut to Rae Lake at 9,894 feet. This is a beautiful hi-elevation lake with great reflections of the surrounding trees and islands of granite breaking through its surface. Continuing on another 300 feet in elevation to the lower Indian Lake and I was rewarded with each third cast of my real I caught a trout.

I departed from Fleming Lake around 3 p.m.for Disappointment Lake at an elevation of 10,220 feet. Upon arrival I realized there was enough daylight to push to Hell For Sure Lake at 10,730 feet that is located just below the pass. The mountain peaks located on three sides of this lake are a touring 12,034 feet. This evening those mountains turned bright orange from the setting sun reflecting off of the western clouds.

Later that evening setting by the lake admiring the clarity of the night sky, I counted eight shooting stars streaking across the night sky. One star while displaying its brightness disappeared behind the rocks on Hell For Sure Pass. Is that a good omen or what?

The following morning the trail leading over the pass was not easy, but it definitely was not the most difficult as stated by other hikers. The rewards are in the distant views from this location of 11,230 feet. Looking to the north the trail descends 2,000 feet to Goddard Canyon.

I elected not to follow the trail toward Martha Lake but to bush-whack a new path down the mountain. This was a memorable experience using ropes to lower my back in those class three locations. I even forged my way under a waterfall and yes I got wet, but I saved around two hours of hiking time to my next campsite.

I found a great campsite at 8,817 feet next to the runoff stream flowing from Martha Lake. Maybe this evening I'll jump into the pool below the falls and clean up before tomorrow's adventures.

Tomorrow I'll intersect the John Muir Trail and follow the San Joaquin River to the Piute Creek Bridge which is the border of the National Forest. Now I'll continue following the San Joaquin River toward the Muir Trail Ranch, through Blayney Meadow and to Florence Lake. At this point I'll ride the ferry across the lake to the parking area to complete this five day adventure.

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