Through the years my overwhelming desire has been to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors as they trekked into the California mountain wilderness. Needless to say, within those decades I’ve met many personalities and each with fascinating stories of their experiences.
During the early fall of 2005 the area around the southern boundary of Edison Lake became the backdrop for a solo adventure. In the past I’ve spent time hiking over the Silver Pass on the John Muir Trail and photographed many of the high-elevation lakes in that region. This time, I would follow the John Muir Trail south from Edison Lake to the Bear Diversion Trail to complete a wilderness lope.
I decided to stop by the restaurant at Mono Hot Springs before starting my adventure. While sitting at my table I was listening to restaurant patrons tell about their own adventures. One story teller caught my attention: Marty and his son had just returned from a five-day hunting trip within the area I planned to hike through.
The topic of his conversation was not hunting, but a crash site of an aircraft. Needless to say, his subject caught my attention. After a lengthy conversation of description and area location, I decided to change my itinerary and maybe locate and photograph this historical site. Marty suggested I begin my trek on the eastern shore of Edison Lake on an old horse trail seldom used by hikers.
I found the trail; the only tracks belonged to deer and bear. I kept looking over my shoulder the first two hours thinking, “Where’s the bear?” I was lucky no unwelcomed guests greeted me. As per Marty’s instructions, after the second main stream I departed from the trail and started searching. My map revealed this search area would be between 8,600 and 9,300 feet.
As I gained elevation each canyon and saddle offered me their personal resistance such as thick foliage, dense tree cover and boulder hopping. Throughout the day I followed game trails which finally led to the summit. At this location was a small half-acre lake, a welcome sight during this dry fall. Sometimes even with a compass and map one can make mistakes. I found myself at a dead end. In front of me was a steep cliff that dropped over 200 feet into a long, deep canyon.
My first day was gradually coming to an end. I set up my tent within 50 feet of that small lake next to flat, elevated rock slabs. This location was ideal for a backing to my campfire. I should have realized what this lake being the only water source in this area would mean: The local traffic kept me awake for most of the night. Along the shore line the morning light revealed the tracks of thirsty marmots, raccoon, bobcat, deer and even a bear with a small cub.
My map revealed a large canyon to the east and a small stream following down the mountain intersecting the upper portion of the horse trail. That location is only a half mile from the John Muir Trail. Now I have an option to complete my original hike or follow this old horse trail back to the trailhead.
I raked the ground at my campsite (no trace) and continued hiking east along this ridge for over one half mile. In front of me extending outward both north and south for over a mile is the canyon I was searching. Now to drop down 125 feet into its depths, locate the stream and follow it to the trail. After almost an hour, to my surprise next to the stream was an old Native American campsite. The setting rocks and stone pieces of the fire pit were still in place. The area was worn over time, but along the outer edge were a couple obsidian chips. This location was only 30 yards from the old horse trail. Maybe now one can identify this trail as an old Native American trail. I decided against hiking the John Muir Trail and maybe I can arrive at the trailhead before dark.
Along the trail I met a friendly gray squirrel. I watched him leap from one tree to another and with each leap the distance between us shortened. Finally only 6 feet separated us. During his movements he was chattering, maybe trying to get my attention. I remembered I had a bag of peanuts in my pack. So I removed my pack and pulled out the peanuts and we shared a snack together.
It was close but I did make the trailhead before dark. This was an interesting trip even though I did not find the aircraft. I previewed an unknown area of our mountain wilderness, discovered an historic Native American campsite and made a friend along the trail. As you can guess, I’ll plan another adventure into this area to locate this forgotten aircraft crash site.