Our Labor Day adventure unfolded under summery weather that seemed to go on and on. With a solid forecast of stable, sunny weather over the next few days, we headed down to the Taboose Creek trailhead, which starts south of Big Pine, home of a Chevron station that hosts some of the Owens Valley’s best Mexican food.
The trail starts at about 5,000′ and climbs steeply over several miles to the pass at 11,500′. It’s an old Indian trading route to the West Side of the Sierra, used for a long time because it’s a relatively easy way to get up and over the formidable Sierra Crest.
There just aren’t that many east-west routes over this range, and as we climbed steadily toward the pass, it was easy to see why this one was a major way to go.
We used a combination of well-built trails and cross-country navigation to do a counterclockwise route that took us west to Arrow Peak, south toward the Pacific Crest Trail, northeast along the John Muir Trail, and back over Taboose Pass: 41 miles over 3 days.
Our light packs let us travel fast, which was a treat — the good weather meant that we needed minimal clothing, small sleeping bags, and no shelter.
The trails were busy with backpackers, but once off-trail we saw only lots of wildflowers — yes, even in September — and one black bear meandering along a steep hillside.
a cross country coup
Big thanks to some great routefinding by Mike that took us down off Arrow Peak, cross-country along a high alpine valley south toward a creek where we were pretty sure the PCT went.
The crux was reading the topo map and carefully navigating down to the creek, avoiding steep cliffs that would have prevented us reaching the creek (and, hopefully, the trail). Mike was able to ‘thread the needle’ and get us down — granted, on steep slopes with liberal amounts of manzanita, shrub oak and other pricklies — but we made it!
Once on the trail, there were many miles to go back around to the north to rejoin the Taboose Pass trail, but miles on the Pacific Crest and the John Muir go very quickly, since the trails are so well graded for horse-packers.