We drove a highly inefficient and circuitous route to get to Bridgeport, California (Pop. ~300) so it took us about 14+ hours to get there. We drove past Mono Lake, one of the oldest lakes in North America, just as a crimson moon rose over the horizon. The silhouetted tufas were tremendous and a very unexpected surprise!
We set up camp quite late at night just outside of Travertine Hot Springs expecting to take a dip in the morning. We woke up around 6AM and I immediately started having severe bowel issues. I sat on a rock while everyone took down their gear, barely managing to pack up my tent at the last minute. Thankfully one of the two gas stations in town was open and I immediately proceeded to the bathroom. After about 20 minutes I finally departed the rest room, feeling better but perhaps not ready to hike several miles. Justin started walking toward the bathroom after a few seconds of concerned staring at me and just before he got there I ran past him and proceeded to vomit for another 15 minutes. Even the woman behind the counter was worried, there was a pretty long line of people waiting to relieve themselves, and my group had long ago looked at every detail on every postcard. The grocery store opened, we purchased several types of medication all of which did absolutely nothing to help, and I laid in the back of my Subaru while Justin, Scott, and Kirkley entertained themselves in Bridgeport at 8AM.
We finally decided to drive to the trailhead—apparently I thought I was feeling better. The trailhead is nestled in an astounding valley at the edge of Twin Lakes. “Mono Village Resort” is co-located; you have to walk through a half mile of RVs to get to the actual trail. The Twin Lakes are wildly stocked and the parking area for the car was surrounded by retired RVers, their boats, and their fishing banter. It was around this time that Scott starting feeling really ill although his issue was mainly tonsil-related while mine was bowel intensive. Since half the crew was feeling great we devised several possible plans for a future rendezvous, settled on one single plan, wrote none of it down, and the healthy half departed while Scott and I writhed in misery and made several trips to the bathroom a few hundred yards away. This, by the way, required walking right by the main hub of activity: The tackle shop. All I remember from that period, literally, is lying in the back of the car while staring at the most epic mountains ever, fading in and out of consciousness, hearing boats start up and cars idling, and listening to the most inane conversations imaginable. No one in that state of physical impairment should have to tolerate waxing and waning from delirious consciousness while two 65-year-old couples from the Midwest talk about Brown Trout, Fleetwood RVs, and a seemingly endless dialogue about how cute their matching yappy Shitsus are (all while the yappy dogs yap and yap and yap).
As evening started to set in we realized that there was no hope for us to make it out of the parking lot with packs on. I know that I was in amazingly bad shape, completely nonfunctional to the point that simply sitting up was a feat (let alone standing). We also realized that parking there for the night was a really bad option. Since I only had about $200 to my name and Scott even less, the idea of a hotel was slightly infeasible. Actually, it was more an issue of driving there than the cost. We were in absolutely no condition to drive the 12 miles back to Bridgeport. Alas, I somehow succeeded in doing so, although it was not safe by virtue of the fact that the next day we didn’t really remember doing it. We booked a $70 room with one king bed. We turned up the heat full blast and—there is no way for this to sound respectable—we ended up laying naked in that single king bed with just a sheet over us while watching the freakin’ hunting channel and drinking massive amounts of Powerade (couldn’t keep food down). Wow, that sounds completely disturbed. But it made perfectly logical sense at the time, trust me.
The next morning we both felt better (i.e., I could stand up without puking), and after some breakfast headed back to Twin Lakes. We loaded up and hit the trail in the early afternoon. We were only running at about a third of our normal capacity at this point but we didn’t realize it because we were so laid out the night before. The hike up the Robinson Creek Trail starts at 7100 feet, something we were not used to and certainly not after a night of severe fever. The plan (which plan?) as we remembered it–note: “remembered” is a loose term here as neither of us could maintain consciousness for longer than a few minutes–was to meet at Crown Lake, a mere 6.5 miles and 2400 feet of elevation away (ending at 9,500 ft.). By the time we hit Barney Lake (3.65 miles, 1000 feet of gain) the view was epic and although we were absolutely exhausted our spirits were high—after all, we were half way there! Unfortunately the most ridiculous series of switchbacks I’ve ever seen to this day anxiously awaited our arrival and it completely destroyed us. By the time we made it to Crown Lake the sun was quickly setting on the granite peaks towering overhead and we were literally crippled under the weight of our packs. Justin and Kirkley were nowhere to be seen; a group at the lake said they saw them pack up and carry onward earlier in the day. “Onward” here entailed another two miles and 600 feet of elevation, placing us at 10,100 ft. But we weren’t sure now, maybe they pushed over the pass and down into Kerrick Canyon many miles away? We would have stopped at Crown Lake if not for the fact that Justin and Kirkley took all the gear—water filter, stove, etc. We HAD to find them.
To summarize the situation: It was quickly getting dark and very cold, we had hiked over 6 miles to end at 9,500 feet elevation, and the day before at this time we were completely delirious with extremely high fever, nausea, and bowel discharge from all orifices. Now we had another two miles and 600 feet of elevation to climb in the dark because we were long-ago out of water and only a single PowerBar remained to eat. Thus, we spent the entire hike up to the aptly named Snow Lake cursing Justin and Kirkley for breaking from the plan (which plan?). I have never—NEVER—been so delirious in all my life. Scott and I were mumbling to ourselves incessantly (none if it made sense), we were literally stumbling down the trail while wheezing incessantly…I think we were basically crying with exhaustion and pain but we were too dehydrated to produce tears.
Scott’s main motivation up the switchbacks to the lake was literally to kill Justin and Kirkley. If I had the energy for it I might have been game. By the time we crested the last small hill it was far too dark to see without a head lamp and Scott had worked himself into a frightening fury with an entire grandiose vision of how he was going to kill the two of them—literally. Thus when we saw headlamps across the lake Scott instantly starting screaming bloody murder, things not repeatable here, even though we really didn’t have any idea who it was. Justin came over to meet us and the two about had a fist fight right on the trail. I kept walking, motivated purely by thirst. After some healing time we ate dinner, Justin set up our tent for us, and we passed out. It was the worst night of sleep in my life. I was phenomenally thirsty, freezing cold, and really needed to pee. I was literally too exhausted to do anything and laid there in utter misery for hours. The sun couldn’t have risen fast enough that day!
This is where the photos pick up the story, after a morning that consisted of a fifteen minute pee, 2 gallons of water, a steaming hot breakfast…and the discovery that Scott had pissed in Mae’s prized water bottle in a sleep-deprived, exhausted delirium at some point during the night (thank god I didn’t stumble upon it in my thirsty state).
Tagged: , Twin Lakes , Hoover Wilderness , Snow Lake , Rock Island Pass , Robinson Creek Trail