Following Jim’s advice we trailered to the North Lake Trailhead, where we met the operators of Bishop Pack Outfitters. This outfitter is a really nice operation that uses mules exclusively. When I first questioned them about trail conditions the reply was they were cancelling the rest of their trips due to unsafe conditions. After we talked a bit and they found out about our experiences they allowed that we could “probably” get to Vermillion Valley Resort, my next resupply, but it was doubtful that I could get past there to Red’s Meadow, our next planned layover.
I made up the packs so that I could head out in the morning, but after thinking about it all night, thinking about how tired I am of being cold, at 10,000 feet and above, it dips into the low 20s and teens at night and doesn’t ever get comfortable during the day, there has been snow on the ground since Olanche Pass, the reported ice conditions on the several passes I would have to cross at over 12,000 feet, the fact that the days have become something to endure rather than enjoy, the nights are a test of fortitude, it is becoming increasingly hard to keep the horses energy and condition levels up to a standard that I am willing to accept, it became clear it is time to pack it up for the year.
The bottom line is the winter of 2017 dumped a lot of snow in the Sierras, Siskiyou and Cascades, snow that didn’t melt until late summer, we just ran out of time. I have ridden 2385 miles in some pretty tough country; the horses have done well, time to quit while we are ahead. We did what we could, but you can’t control the weather.
Driving across Hwy 120 through Yosemite Park was proof enough that we made the right call, the lower level passes there, barely 9000 feet were snow and iced in, I really don’t want to see what it is like at 12,000. Right now we are closing in on Merced, we are at 220 feet elevation, it is 88° – I can breathe, my feet are warm, home is only a couple days away.