BoSEHS - Kearsarge Pass (Day One)

Mark Walker MWalker at
Wed Aug 18 01:53:06 EDT 1999

Butterflies of the South Eastern High Sierra:
(a field report from the uppermost wilderness which follows a 9-day trek
shared by my son and I and BSA Troop 661 of Mission Viejo, CA)

Day One - The Trek over Kearsarge Pass (8/6/99)

The Onion Valley trailhead starts at 9200', and progresses quickly to above
11,000'.  The mixed pine woodland and chaparral terrain is quickly replaced
by rocky moonscape.  The mostly sunny sky quickly gives way to clouds and
... snow?  Gentle snowflakes begin to fall as we approach the last mile of
switchbacks leading to the small notch in the ridge that someone decided to
call a pass.  Small lungs and poor acclimation give way to gasping and
migraine headaches.  The only butterfly to be seen on this agonizing stretch
was the Square Spotted Blue, a subspecies of Euphilotes battoides with a
distinctive dark charcoal gray coloration with thick submarginal bands on
the FW and HW below.  The butterfly was relatively common all the way to
well above the 11,000' elevation, in spite of the weather, and could be
found most often resting, wings closed, on the rock and sand.

Despite the relatively early start, I didn't reach the pass until well past
4:00 p.m.  Meanwhile, the hike down the other side borders on the absurd.
No trailblazing credit is due since the trail drops straight down,
switchbackless, to just below 11,000'.  Not ideal for the wobbly kneed,
which is precisely the condition one is left in following the hike up the
other side.  It's a good thing the younger at heart have already found a
campsite along the beautiful shores of one of the Kearsarge Lakes.  It's a
bad thing that when one arrives at said camp, one is too ill to enjoy the
makings of the first freeze dried dinner.

Being experts in mountaineering with over 25 years of experience, it was
easy to scoff at the warnings about Black Bears and the proper containment
of food products.  Duly provided Bear Boxes being filled to capacity created
ne'er a concern.  For no good reason, we did feel obligated to at least
sling a few of our food-stuffed stuff sacks over a limb or two (perhaps for
amusement more than anything).

And amused we all were at midnight, when we were awakened by the very LARGE
bear that had easily climbed one such tree to enjoy the various culinary
delights that were slung in one such stuff sack.  Much noise we did make in
hopes of distracting our large, uninvited guest from eating our weeks
provisions.  Not amused was the bear - after being successfully distracted
by one large flying stone.  This prompted it to scurry quickly down the same
tree, and to the relief of many, depart our otherwise hospitable camp - only
to return several more times during the remainder of this sleepless night.
Tired of berries, was he.  Tired of bearies were we.

Mark Walker.
In San Jose, CA

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