Early morning on the first day of fall, 9/22/2016, just before our drive to Mineral King.
The sun welcomes us as we round the corner to enter Mineral King National Park.
We knew it was going to be a cold day and we went prepared. Here we stand before the Information Guide for Sawtooth Trailhead. They had posted some warnings about Mountain Lions in the area. Always good to check for updated info before scrambling off into an extended adventure.
One thing that has always struck me about this area is the ease of the animals around humans. This buck was 10 to 15 feet ahead of us on the trail. He was exquisite and incredibly healthy looking. I asked him if we could pass and he meandered off the trail. It’s never good to accidentally get between a buck and his doe. They’re very protective.
About 3/4 mile from Monarch Lakes, at the base of Sawtooth, standing at 12, 343 ft. It was windy and cold but a beautiful day….so far.
Lower Monarch Lake
The black line represents our ascension line. It was incredibly steep and filled with loose rock, sand and shale. It was exhausting and dangerous. The yellow line is the way I wish we would have ascended, but this is the route we sand skied for a rapid descent from the ridgeline. You’ll soon see why. Crystal clear blue skies right?
There had been a few soft billowing white clouds, that seemed to dissipate as quickly as they rolled in, but that changed pretty quickly, when the clouds seemed to be overflowing the northern ridgeline and cascading down into the valley below us.
I kept telling my son that I needed to get to the ridge, just a couple hundred feet above us, so I could see what we were dealing with, but my gut already knew because the temperature plummeted into the low twenties in a matter of 30 seconds. I was hoping that it would quickly move through or dissipate and then my son yelled to me that his jacket had frozen solid, where he had earlier spilt a little water. I checked my water line from my camel pack and sure enough, it too was frozen.
I made my way to my son, who was starting to not feel well, and captured this last and only picture of us, just below the ridge; before making the frustrating, but wise decision to decend. While shooting this it started to snow and the wind began to gust, as the storm came in from below us.
We descended as rapidly as possible and once we were in the cover of the trees again, the harsh elements were left behind. Now we were cold and tired and unfortunately my son began to run a fever. All I could do was keep an even pace and coax him on by the promise of rest in a warm car.
As we descended into the Mineral King Valley the clouds were perfectly positioned with the late lingering sun. It produced beautiful light and shadows against natures fall pallette. Even though we didn’t reach the tippy top of Sawtooth on this run, I couldn’t help but think it was perfect in so many ways that truly mattered. The last several images I got reminded me that beauty is always present and that every success, “failure”, or close call has something amazing in it to be gleaned. Out of the dark storm we fled and into the warm glow of light we were received.
As I was driving home along the windy mountain road, with my son asleep next to me; I stopped to take this final image. I swear I could hear the mountain saying to me, “Thank you for coming and trying one of the hardest parts of me. My face saw your face. Until I see you again….” It felt as though this image was my parting gift…I saw her majesty’s soul again, as she surely saw mine.
💚The Crazy Celt