August 26, 2014
John Muir Trail (JMT)
Day 23 – Onion Valley Trailhead (9,200ft) to Center Basin Creek (10,530ft) via Kearsarge Pass (11,810ft).
11.5 miles – 7.2 miles to Bullfrog Lake junction plus 4.3 miles on the JMT.
Camped near the food storage box just before the Center Basin Creek crossing.
Today, after a resupply stop in Independence, we’re hiking back in over Kearsarge Pass to reconnect with the JMT at Bullfrog Lake junction.
The morning starts with clear blue skies that are to last all day. A couple of puffy clouds pass by but never develop into much. Morning temperatures are cooler than when we hiked out this same trail two days earlier, perfect for tackling the 4.7 mile, 2500ft ascent to Kearsarge Pass.
We’ve heard from more than one source that this is one of the easiest passes on which to enter this section of the Sierras. Although the pass is not actually visible until you climb up two lower ridges, it’s a gentle well graded climb all the way up.
At the top are spectacular views of the Kearsarge Lakes with great peaks rising above.
From here we take the low route past pretty Bullfrog Lake back to the JMT.
Past the junction to the lake starts a very steep, short, 1000ft, descent in just over a mile through mostly forest but also along sections of open hillside with peak views.
Soon after the Bubbs Creek junction, the low point of the day, the trail levels off for nearly a mile traversing the forest mostly along the creek. From here it’s a short uphill to Upper Vidette Meadow followed by a longer moderate ascent paralleling Bubbs Creek to Center Basin Creek.
Along the upper part of Bubbs Creek we again find those great cascades over wide granite slabs that we love. The views are open along sections of the trail where the forest has been wiped out by avalanches.
Few people are out on this part of the trail today, just the couple we rode to the trailhead with this morning and two young women we have never seen before.
We camp near the food storage box just before the Center Basin Creek crossing. The tent site on the southern edge is a short walk down to a great cascade with peak views in the distance, spectacular in the late afternoon light.