Ranger Mike Johnson wrote our permit. Mike was a PCS member until 1995 when he moved to Mammoth and made it permanent.
Our first trailhead, Hilton Creek, lacked signage and was a little bit tricky to find. The turnoff is just south of the Lake Crowley firehouse, right past a traffic island. We hiked from sagebrush up to conifer forest, waded the shallow stream, and continued on to our camp at Davis Lake. The lake is lovely and wooded, and we had it entirely to ourselves.
In the morning, we hiked up to one of the Hilton Lakes, and then continued cross-country up the slopes of Mt Stanford (the northernmost of the two mountains bearing that name). There was quite a bit of class 2 climbing, plus a few class 3 moves to put us on the summit (12838). This kind of travel was new to Rose, but she is a brave student of mountaineering, and did well. Our intention had been to complete the traverse to Mt Morgan (north), but this party didn't need two peaks in one day.
The next day, we hiked down, took a break at Tom's Place, and then drove up to Rock Creek Lake. We hiked the short trail up to Francis Lake. At our camp, there were still some small trees even though we were above 11000 feet. The lake is tiny but beautiful, surrounded by a meadow with luscious columbine flowers.
Another warm moonlit night was succeeded by another early morning. We hiked up three thousand feet of moraine and talus face, and finally rested upon the 13748 summit of Mt Morgan (south). We were surrounded by granite giants on every side, Mounts Abbott and Mills and Dade, Bear Creek Spire and Gabb, and continuing on to Mounts Ritter and Humphreys and Goddard in the far distance. We lingered more than an hour, marveling at the wonderland before us.
Returning to our camp, we tried a slightly different route, and discovered a gushing spring in the thirsty landscape. The water ran only a short distance before it soaked back into the soil, but our oasis was lush with moss and soft, green grass. We took off our boots and stayed awhile at this charming place too. At last we broke camp, hiked out, and drove to Tioga Canyon.
On the last morning of our journey in the Sierra Nevada, Toinette went off to scout out a different route to Mount Conness, while Rose and I hiked a loop through Gaylor Lakes. It was a satisfying end to an extra-long holiday weekend.
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