Onion Valley Trailhead – Independence, CA – Bishop, CA – JMT/Bullfrog Lake Trail Junction
9,200 – 10,560 – (+ 2,645/ – 1,285 ) – 7.1 miles * Kearsarge Pass
Free Maps Online – Day 22/23 – Map 3
UB dropped us at the hotel Joe usually uses when he is in Independence. They were fully booked, but let us keep our stuff there and hang out in the shade. We saw THE Chevron where the Werewolf of same did his resupply, which is not quite as goofy as it sounds. The owners try to accommodate hikers and have fuel, aspirin, advil, cold/allergy stuff all available in small quantities. They have a limited range of freeze-dried foods and lots of cheaper stuff like ramen and oatmeal. They also have a washer and dryer and $5.00 gets you one load, detergent and dryer sheet included, which is not too shabby for a gas station in the middle of nowhere.
We met another hiker Joe knew well, Lil’ Steps. She has stayed at Casa de Luna during hiker season before and helped out doing shuttles and whatever else needed doing. She took us back to her hotel in a van that had recently survived an odd bear incident – bear got trapped inside and thrashed it. We were able to get a room for me and Jake and of course offered for Joe to stay with us if he wanted/needed – but that seemed unlikely as Terry was on her way!
It was a nice afternoon lounging and talking with Lil Steps and Tall Paul. We took turns with the showers and soon enough we met Terry! We went to a Chinese Restaurant for dinner that was just what we wanted – not fancy, but very good food. And it was right next to a pizza joint. Jake ordered us two large cheese pies to go from the pizza joint and we picked them up after Chinese dinner.
We knocked out our resupply in the much larger town of Bishop about 40 miles away. One can do a pretty good resupply even from a standard grocery store, and I was grateful that we had a nice store to work from instead of just the Chevron. But, it was gonna be instant potatoes and litpon sides for the duration 🙁 No big worries. I can survive a few days of simply fueling my body and denying myself my more standard backwoods gourmet dishes.
Terry saw folks she knew everywhere, on the street, in other cars, at every store, etc. We went to a Bishop hotel and hung with a crew there for a bit before returning to Independence and our own room. We said goodbye to Joe and Terry with mixed emotions. I was sad to part from Joe, and from Terry even though I had only known her for a few hours, but I was pleased to have had the time together and confident that I had made some true friends for life.
Jake and I had discussed our plans for the next day and were in full agreement. Get up no later than 8, combine all our clothes and whatnot into a single load and hang out in our rain-suits while we get a load of wash done at the Chevron. Repackage the food from our resupply and get the packs loaded, and hit the street to wait for UB or anyone else headed up to Onion Valley and get back up over Kearsarge. We weren’t going to try for big miles, the goal was simply to get out of Town and back into the woods.
I woke up early as usual and got a call from Joe. He and Terry had stopped at a hotel not long after leaving us the night before and were headed back to Independence to take us to breakfast and help us get our chores done and see us safely back to Onion Valley. How awesome. I am not talking about the convenience of having even better access to a car to get things done more quickly, though as the kids say, that didn’t suck. I think Joe was in a similar place to me and Jake. I don’t think he was ready for the separation, and it touched me.
So breakfast was cheerier, chores got done quicker, and we got a ride to Onion Valley with our Number One Trail Dog – Whoooop Whooooop!! Jake and I had also found a private moment together during the preparations to see if we were on the same page about the new events, and we were. When we got to Onion Valley, we had to just hug it out and go – neither of us could handle an extended goodbye scene and we did not think Joe wanted that either. If we were really going on, we had to just go.
We saw a few of the same folks from the day before, Knees was my favorite, and we thanked UB again and each gave her some money. Jake and I both tried to give Joe some money and he wouldn’t take it. This was the real heart string puller for me. Joe helps tons of hikers, and he had just gone far out of his way and spent more money staying around and helping us some more. Of course we offered some compensation. I think he did not take it to underline a point. We really had become true friends. We were family.
We hit the trail and kept some distance between us as usual, but for different reasons on that ascent, each taking some time not to process, but to simply feel the feelings of the moment and let the many transitions that had just occurred sink in – we have left Town, we are back on trail, and we are without Joe for the first time in about 12 days that feel like a year.
We let out a few Whooop Whoops as we climbed. We stopped at Kearsarge Pass to rest and to continue with the transitions. We met two hikers up there and Knees came up behind us. In true Jake fashion, Trail Sacrifice was shared by all. We had barely made a dent in those pizzas and Jake packed them out. Eating Pizza on top of a mountain is a rare and awesome pleasure – it was nice to be able to share it.
We went down to Bullfrog Lake and hiked on the use trail until we reached the junction with the JMT. We made a simple camp there and slept well.