Yosemite's closed. Great. I'll go do some thing that I've always wanted to do since I began Yosemitizing in 1961...
Brown (5,600'+) and Pinoche Peaks (5,800'-) are in the Sierra (Nevada) Nat'l Forest. Pinoche Ridge connects to Brown Peak. Cottonwood Saddle is the area I traversed to get to Brown Peak. There are no restrictions on going through the Park to get there via Henness Ridge Road. El Portal is the USGS map. Turn left at the first intersection after turning into Yo West. Follow it to the sign that says 10 mph and follow the old log road to its end. No water, so bring your own freeze-dried Evian.
Once there, a brief look-around, pix of old junkers and other treasures and fire suppression tanks old and new. This guy has a good life out here in this lonely cabin. I took off up a trail passing by the tanks and came out on another log road which hadn't been used in a while. But it was clear sailing at my slow pace. This is the place that burned in the late eighties and three fires combined to threaten El Portal. A couple of burned-out places up there just before intersecting that road leading out to Cottonwood Saddle. Ugliness.
Nice thing about photography bugs. They slow you down, down, down. My physical state is not good, with asthma topping the list for sheer pain-in-the-ass and bad knees topping the list for sheer pain-anywhere-in-the-body. But I stop often enough to recoup and to hack and cough a bit and I'm good for the next leg. I usually go solo because I slow folks down and don't like to rush my photos.
Starting early is a bugaboo. I can't seem to get off at an early hour. I guess I'm not an alpine starter at all. I was farting around photographing still water and rocks and wasting time before the sun came up in the Merced Canyon at the El Portal bridge, the old one that managed to survive the flood, for so long that my idea of going up from there on one of the ridges (real bushwhacking) or following an old trail up a creek began falling through at an accelerated pace. I'm glad it happened so.
At the El Portal Store I spoke with a gent named Gerald D., who said Julia Parker's his auntie. He recommended abandoning the original plan and taking Henness Ridge Road and told me what to do. He's a lifelong EP resident and has the skinny, if anyone does.
It's a Class II ascent up oak forest mast from Cottonwood Saddle. I could see some folks ride up there on horses or mules. Some is steeper than necessary, but the trail is faint, when you can tell one is there. There is plenty of room for contouring and switching back, even lacking a trail, just keep getting higher by degrees and save the knees. That's the thing about oak forest. Leaves and branches keep building up over years and obscuring detail and snagging your ankles.
Near the summit ridge things level and open up and the sun's in full blaze. For the past hour it's been playing hide and seek with me in the trees at the top of the ridge. I reach the summit blocks around five o'clock. I kiss the gargoyle. I look around, swill water, eat a cheese sangwidge and smoke a bowl.
Other than the gargoyle and the raven I've seen, that's it for wildlife. Bear scat, though. And meat bees and gnats. Grasshoppers on the summit, too.
I see Pinoche, can't see into the South Fork, though. I'd have to be on Pinoche. I can't see down into either river from Brown at all, as it's too steep. Can't look into El Portal, either. I see Turtle, Crane, Elephant, I think Rancheria, and Eagle Beak above the Tioga Road. Foresta's plain to see, there's Reed's, and Indian Peak, as well as Ferguson Ridge, above that slide on 140.
It is so still up there and the sun is so friendly, too. The woodpecker calls. Summer is nearly gone. Fall foliage has begun. It is time to go now. My password. And so I do. Knees creak, up she rises, one last swig of Fern Spring and I'm on the flip side.
Timing it just right, I got back down to the logger's picnic area on Cottonwood Saddle just as it got dark, but had to travel downhill in the oak mast, so it was almost an awkward glissade with no arrest if I got going too fast. Plus the oak branches were little booby traps and the glim was indeed getting dimmer. I thought I might be lost, but timed my traverse straight left perfectly and came out where I needed to be.
I want to get back up there before snow flies and see the view from Pinoche. Taking the mountain bike next time. And camping. Too good to miss, too close for excuses, and best of all it's free and it's open.
I had to drive home in the dark so I took full advantage and used the tripod that Ed Hartouni gave me at Facelift. I have a little ways to go on the learning curve yet.
I hope you enjoy this little adventure's recap.