This was the year to expand our exploration of the Yosemite Wilderness with visits to Upper Twin, Peninsula, Otter and Tilden Lakes. This was the year to bag a couple of new peaks along the way. This was the year to nab some more pictures for the web site. And finally this was the year to make it up Tower Peak. However, as is with the best laid plans of mice and men, we only reached some of our goals, met challenges along the way and learned a valuable lesson.

We were off with a helpful start from Kennedy Meadows arriving at Maxwell Lake in a short 6 hours. We camped at a quiet site and enjoyed an alpine glow sunset with a delicious meal. The next day we were off to Upper Twin Lake. A mere 3 miles, but about a 1k drop and 1k rise was enough to get us huffing and puffing for the first hard steps of our journey. We made it in a reasonable time and were treated to a beautiful lake and surroundings. As the two Twin lakes sit on the edge of the one metamorphic formation within Emigrant Wilderness, the terrain is varied and draws you in. Our two days were spent exploring the lake and running up to Michie and Kendrick Peaks. We had vast vistas of the back side of Emigrant all the way into Yosemite, where a few fires were taking their toll. Smoke rising from the canyon below us, which would be in our direct path in just 2 days was a bit unsettling, but a back country ranger put our minds at ease when he told us that it was smoldering and under control. That was to be the least of our worries just 48 hours later.

Day 4 was moving time and we strapped on our packs and headed cross country to Peninsula Lake, about 4 miles away with some rough terrain to tackle. We made our way slowly and surely and ended up at our destination. The lake was a vision of Emigrant-Yosemite back country splendor, with a granite cirque, a hanging valley and a towering dome. We made camp quickly and scrambled around to drink in the beauty. This was to be a one day stay and a quick move to Otter Lake the following day. We rested up and headed out early in the morning. The day started warm, and we poked our way around the eastern shore of Peninsula to gain access to Upper Peninsula Lake and the granite cirque that lay ahead of our Otter Lake goal. As is customary when the three of us hike together, we each have our own vision of the best route and attempt to convince the others why. George and I wished to follow a route that would take us close to the back of Haystack Peak so we could bag it, and then take the easy hike down to Otter. George Sr however, wanted to take the quickest way so he could fish Otter Lake, as all that climbing nonsense was not for him. So we went our separate ways and planned to meet at Otter, which was just over the ridge. We were all working off the same map and the plan sounded sane enough. Unfortunately it was not.

Lost and Reunited

A tale of of what it is like to be split from a hiking partner, what goes thru your mind, what actions/decisions you make and what you learn... Just follow the maps...

Lessons Learned

Besides a little humility and a set of protocols that we will take with us on our future trips.

  • Start each day with an understanding of what each person will be attempting, with enough details to ensure that every one in the group has a sense of what, when, where and how
  • Ensure that each member of your party has part of the food rations, cooking equipment and a heat source
  • When moving from one camp to another, conduct a detailed briefing
    • Use maps
    • Each person walks thru their plans for the day
    • Clear understanding of where everyone will meet up
    • Have an If you get lost plan, which in our case will be a return to the prior day camp
  • If anyone does not show up at the designated camp spot, set up camp before starting any area searches
  • Area searches should be conducted with a goal to return back to camp before nightfall
  • If by nightfall you have not found your hiking partner, get a good meal and on the following day return to the prior camp site or what was agreed to when the day started (dependent on your specific scenario)
  • If a return to the prior camp site does not produce a reunion, stay calm and proceed by the quickest way out to start a search
  • When meeting up with any other hikers while exiting, mention what has happened. The information they give you just might solve the mystery.

Last item. A heartfelt thank you to the soul that found my wallet and turned it in to the Sonora Post Office. You have restored some of my faith in mankind and it is a nice ending to this long story.

May our paths and errands meet...