Sierra 2001: The Mono Recess

October, 2001
Part 1: The First Recess.

This is my 3rd fall trip to the Sierras, the first being in 1998 and the second in 2000. My guide book's brief reference to the Mono Recess as one of the most scenic regions of the range piqued my interest in a trip here. Schedules conspired to set our trip in late October. Because of concerns about the weather we planed a conservative route with possible expansions if the weather permitted. As it turned out the weather was spectacular and we hiked through more country than planned for one of the best traverses that I have done.

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Day 0, 10/13/2001

Pick Paul up at the San Jose airport. Drive to the trail head.

James and I have spend the days before the trip in Menlo Park for a meeting at MITEM. In the morning we shuttle to the airport, pick up the rental car, then meet Paul at baggage claim. All goes well.

Due to the 9/11 terrorist atacks security at the airport is being tightened. All cars are being inspected as they enter the parking lot. The guarde wants to look in the trunk, which is full of large duffel bags. She pulls one out then sticks her head deep into the trunk. As she comes out she jokes that if I had a bomb in there that probably would have been the end of her. I can only hope that with time the security becomes more professional.

Also because of the tightened security I have previously mailed my backpacking stove to myself in california. On some previous years on some airlines the folks at airport checkin have been reluctant to let us ship stoves in our baggage. I figured that with tightened security I may not be able to take the stove at all this year. Well, I had my backpack packed in a large duffel bag an no one ever asked about stoves or other such equipment.

Because this went smoothly, in the last days we decide that Paul should bring his new light weight canister stove. He also does not have any problem shipping it in his luggage.

We stop at an outdoors store in San Jose for supplies, including fuel canisters for Paul's new light weight canister stove. Next stop is Los Banyos for lunch in the small Mexican restaurant Paul and I found the year before. It is even better this year: they provide free refills of horchata. I stagger out with my belly bloated with rice milk.

The final drive to our trail head turns out to be a very, very long dirt road through rolling granite country. Beautiful, we suspect, but we do most of it in the dark. Our camp is dusty.

Day 1, 10/14/2001

Pack and hike up Mono Creek.

At the trailhead we discover a major problem: the canisters that we bought don't fit our stove. The stove wants to screw on but the canister wants to be "clicked" onto. Jamie volunteers to drives back out for the right canisters while Paul and I finish packing. I'm just settling down with a book when Jamie returns. He was able to find canisters at the hot springs not too far a way and we are set to go.

There is not much to say about the first day. We hiked the trial up up Mono Creek. It was a very beautiful forest walk on a cool fall day. We didn't gain much elevation but did hike a lot of miles and by the end my hips were very tired.

Packing at the trailhead.

Bridge on the trail.



Looking up valley at the first recess.

Rock walls on the north side.

Fall leaves in the trail.

Rest break.

We were hot, sweaty, and tired.

Fall trees.

Nice valley

Camp 1.

The camp was uninspiring, but not dusty.

Day 2, 10/15/01

Ascend the second recess to upper Mills basin.

From camp we immediately start climbing the Second Recess trail. Before long we past some beautiful water falls with nearby ledges which would have made a scenic, though noisy camp.

We soon come to some meadows in and hike past a beautiful meandering stream. From there we turn and follow Mills creek into a side valley.

Second Recess creek and meadows.

Humping up slope toward Mills Basin

Mills creek.

Before long we round over some granite domes and enter the Mills basin. The grass has all turned golden brown and glows in the sunlight. This is spectacular walking.

Rounding over domes into Mills basin.

Paul at the lower lake.

Lower Mills basin.

We circle the lake and ascend the last 500 ft to the upper basin. Paul and I stop at the first lake and jump in for a quick rinse off. On the far side of the basin we see a fox picking it's way over the rocks heading away from us. We set up camp on gravel, each sleeping out under the stars. Camp is moderately dusty.

Upper lake, swimming.

The upper basin. Camp 2 in the center.

Paul photographing evening light.

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Page last modified:  Feb 18 17:20 2010  by  Tom Unger