Wed, Jun 24, 2015
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The hike out to Anna Mills was much like I expected, having traveled much of the trail portion on previous outing to Guyot and Joe Devel/Pickering in years past. The sandy portions were long and annoying much as I had remembered them, perhaps more so. On the other hand, it was a beautiful day with blue skies and nice temperatures. Once over Cottonwood Pass the views open up across the Boreal Plateau, Big Whitney Meadow, and then over Siberian Outpost. The meadows looked mostly dry and brown, about two months ahead of their normal summer schedule. In passing Chicken Spring Lake I saw a lone figure standing over the lake with a cup of coffee, enjoying a late morning rise. I saw no one on the trail until I was well inside SEKI and onto the PCT heading, through Siberian Outpost around 9a. They were riding horses, guiding a packtrain out of SEKI. We exchanged greetings as I stood off the side of the trail to let them pass. An hour later I left the trail where it started to curve north and drop towards Rock Creek. I had planned to bring only a single quart of Gatorade and fill up along the way but at the last minute I threw in a second quart, "just in case." Good thing I did too, because both creeks I crossed on my way to Anna Mills (Siberia Pass Creek and one in Forgotten Canyon) were bone dry. I would have to stretch out the two quarts until I returned to Chicken Spring Lake in the afternoon.
The cross-country travel to Anna Mills was not difficult, but there were a few boulder fields that slowed one down if a route wasn't found around them. I did better on the way out to avoid them. From a distance, the East Slopes of Anna Mills look steep and tediously sandy but the footing turned out to be surprisingly good. Unlike some of the other summits in the area (Guyot and Joe Devel come to mind), Anna Mills is not the pile of sand one might expect. I reached the summit around 11:30a, taking just under 5.5hrs. I found a small collection of antennae near the top, somewhat to my surprise for a peak so remote. At 12,000ft+, the summit provides fine views across Sequoia National Park. To the west across the Kern River Canyon is the forested Chagoopa Plateau framed by the higher Kaweah Ridge Peaks behind it. To the east is the Sierra Crest dominated by Langley and Cirque, Olancha rising far to the southeast. To the north is Guyot Peak with the Kings-Kern Divide in the background. A register box found at the summit contains an older Andy Smatko scroll from 1985 (his effort to name the peak after a combination of his and his companion's names was for naught) as well as a more convenient notepad left in 1997. There were almost 30 pages of names all told suggesting 1-2 parties per year on average. The last signatures were those from last year's Challenge, all squeezed onto the bottom half of a page. Wanting to leave my entry among theirs, I wrote in the small amount of available white space to the right so I could join them in spirit, at least.
My return was much the same route, with a better bit of navigation to avoid the boulder fields before returning to the trail and the PCT. Unlike the early morning, I came across many more parties of PCTers and backpackers plying the trail, all of them heading north with me feeling like I was going against the grain. I was out of Gatorade by the time I reached Chicken Spring Lake, the only water I found anywhere on the entire route. I paused here for not only a drink but a very refreshing swim as well, undoubtedly the most enjoyable part of the day. It would be another hour and a half before I found my way back to Horseshoe Meadow around 5:40p. The outing came in about half an hour shy of 12hrs, about as long an outing as I've done this past year. I had plans to spend the next few days here as well so I was happy not to have to do any driving, but I did have a few hours to burn before the sun would go down and allow the temperatures to start dropping to something more comfortable...
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