We drove from Claremont to Lone Pine, California where one can see Mount Whitney and outher peaks that define the "Great White Range" of Sierra granite. We drove up the steep road to Horseshoe Meadow which at nearly 10,000 feet in elevation is one of the highest trailheads in the Sierra Nevada. We backpacked from Horseshoe Meadows over Trail Pass, Cottonwood Pass, and NewArmy Pass. We camped at Chicken Spring Lake, Soldier Lake, and Long Lake. We were struck by the very dry conditions in all the meadows.
We started at the Cottonwood Pass trailhead at the east end of Horseshoe Meadow and headed west. In the middle of the meadow, we selected the route to Trail Pass. At Trail Pass, we connected to the Pacific Crest Trail(PCT). We headed north on the PCT to Cottonwood Pass and then northwest to Chicken Spring Lake where we spent the night. The lake is located in a cwm (cirque) with a meadow populated by small, delicate blue gentians.
We left Chicken Spring Lake and continued north on the PCT which first crossed the lateral moraine at the end of the lake. The scenery on this section of the PCT is particularly striking. We left the PCT at its junction with the Siberia Pass Trail and headed north on the trail to Rock Creek and Soldier Lake, a picturesque lake also located in a cwm. We were rewarded by fresh cranberries found on a bush growing in a crevice at the edge of the meadow.
We left Soldier Lake and doubled back on the Rock Creek Trail until the first trail junction where we turned east on the New Army Pass Trail. The trail relentlessly proceeds up a long broad valley. We eventually reached the crest which is 200 feet above the actual pass. After lunch, we descended eastward to our third camp at Long Lake, one of the Cottonwood Lakes. We recovered from the rigors of the day with a dip in its frigid waters.
After leaving camp at Long Lake, we proceeded east on the trail that crossed moraines and passed by several lakes in the Cottonwood Lakes basin. After leaving the high country, we quickly hiked along Cottonwood Creek and reached our terminus by noon.