An old stone cabin, collapsed tramways and mining artifacts. These are things that get my partner Sadie and myself to say yes to a 9,000 ft and 20 mile long backpacking trip to the Beveridge Ghost Town. On a weekend with complex options of High Sierra snow (early April 2021) and Death Valley heat (90+ degrees), we thought we found our oasis in the Inyo Mountains Wilderness.
Thinking of beating the 90+ degree heat in adjacent Death Valley… Our route started 4,000 ft higher than that desolate desert. This means it should be around 20 degrees cooler (1,000 ft x 5 degrees F) than Death Valley’s floor. Getting cooler as we ascended.
The description of this hike made it clear that water was a maybe at the cabin, therefore, we planned on packing all the water in. I planned on packing 9L and Sadie carrying 2L for their daily needs on the first day. Using the equation: 2L / person / day + 1L cooking + dog’s water = 10L (20lbs).
We were excited about what an off the path adventure this was, however, 9,000 ft requires a certain fitness/mindset. I explained it away that 1,000 ft is typically equivalent (in time) to 1 mile of hiking. Two 15 mile days seemed approachable, but hard.
We started our trip camping at the trailhead with beautiful views of Whitney and the Sierra Crest. The next morning, we crawled as far as we could up the mile long, rock laden 4wd road in our Rav 4 before starting our hike at 7:30am before the sun hit.
The first two hours was on a light trail of fist-sized rocks, slowing our speed crossing this irregular and annoying terrain. At 11am, 3,000 ft up and 2.5 miles in, my legs were getting worn out carrying all that water (20 lbs). I started talking about contingency plans, realizing that my mind still thought I was in my 2019 shape which is not where my 2021 body was.
At 11:30am, we had reached the long, deep cut of a wash that looked more like the worlds longest luge you’d see in the Olympics. We crawled into this drainage for lunch, the first bit of shade we’d seen that day from the intense and hot desert sun. Evaluating, we still had another 2,500 ft to Forgotten Pass (9,000 ft) and then the whole descent to the mine for the day.
At this moment of lunch, I told Sadie I didn’t think I could make it to the pass. Meanwhile, this next 2,500 ft to Forgotten Pass was stuck along this wash-luge hidden from those lovely Sierra views. Therefore, we backtracked and went off trail to a rise so we could camp alongside the Sierra Crest and I could lay down to regain my strength. In the heat of the day (1pm) I was barely able to stay cool with my clothes off and a space blanket atop the tent reflecting the heat of the now unrelenting sun.
I thought after an hour I’d be rested and we’d have waited out the sun to continue, but by 4pm the sun was still at its hottest. Caught between the extremes of intensely hot day and very cold night, we decided to descend rather than camp the night. I instantly had a headache as soon as I stood up outside the tent. This was similar to what I typically call mountain sickness for me. Something unrelated (mostly) to elevation but more so to elements of heat exhaustion, sun poisoning and/or dehydration. On the way down, it took us about two hours to get back to the car.
In all, it was an adventure. Which is what we wanted. We attempted something that very, very few people do. The hike was also a great test of where our bodies were at after the year of pandemics and lock downs. A year of discouragement of outdoor activities that have risk (i.e. adventures). I found myself content with what happened and appreciative of the experience to get outside for a backpacking trip so early.