Today’s plan was fluid. We were going to get to our decision point, where the trail forked, before making a firm decision, but it was looking very much like Plummer Lake was not going to reached on this trip. And, in keeping with the planned short day, Ambrose didn’t get me up super early.

Goodbye Pats Lake!

The morning started partly cloudy.

Oh! Snow!

I decided that, given Ambrose’s knee, we should stick close together, though I did allow myself to get ahead on the switchbacks leading up to Arrowhead Lake. It was on those switchbacks that we ran into some nice large clumps of snow. Nothing that we couldn’t step around, but I did not have high hopes for the coming pass.

More snow!

Trees growing out of rock near Arrowhead Lake. 

Arrowhead Lake. 

The water in Arrowhead Lake seemed a bit lower than it had last July. There was no illusion of the lake flowing into infinity this time. We took a break before continuing around the lake to the next set of switchbacks. The sun had come out, but then was covered by clouds, which was actually quite a good thing. Coming to the pass in the morning rather than the afternoon was also a plus, because we began to encounter large amounts of snow.

Now, I’m glad the snow wasn’t falling from the sky like last year’s blizzard up at Stump Lake. But the snow was covering large portions of the switchbacks up to the pass. Some sections I felt comfortable kickstepping through. But some I did not. And I didn’t want to let Ambrose break any of the snow trail, because kickstepping would put his knee in torqued positions. The last thing I wanted was to exacerbate his injury.

The trail is somewhere under the snow.

Kickstepping through this is more tiring than it looks. 

After I finished breaking trail through the first section, I went ahead on a short section of dry trail to scope out the next. Then I heard a yell behind me. Ambrose had broken through the snow. It happens. But what doesn’t happen all the time is his foot getting completely wedged under the snow. The sun not beating down on us had the advantage of leaving the snow harder, but that advantage was a disadvantage when a foot broke through. I ended up dropping my pack and coming back to help dig him out.

Then we decided that, for safety, it would be better to cut the switchback than traverse the snow on top of it. After that short, fast ascent, we had another snow traverse. Then another cut, a bit of dry trail, another cut and the final traverse to the snow covered pass.

A cloudy day over Arrowhead and Pats. 

More snow…

And here’s the pass! Under the snow!

Last year when we were up there, we almost walked on a cornice on the other side of the pass without realizing it, but this year there was not nearly as much snow on the other side. We made our way down to the lake at 8696 and stopped to eat lunch and refill our water bladders. We were definitely trying to be more conscientious about drinking water this trip, and I think we succeeded.

Ambrose making his way to the pass. 

Hello there, Mount Everly.

Lunch at the lakeside. 

The trail continued switchbacking down, and I could tell that Ambrose was having trouble. He didn’t look comfortable, even coming down the trail. So I didn’t protest when he called for a break shortly after crossing the stream that flowed out of the lake at 8696 – even though I knew we were really close to the Benedict Creek trail junction.

Switchbacking down to the Queens River. 

A rock hop across the outlet from 8696. 

The sign fell down!

When we reached the Benedict Creek junction, the decision to skip Plummer Lake was made official. However, I did go up the trail a ways to see what I could see. Just to where the trail next crossed the Queens River, less than a 10 minute walk for me. The landscape was gorgeous and the trail looked challenging. I’m looking forward to making that trip.

Where the trail turns up to Benedict Creek. 

That crossing might be boots on later in the season. 

Everly from another angle. 

Then it was time to pick a camp site for the night. Nothing on that side of the Queens River looked good to us, so we went down the trail to the crossing and made it. On the other side, I found an adequate spot above the trail, but Ambrose decided it wasn’t good enough, so we decided to keep going down and stop when we found something suitable. I zoomed on ahead, because this section of trail was fairly easy. Nothing too steep.

Heading down the rocky trail in search of a campsite. 

I passed a few spots that looked okay, but they were either too rocky or didn’t have very good access to water, so I kept going. One area looked particularly promising after a fallen log blocked the trail, but I didn’t think Ambrose would approve, so I kept going – and found the perfect spot. It was dirt, not rock, close enough to water and had clearly been used for camping in the past. There wasn’t a fire ring, thank goodness, but there was really old horse poop.

Ah, right down there should work just fine. 

I settled myself on the trail to wait, since the site was a bit below it and I didn’t want Ambrose to miss me. He appeared before too long and I took a certain amount of pride in showing him the site I’d selected. And he did approve.

After that I felt like all my useful energy had been expended so I sat and had a snack before getting the tent set up and our beds made. The snow, especially, had sapped my strength, and I was ready to lay down and read until dinner and then sleep.

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