April, 2004, I went with some friends on a trail working trip with the Forest Service. The draw for me was we got to drive out to McKinley saddle instead of walking that long and miserable road.
I felt a little sorry for the frozen campers at McKinley spring. They looked a bit peeved that we were driving by in our trucks and SUVs. I don't blame them. But Kerry Kellogg gave them a big howdy and they weren't mad at us anymore.
We began hiking around 6pm, which worried me a bit because we wouldn't get to camp until after dark.
We were treated to gorgeous views and a colorful sunset, so the late start turned out to be a real treat.
The weather report called for a slight chance of rain on Saturday. (This was Friday.) So we had interesting clouds in the sky to enhance the sunset.
Dusk came pretty quickly. This tree is near the highest point on the Mission Pine Springs trail in a spot with little bunchy, moundy alpine-looking plants.
There's Tony walking on the trail. Right about at this point the trail starts to look a lot like the Sierras. Sorry this picture is so blurry, it was getting pretty dark and cold.
This is what's left of the picnic table at Mission Pine Camp.
When we arrived, it was dark. This is the next morning. You can see the "snow" on the left around the tree. It had "rained" the first night and we awoke to a frozen winter wonderland of sorts.
There's the little bunch grass meadow at the camp. Apparently some horses or something had grazed the grass down pretty far.
Here's a little creek I've seen running every time I've come to Mission Pine Springs, fall or spring. It's just past Mission Pine Camp about a quarter mile or so. It's quite lovely with ferns and wild strawberry plants and moss.
There haven't been many flowers this spring. This little yellow flower probably forms carpets in the basin in better years.
The other group with us didn't camp in the Mission Pine Basin campsite, but instead camped a bit further down the trail at this spot.
I later learned that right about here is where the Falls Canyon trail starts.
There were many of these wild onions growing all around the area. They tend to grow in soil that is not well compacted, like silty, sandy washes.
In some places there were enough in the trail that walking behind Tony I could smell them.
There are my onions after I cleaned them up. The green part is kind of bitter, but the onion bulbs are sweet and delicious.
There is Tony, working the trail.
We were there mostly just to cut brush. There was one pulaski along (that I saw) for tread work, and a little bit was done.
Eventually the clouds opened up and it started not to rain, but to hail. So I gave up on the trail work and headed back.
Here's an interesting rock formation in the area just past the basin. Lots of these rock formations around here.
It's hard to tell, but the poor quality of this picture is caused by all the hail falling all around me.
Hail on the ground.
At about 2pm when I was starting the long slog back up to Mission Pine Springs, it really let go and hailed so hard it almost stung.
Somehow in my haste to get back to camp before the hail turned to rain (which it didn't) and before I froze to death (no rain coat, but I did have a jacket), I lost Tony and ended up hiking back up to Mission Pine Camp alone.
I have a thing for bunch grass meadows and I thought this one was rather nice.
I waited at least an hour at camp in my sleeping bag for everyone else to return. When they got back, someone built a fire. It was freezing cold. We huddled around the fire all evening until about 9pm when I felt warmed up enough to go to bed.
The next morning the hail clouds were gone and it was sunny. Still quite cold, however. We measured 30 in the un-sunny spots. In direct sun it was 65, so I sat in the sun for a while.
I walked over to the spring to take a picture of it. This is a reliable spring and the water is very tasty.
You can fill up your bottle directly without filtering as it comes right out of the ground here.
It was running quite nicely in April and formed a tiny creek running through the bunch grass meadow at the camp.
San Marcos pass and home, in the distance.
If you are interested in doing a Forest Service trail maintenance trip like this, you might try looking here for more information. I tried looking on lpforest.org's web site, but I wasn't sure if it was the same group or not. Either way, you can find a trip like this one.