|Hiking||5.60 Miles|| || |
|836 ft AEG|| || || |
My son and I were in Mammoth for a father-son weekend together. We hiked to Pyramid Peak on day 1. We didn't make it all the way. On day 2 we set out for the Sherwin Lakes. As we neared the lakes we both smelled smoke. We didn't see any smoke though. Since lots of backpackers camp at the lakes I assumed it was a campfire, which is not legal, but I wasn't worried.
After spending much time exploring the lakes we decided to make this a long hike to Valentine Lake. As we neared the John Muir Wilderness boundary, I looked behind me at my son and my heart sank. Behind my son was a plume of smoke in the direction we had to go to get off of the mountain. There is an alternate route, but that would add a lot of mileage to the hike.
We headed back in the direction of the smoke. In hindsight it was probably a bad move, but we made it through. We didn't see any flames, but this was clearly more than a campfire somewhere off in the direction of lakes 1 or 2, where the trail doesn't go. It was very smoky all around.
As we descended off of the mountain we passed a number of forest service firefighters heading up. We were even questioned by an investigator at the bottom, who was speaking with every person that passed by. I assume it was campers that started the fire and I suspect that the campers were long gone and didn't even know that they started a forest fire.
We headed back to our condo to clean up and pack up. A couple hours later as we were leaving town we looked up and saw that the lakes area was fully engulfed in flames. It took a week to put the fire out. I later learned that both routes out were blocked by the fire. Had we not gotten out of there when we did, a helicopter would have had to rescue us as was the case with a number of people trapped at Valentine Lake. I'm glad I turned around and saw the smoke. It's the reason we turned around instead of proceeding onto Valentine Lake.