6 nights backpack & 2 nights hotel
2020 Bag nights: 23
Caltopo says about 60 miles and 12000' of elevation gain
I started planning/thinking about this trip in December 2019 with the idea of locking in permits when they opened in Feb. I talked to a backpacking friend about joining me and he was interested. No problems getting permits in Feb but there was this new disease in China that looked "interesting", probably not a big deal, so I booked my plane flight and rental car for the end of July.
Of course that "interesting" disease ended up being COVID and that scrambled everything :) The most obvious scrambling early on was kids are home from school so I ended up doing less hiking than a normal spring and I basically stopped climbing stairs when the campus shut down, and then family time in early summer ... basically I did not have the legs for a serious 8 night SEKI trip, but I had some potential options if I needed to call an audible.
COVID scrambled my flight, it was supposed to be direct from Cincinatti to Las Vegas but changed to connect through Minneapolis. The whole point of driving to CVG was for a direct flight. I called Delta repeatedly through the summer trying to change the flight, but they would not answer the phone and something about the way I purchased the ticked meant that I could not change my flight online. I finally got through a couple weeks before the departure date and changed my flight to fly out of Lexington. I still had to connect but much shorter drive and a longer flight time.
The week before I left I went on a dayhike to try out new shoes and had a horrible shoe/sock incident that left me with a horrendous blister/raw spot on one of my heals. So, out of shape with weak legs and an awesome blister/open sore, but I'm still going to make this trip work.
Early flight and my wife drops me off at the airport. The Lexington airport is never busy at 6 am, but it looks like a ghost town now. I connected through Detroit which was equally empty and eventually arrived in Vegas which had people, but was no where near crowded, got the rental car and drove to Pahrump NV to get denatured alcohol for my stove and beer a sub for dinner and then continued to Cottonwood Pass Trailhead/Campground for the night. I found a quiet site near an older man who was solo. He had a USS Constellation hat and we talked a little bit about his military service and watched a couple F/A-18s fly overhead. He was planning on hiking the JMT starting in a couple days after never really backpacking before. We chatted a bit as I got set up and then in the evening and morning before we wished each other "happy hiking" and went our separate ways. I hope his trip ended up successful.
The Cottonwood Pass trail is easy for the most part, very gentle in the beginning but even the switchbacks don't feel hard and there is shade along the way which helps. As you get higher, the views open up a bit. Horseshoe Meadows down below.
This ended up being a great trip even with out of shape legs and loosing most of my fuel. I got to do a mix of official and unofficial trails as well as Crabtree Pass which was a good experience/practice for future trips.