(PLEASE NOTE: Photos from this hike may be viewed at my BLOG.)
Some readers may recognize the title of this report as being a play on words from the classic animated movie Toy Story, where Buzz Lightyear often uttered the catchphrase: "To infinity, and beyond!".
My hiking buddy Steve and I recently teamed up for a hiking adventure that took to us to Ethan Pond . . . and beyond! En route to meet Steve, I saw a crowd gathered along Rt. 302 just a bit south of the Highland Center. The center of attention was a moose standing a hundred feet or so from the edge of the highway. I felt sorry for this rather morose moose. It's almost as though it had been employed to stand there for the pleasure of the tourists, and it was thinking: "How much longer do I have to stand here before my replacement comes on duty!"
Steve and I met at the trailhead for the Kedron Flume Trail. The early morning sun was brilliantly illuminating the cliffs of Mt. Webster. But besides the bright sunshine, a couple of other weather features were also going on. It was very cold (in the lower 40's) and the wind was brisk (to put it mildly!). Despite the low temperature and invigorating wind, we quickly warmed up on our climb up the trail to our first rest stop at Kedron Flume.
From Kedron Flume, we continued up the trail to the junction with the Ethan Pond Trail. In late March 2010, I had made a trek similar to the one being undertaken by Steve and I on this 6th day of October 2011. The stark contrast between the weather conditions for these two hikes could be seen when I compared photos taken on this trek to those taken on my winter adventure.
Our next stop of the day was at Ethan Pond where it was very, very cold. The wind was whipping up whitecaps on the surface of the water. Wind-driven waves were lapping at the shoreline and making sounds that you'd expect to hear along a seacoast! It felt nearly as cold as it did during my visit to this pond in late March. But, it was a much cheerier and colorful scene than the austere wintery view with a deep cover of snow all around.
After a brief stopover at Ethan Pond, we moved onward to the "beyond" segment of our trek! This involved trekking westward along the Ethan Pond trail for a little over a mile past Ethan Pond. We then headed off-trail for a bushwhack to an unnamed pond, and from there we climbed to a band of ledges located at about 3,000 ft elevation.
The unnamed pond was a true wilderness pond. There were plenty of moose hoof prints along the shoreline, and most likely they are about the only ones who ever visit this remote body of water. The pond itself was picturesque, and the top of Mt. Carrigain could be seen on the horizon in the distance. And although the pond was charming, the surrounding shoreline had a unique beauty of its own. There was colorful autumn foliage surrounding a carpet of cotton grass. It made for a striking scene.
From the unnamed pond we launched our bushwhack to the 3,000 ft ledges. The climb was steep, and in some spots was rugged and gnarly. I must say that it was a much easier bushwhack in winter conditions when the deep snow evened out the "playing field".
The southward views from these ledges are remarkable! You are looking right into the throat of the Carrigain Notch. The view eastward is also outstanding. This vista includes well-known landmarks such as nearby Mt. Willey, and Stairs Mountain and Mt. Resolution on the distant horizon. And of course, at the base of Mt. Willey is Ethan Pond, which we had visited earlier in the day.
After soaking in our fill of the magnificent views we packed up our things and started the homeward bound leg of our journey. We descended from the ledges via a completely different route than was used for our ascent. It was much smoother!
En route back to the trailhead, we made one more off-trail excursion by doing a short bushwhack to a wetland area that we had seen from our rocky perch less than an hour ago. From this spot we were able to look back at the ledges we had just descended.
We had one final treat during the return leg of our journey. The evening sun was backlighting the red maples which made them appear to be on fire! It was quite a dramatic scene.
To sum it up, it would be an exaggeration to say that this adventure was like an outer space visit to "infinity and beyond"! However, I can say that it was pretty darn good!