As great of a trip as this was, I would not recommend it for everyone. There were fabulous mushrooms throughout, larches turning a brilliant yellow, and views beyond views.
The only real downside is some pretty rough windfall to get through. An impressive amount of work has been done to resurrect this mostly forgotten trail. Sections which have been reported in the past to be problematic are now rough but easy to follow. Other sections are simply crushed under a jungle of broken trees. Yet somehow the pink or orange bits of surveyor's tape continues and by-and-large stays true to the original trail. Kudos to the layer of the tape. I really had to laugh at one point as I was traversing across a tangle of logs, staying on top of the logs as much as possible rather than dropping down into the thicket, there I was, eight feet in the air perched precariously across three separate logs alongside pink tape tied to a branch when I looked down to the ground only to see the trail tread directly below me! Inaccessible as the trail was at that moment, I was comforted to know that I was still on track.
The first four and one half miles is good trail, albeit with quite a few step-overs. Visiting the Gold Hill mine is worthwhile in it's own right. A great day hike or a place to camp. The next five miles to the pass (BTW Greentrails has the distance as eight miles to the pass, it is not, it is nine plus according to the four GPS units we employed) are rough at first and then simply fantastic. I've already described the rough so on to the fantastic.
Rising from the valley bottom the trail gains 1400' to Mebee Pass. This gain was barely perceptible after the previous flogging that we'd withstood. The trail has great tread, larches, mushrooms, and towering granite walls to entertain us. At about 5400' (still 1000' below the pass) my wife asked about water availability. We had just one and one half liters between the two of us at this point. We'd been planning to fill up at a signed "last water" location. "Did you double check the report that you read" and "did you confirm this with other reports" became the refrain. "This terrain is way to steep for their to be water this late in the season". By 5700' I was starting to get seriously concerned that I'd screwed up. I really didn't want to go back to 5000' and the last creek that we'd drank at. My wife refused my willingness to go back but we agreed that it was going to be a miserable night and morning on such rations.
Then through the graces of divine interventions and mother nature herself, at 6100' was the audible gurgle of a sweet little creek!! Tucked into the back of a mossy little hollow was the most glorious sight, water:) We practically skipped our way to the pass with the addition of six extra liters of water. Which for the record was far more than we needed, but it was nice to have anyhow.
Be forewarned, there is absolutely no space to camp at Mebee Pass. In a true emergency the trail would make a comfortable bivy spot. Much to my partner's disappointment another 500' in gain was required, without trail, through gravelly terrain, and circuitously up rocky bands to gain the lookout we'd aspired to. We slept contentedly under starry skies with full bellies and well hydrated.
Hiking out is generally easier. Knowing what to expect makes life just a bit easier. We counted no fewer than 200 logs to step over, straddle, crawl under, or balance on top of. Calorie depleted we returned safely to highway twenty with smiles on our faces.