Wednesday, July 7, 2010

That's Why We Hike

Day 85-July 7th
Destination: MM 1204ish
Miles: 20
Cumulative Miles: 1157

We woke this morning to an early climb. Very quickly the trail disappeared behind the snow. While it was not too difficult to figure out where to go, it was reasonably difficult to cross the steep snow fields and patches. Old Scout led the way, but Psycho held back to help cut deeper footholds for Apricots. Climbing up, we were faced with the usual difficulties, but had a slightly new one: collapsing snow bridges.

We reached a point where the melting snow had formed a cascading creek beneath the snow we walked upon. It was necessary to take large steps, or even leaps to get across a weakened snow bridge, lest we break through and turn an ankle on the rocky stream below.

Nearing the top of our climb, the trail was lost under snow, so we chose to cut straight up the slope (off snow) to the saddle the trail went over. We took a short break at the top of the climb before crossing snow fields and navigating our way down. Once out of the snow, we followed a beautiful ridge, which definitely left us feeling like we had returned to the Sierras. Wild flowers bloomed richly across the hillside. Vibrant yellows to faded dusty yellows mixed with deep blue and violet flowers. Rich red Indian Paintbrushes made frequent appearances between all the other flowers.

As we began to climb again, we were met with more snow. We pulled out our traction (StablIcers) and put them on our feet. The remainder of the day consisted of a constant bouncing between snow and rocky terrain. We were frequently walking across the snowless trail with our traction on, so as not to stop repeatedly to put them on again, off again. The click-grind of the metal spikes on the rocks sounded as a horse's shoe might as its hoof ground it's way across the terrain.

While enjoying our lunch at the top of a crest with a great view down to Gold Lake, we watched clouds forming what appeared to be something quite dangerous. We finished our lunch, and walked south into the clouds. Soon thunder began to rumble, and we were stuck on a ridge. Either side was steep and generally snowy, and we had eight miles of ridge walking in the other two directions. Then the lightening came, and though it was far off, there is nothing that motivates a hiker to move quick like the possibility of being struck by lightening (except maybe "town food").

Old Scout and Apricots were moving, but not fast enough for Psycho. "Move Faster! We are on an exposed barren ridge and lightening is striking nearby," pleaded Psycho as he quickly trod down the trail. Apricots later commented that Lightening is the only thing that motivates Psycho to move.

As the grumbling clouds died down, the rain started to fall. We paused long enough to put on our rain gear, but hurried to keep moving, as we were still atop a ridge, and the clouds still moaned of their trapped energy.

Nothing tells the weather to rain quite like washing one's car; and it would seem that putting on rain gear causes the weather to get nice. Twenty minutes after we donned our gear, the storm passed, and we were taking it off so our bodies could breath again.

As we neared the end of our day, we bumped into a Boy Scout troop, which had hiked the same leg we just did. It's hard to hike what we did, and even harder to imagine doing it as a teenager, or being the adult responsible for safely guiding several young boys through it. After meeting them, we saw another hiker, who had been caught in the center of the lightening storm. After lightening struck twice within 40 yards of him, he dropped his pack and ran down the mountain. He was on his way back to go find his pack.

At the final water source for the day, shrouded deep in the forest, we asked Old Scout to go find a campsite with a view. It was said as a joke, as we expected nothing but trees, but one quarter of a mile down the trail, the trees opened up, and we were given one of the most amazing campsites of our entire trip. Nearly 360 degrees of scenic mountains.

And while we struggled through most of our day, Apricots saw fit to point out, "This is why we do it."

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  1. Loved this post, humor, adventure, danger, rain, snow....and boy scouts. Not to mention an abundance of flowers, and what a view. You appear to be resting in the glory of a day well hiked. And what a view you've been blessed with.

    Journey on with blessings of safety.

  2. Grandma Helen (grmahln)July 10, 2010 at 4:26 PM