Friday, September 09, 2016

High Sierra Trail – Day 5 (Friday)

[Maryanne]Starting in Kern Valley, just past Whitney Creek at around 8,000’, heading for Wallace Creek on the John Muir Trail (JMT) at 10,400’ (i.e. a lot of climbing).

The day started very cold, and Kyle disturbed a deer as he went about his morning ablutions. Once the sun rose it became instantly HOT. Finally the map mileage matches with the trail signage, so we were hopeful that our planned hike distance would turn out to be accurate.

The day’s hike was practically all up hill, and while still tough, it was also easier; we suspected we were feeling fitter, and more acclimated (and of course our packs are slowly getting lighter). Since the following days will see us increasing in altitude, we can’t yet get too smug, but are feeling much more confident of our abilities than those first few days. Our last day on the trail coincides with my 50th birthday and Kyle keeps promising (Joking) that it will be all downhill on my birthday (funny man).

Late on the hike yesterday we passed a solo young woman going in the opposite direction. She said she was studying frogs and was hiking up to Sky Parlor Meadow (by Moraine Lake) to collect samples. We met her just as we’d reached the bottom of that steep descent and didn’t envy her one bit the fact that she was planning to climb that and camp overnight in the Meadow. Today we were amazed when she passed us at a fair pace. Not only had she hiked up, done research, and camped overnight, she had also hiked down that steep terrain, along the valley, and was now passing us, as we climbed. She was sprightly and nimble as if the hike was an easy stroll through the supermarket. Yay girl science!!!

The hike today gave beautiful views again, and with our (imagined?) fitness improvement it even felt quite pleasant. The sequoias seem particularly grand (but stunted due to the altitude/conditions), and we imagined they were planted just for our pleasure.

Today we camped just as the High Sierra trail merges with the JMT. We arrived early (about 1pm) as it was a planned half day – so we set up tent in a prime spot and relaxed. We did laundry to attempt to remove some of the dust from our clothing, and enjoyed laughing at the antics of the squirrels as they scampered about camp. The sun shone and other hikers lunched and moved on. The camp chairs were put to good use.

Laundry with entertainment

Initially sat with our chairs in the sun, it soon became too hot. Rather than keep moving the chair, I simply pulled out my umbrella and used it as a parasol. This had Kyle chuckling and amazed and incredulous that I’d found space to pack such a luxury extra (in fairness, it was tiny and only a couple of ounces).

By late afternoon there were at least 9 other camp sites set up; now we are on the JMT, things are getting busier. Eventually Julio and Greg also joined us, but reported that Greg had taken a nasty fall onto his back on a river crossing and had to spend some time to recover and dry out his wet boots and socks. Yikes, luckily he was only bruised. The thought of a more serious injury out here is quite unnerving, and this had been a close call. We made a note to ourselves to continue to be cautious and slow and make good use of our hiking poles and hope for a bit of luck too.

The hikers we saw the most of - Greg and Julio became wonderful trail friends

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