May 29, 2017: Hiked Miles 722.2 to 741.7 (19.5 total)
Brrr. Sleeping at 10000 feet gets a little chilly. Luckily we have some good sleeping bags and base layer clothing so just our faces were frozen. I hate to have anything covering my face, but I might have to buy some kind of breathable buff to wear over my nose at night. Colton woke up in the middle of the night to pee so I figured I might as well go too since I was awake. It was a crystal clear night and the sky was bright with stars and the crescent moon peeking through the trees. It definitely made freezing my butt off worth it.
When I finally woke up in the morning, it seemed very light out and I figured it must be late. But when I checked my phone it was only 5:45, which seems to be my new wake up time. I don’t even know who I am anymore. I got out to pee again and it was definitely colder than the night before. The sun was still stuck behind the mountains and there was a brisk breeze that kept sweeping through our campsite that chilled your bones. We kept all our layers of clothes on while we packed up and ate breakfast. For breakfast we had another great Mountain House meal that Kjerstin sent us. Dehydrated scrambled eggs with ham and peppers. Yummy. And we split a big blueberry muffin that Colton had packed out from Kennedy Meadows. It was the perfect breakfast. While we were eating the big group of hikers we had passed yesterday passed us. They looked happy and cold. I was still freezing after breakfast but I knew right when I started hiking I would get hot so I reluctantly took off my base layer. I kept my beanie, gloves, and puffy on since they are easier to take off quickly. I started hiking since I knew that was the only way to warm up. Colton had kept his base layer on, but had to stop about five minutes in since he got so hot. My toes felt like they had frostbite for the first half hour, but I knew they would warm up eventually so I tried to ignore the pain. We climbed about 600 more feet up the mountain and got into some more snow.
It was still pretty patchy and we constantly went from dirt patch to snow patch. It was still frozen so it wasn’t too hard to walk on, as long as you could keep from slipping. The trail was covered in a lot of areas so it actually made it fun to navigate our way. We got off trail a few times but always managed to find our way back. Ok, the GPS found our way back. Same thing.
We crossed quite a few icy mountain streams and had a fun morning hiking/sliding down the mountain. Shorty into our hike we passed the large group of people who had passed us at breakfast. These guys would be the last people we would see all day. Most of them had their crampons or microspikes on and were still moving pretty slowly. I feel very fortunate for having grown up in the snow and to feel so comfortable in it. I could see how it could be a very scary thing for people who don’t have much experience with it. And today was nothing compared to what we’re going to be hiking in in a few days.
Eventually we got below the snowline and spent the rest of the morning wandering through the forest.
Everything was so pretty and smelled just like summer back home in the mountains. We filled up with water at one of the hundreds of mountain streams before we started a good little climb up Death Canyon.
I’m pretty sure we were even looking at Mt. Whitney. We sat on top and ate lunch and enjoyed our own private mountain. Well, us and the red ants. You would think the snow would kill those things off, but apparently they just hibernated all winter and came out just in time to eat us.
We like to get about two thirds of our day hiking done before lunch. We’re never as productive afterwards and it’s always harder as the day gets hotter. Even up here in the snowy mountains, our afternoons still get pretty warm and we hike most of the day in shorts and t-shirts. Once we got hiking after lunch we slid down some more snow hills and then cruised back through the forest.
We made it to our camping site, a big open, flat area right in the sun on both the east and west sides, a hiker’s dream. We would be warm eating dinner and hopefully breakfast too and not have to sleep on a slope. We set up quickly and ran down to the creek to fill up with water.
We had packed enough food for four days, thinking we were going to encounter a lot more snow that would slow us down, but we went way faster than expected and will be at our drop off point to go into Lone Pine in just a few miles tomorrow morning. This means we have a lot of extra food, so we rummaged through our bear canisters seeing what else we could snack on to feed our always-starving bellies. Peanut butter, trail mix, and candy was the answer. We keep saying we’re gonna cut down on candy, but if it ends up in a care package, it would be rude to not eat it, right? Yea I think so. I can’t say I’m complaining. Whatever fills the tummy I suppose.
Now it’s not even 8:00, the sun is finally setting, we’re laying in our tent, Colton just woke up and told me Happy Birthday (little late) and I’ll probably be asleep before 9:00.
Out here, that’s what we call a good day. I just remembered it’s Memorial Day and it got me thinking about how different this one is from past ones. In the past I probably would have been working or at the lake, drinking a few beers. Now I’m just sitting up in the snowy mountains without another soul other than one dirty, stinky dude who likes to do crazy stuff with me. Life is good.