From lake Marjorie to past grouse meadow
We didn’t put up our net tent last night, and the mosquitoes finally chase us out of bed. The swarms are getting thicker every day.
We drop quickly below timberline for a lovely, morning, forest walk. We fall in with Tasty and Storybook at a stream crossing, all of us balancing on wet stones and logs to keep our feet dry. There actually hasn’t been a single stream I’ve had to wade through yet, although I hear we might have to do a real ford tomorrow.
The climb takes us up onto a plateau with broad shields of white granite, soft green grass, and bright pink flowers. J lies down on the springy turf next to a deep, murmuring stream. I sit next to him, under that immaculately blue sky, and run my fingers through his curls. I look at the mountains all around us and think: “what picture could ever capture this moment? This perfection?” I always try, but a smartphone camera is simply not up to a job this monumental. It can’t capture scope – or the happiness.
We’re getting close to the pass when we pass another group of hikers. One of them, an old, Japanese gentleman, asks, “you didn’t happen to see some sunglasses back there, did you?”
“No,” replies J. “But I have an extra pair,” and he pulls out a spare pair of safety glasses and hands them over. We all introduce ourselves, and Kachun expresses his gratitude for his new glasses over and over – it’s really the least we could do – we hollered at him in his tent the night before after he’d gone to bed, thinking he was a different friend of ours. Besides, if you’re not going to be ultra-lightweight, you might as well be able to help people out.
Not much longer and we’ve hit the switchbacks. Once you hit the switchbacks the pass is almost over. We’d tried to guess which notch in the ridge was Mathet pass and J is wrong again, but Teal and Bluesman are waiting on top. The view is spectacular on the other side of the pass too. Fat marmots try to sneak up on our trail mix.
Going down takes us over slick, glacial polish to the Palisades lake. “J, we should go swimming.”
“You want to?” he responds, surprised. I loathe cold water.
“It’s to beautiful not to!” So we strip to our skivvies and jump in. (Ok, I actually get my feet wet, then have to spend another five minutes talking myself back into it. I eventually dunk myself.)
After the lake the trail unrolls into another amazing vista, then another. Narrow canyons with tumbles of rock and water, impossibly green grass, waterfalls, wildflowers, endless switchbacks down, down, down, down. Down, down. I’d be glad we aren’t going up, except that I’m pretty sure the next section of trail after this is a mirror image of this, heading up to Muir Pass.
We’ve come down into a smooth, U-shaped glacial valley, back below the timberline. The golden hour is upon us, and I’m exhausted, but Bluesman has a goal in mind and he’s dragging me, J, and Teal along with him. The white walls of the valley gleam in the fading light, and the white aspens are ghostly. We see the biggest Ponderosa pine that we’ve ever seen, and waterfalls, and giant, rushing creeks, then we’ve turned and start to climb again, up into King’s Canyon.
Grouse meadow is a green jewel in the gloaming. I’m exhausted, but Bluesman hasn’t stopped yet, so I keep stumbling on in the last dregs of the day. I’m so tired I don’t care about keeping up with friends anymore – I just want to stop! Unless I want to sleep on top of a boulder, that’s not an option though, and we finally stumble into Bluesman’s camp. Teal is not far behind, and even more destroyed – his Achilles tendon is giving him so much he can barely walk. We rush our camp set up, goaded by mosquito hordes. Sleep at last, to the sound of rushing water.
Don’t want to cross here…
J and Tasty find a good spot to cross.
Flower lined paths.
Heading up to Mather pass
More pink flowers
The two blues brothers – Teal and Bluesman, on top of Mather.
I see you Mr. Marmot.
I swear they hire landscapers for some sections.
Another easy stream crossing