Writing from Tyndall Creek.
We had a great hike over Forester Pass, elevation 13,200’. I felt really good, no lightheadedness or anything. Lots of pikas today, and great scenery changes, from the dense woods to talus slopes with nary a tree in sight. Except for the extraordinary scenery, an uneventful day of walking.
We saw a cowboy with a pack train of 7 mules. He really looked the part, with a chin beard that a billy goat would be proud of, leather chaps, a wide- and flat-brimmed Spanish-style hat, riding a sure-footed little palomino mare. The last mule in the line was a lovely-looking jenny, who placed her feet so daintily and never let the lead rope go taut. Because of that scene, I guess, I started singing cowboy songs to myself. It seems I know snippets of many, but maybe only the all the lyrics to “I Ride and Old Paint.”
The south side of Forester Pass is extremely steep. The trail is an engineering and brute-strength marvel. Betty and I agreed that to hike it from the south would be a soul-crushing experience. So glad we’re headed the other direction! A couple of miles down, to the right, it looks like the Scottish Highlands while to the left it looks like the Asian Steppes.
When we got to the bottom of the steep part of the pass, there were a bunch of guys pitching their tents among the rocks. It was still very early afternoon, but they insisted that if we went to Tyndall Creek, the place would be overrun with mules and horseback-riding dudes, and lots of hikers. A man informed us, in a very authoritative manner, that there just weren’t many camp sites down there, and it was better to avoid the crowd and camp where they were (which looked like it was getting pretty crowded). As it turned out, we never saw the mules or the horse people or the hordes of hikers. Just two small groups of 4 and 3 people, and many beautiful campsites among the trees to choose from. We were glad that we didn’t obey the voice of authority.
We heard coyotes in the late afternoon, singing far away across the valley. I imagined how different I would feel about that song if I knew they were wolves instead. Scenes from Russian novels filled my head.
I ran out of memory on my camera card today. My fault. I sent the other card down the trail to Independence with Betty by mistake. So after the photo of Betty and me at the top of Forester Pass, all the photos from here to the end of the trip are Betty’s. I’m glad to have them. Thanks, Betty!
While hiking toward Forester Pass, we saw a pack of cigarettes and a lighter sitting like a still-life along the trail on a rock. I couldn’t imagine anyone trying to smoke at that altitude, much less while hiking, and also couldn’t imagine just leaving that trash by the side of the trail. So I picked them up to either reunite them with their owner or dispose of them properly when we hit “civilization” again. I asked people we met if they were missing their cigarettes, and nobody claimed them. Then, when we were in our campsite, almost all bedded down, I thought to ask our nearest neighbors. Sure enough! They were reunited with their owner, who was very glad to have them back. One less thing to carry for me.
I am thankful to be camping near Tyndall Creek, which enabled me to wash out my clothes and rinse off the accumulated dust and salt of the day. Clothes are hanging all over a nice little tree next to my sleeping bag. No pitching the tent tonight.
Now that you point it out, I can definitely see the “Smiley Face” on the rock knob in the third photo. It looks like the friendly Kool Aid pitcher man. Despite the altitude, you weren’t hallucinating! 🙂
Re: the use of hired horses and pack mules that allows more people to experience the high country, I do respect the ambivalence of dedicated hikers about this practice. At least it’s not the plague that allowing ATVs would be (as some IMHO lazy and selfish people have urged, arguing that it would “open up the National Parks”). Were that permitted, in addition to the godawful din and racket you’d be finding a heck of a lot more cigarette packs and lighters along the trails.
Laurie…I just read the second part of your blog….its been so wonderful traveling along the trail vicariously through your stories and pictures. Goregous vistas, lakes and trees! I hope someday I’ll get to hear you sing I Ride an Old Paint….it’s a favorite song and it would be a real treat. Thank you so much for sharing! And oh, I am so glad your banjo was recovered!