I slept much better last night. I was in the tent by an un-heard-of 6:30 PM. I wrote, read “The Road o a Naturalist,” by Donald Culross Peattie, and slept until 11:30 PM. (Peattie wrote a wonderful and nerve-wracking story, “Death Valley Christmas, 1849”. You can read it online here) Then I read some more, and slept again until about 5:00 AM. I decided to wait for the dawn chorus to get up, and at about 6:00 AM the Clark’s Nutcrackers started hollering and making a racket. OK! I’m up! No gentle, dulcet tones of thrushes and chickadees this morning…
Kristin and I decided to leave our camp set up and go over Selden Pass to Marie Lake, to see if the smoke conditions are better there. It’s a really nice hike, past Heart Lake and on over the pass, which looks like a movie set. Every rock is placed just so, and the trail follows alongside a little mountain brooklet lined with nodding wildflowers, and through a narrow meadow. It’s quite a different scene from last August, when Betty and I hiked through here headed south on the John Muir Trail. Everywhere is shrouded with smoke, but not nearly as bad as along the San Joaquin. At the top of the pass, Marie Lake appears suddenly spread out below us, appearing rather like a landscape from Norway, with the scoured flat expanses of glacier-polished granite.
While we were enjoying Marie Lake, though, the wind picked up and we could see the smoke starting to drift over the pass. We decided to call it quits and head back to camp and pack out. Unfortunately, it took us so long to pack that we decided to spend another night only two miles from Sallie Keyes Lakes.
The light is so strange–rosy-orange in color. I hope the smoke doesn’t do damage to us overnight here! Tomorrow we’ll head out early, hopefully (OK. Kris is a great backpacker and trail companion, but she packs up more slowly than anyone I have experienced) to Muir Trail Ranch and see what can be done about our reservations there for 8/26.
Marie Lake is noticeably lower than last August. Somewhere, I have a photo to prove it, I think. Poor California! Burning up and desiccating in the wind.
We hiked about six miles today. Tonight we’re above Sanger Creek, only three miles from MTR. We shall see what conspires in the morning. My niece, Chloe, Kristin’s daughter, will be racing in Italy at about 4:00 AM Pacific Time in the World Cup Mountain Bike race in Val de Sol. I think that’s in the Dolomites. So by the time we wake up and get to the Ranch, we will be able to get some news of how she did.
At first, I found this campsite almost devoid of charms, but a second look reveals that we are among a real, mature, un-“managed” forest of lodgepole pines. Every age is in evidence everywhere, with beautiful openings filled with now mostly-spent wildflowers. A red sun is setting slowly through the smoke.