Up at 5:45 AM. I took a Benadryl and a Zyrtec last night, because the deer fly and other bites from Mehrten Creek were driving me bananas. I slept heavily, and woke up tremendously thirsty. But well-rested. I have been struggling with my defective air mattress every night, but last night I somehow managed to fill it and get the valve sealed before the air leaked out. Ahhh!
I hit the trail shortly after 7:00 for the climb to Precipice Lake. I was dreading it, as everyone was talking about how brutal it was. Only 2.5 miles, but these guys were saying it was harder than the climb up to Hamilton Lake. But Katy and I cruised up there in under two hours, leap-frogging each other all the way up. Katy said that a guy told her that only the most in-shape boy scouts can manage it in two hours. Well, all right, then!
There are wildflowers everywhere! Angelica, seep-spring arnica, golden aster, sierra daisy, golden yarrow, black-eyed Susans, western wallflowers, snakeweed, shooting stars, alpine columbine, ranger’s buttons, mountain pennyroyal, pussypaws, paintbrush,to name a few. Katy knew the names of quite a few. Every time the trail crossed a small waterway, the cleansing scent of pennyroyal would rise up to greet me.
From Precipice, you look out at the backs of the peaks that Barbara Higbie and I saw from Elizabeth Pass. I dropped my pack and took a swim. It was cold, but really refreshing. My skin tingled and I felt so alive.
Katy was continuing on over Kaweah Gap to a campsite down the other side. I decided to walk with her up to the Gap and take a look-see. Such a perfectly beautiful trail, ascending through three little perfect terraced wildflower gardens above the treeline. The view was great, and I just wanted to keep going on down the other side. I hung out there for awhile and saw Katy off. The wind started picking up and getting colder. I hadn’t brought any other layers of clothing with me from Precipice, and just a handful of trail mix to eat. It threatened rain and spit a few drops. I’ll come back up tomorrow.
Katy saw a pika on the way up the trail. I only saw a marmot. Darn. Flycatchers are flitting all over the place, buzzing to each other. When I got back to Precipice, I watched an American dipper (nee water ouzel) work its way around a portion of the lakeshore, diving under the water, swimming on the surface like a duck, and then running out onto a rock to do its little dipper dance. They are the coolest birds! I sat as still as I could while it worked its way towards me. At about 15 feet away, it must have sensed me, and abruptly flew back up the shoreline. When I heard the call, before I saw it, the name “dipper” floated into my brain. My conscious mind didn’t realize that I know their call. Its nice to know that I recognize it. Though I couldn’t describe it.
Yesterday, I saw a rescue helicopter bringing someone down over Kaweah Gap, maybe headed to a hospital in Fresno. Today I saw it headed out again over the Gap. Really close. I thought they were going to rescue someone else, and I would see them on the return flight, but I never did. Maybe they are stationed over on the other side somewhere. It made me think about how easy it would be to get oneself in a compromised position out here. On the way back down the trail from the Gap to Precipice, I slipped on a slick granite slab and skinned my arm. Somebody call the ‘copters! Oh, wait…there’s absolutely nobody else up here.
The wind is blowing, keeping it cool. No shade to be had almost anywhere. I fixed lunch, and then napped in my tent for a half hour. I have a view of Elizabeth Pass from my tent site. That is so exciting to me. I can start to put together a mental map of the mountains around here. A family of five hikers from Fresno came up the trail. They come to the mountains almost every weekend, and every year they do a long hike. They are hiking to Mt Whitney this year, which is what most of the people I meet on the trail are doing. They ask me where I’m headed, and I say I’m just on a walkabout. No particular destination. Just enjoying the mountains. Though I am happy to be by myself, I realize that I DO like running into these other people and spending a few minutes with them. I like having someone to share the experience with. I met another woman, hiking solo to Mt Whitney. She had started out with a friend who turned back because of a knee problem. I feel so lucky that I can just be up here and walk relatively pain-free. Everyone (the hiker family and the solo woman) are taking dips in the lake. I had to, too. It feels so great!
I ate my mid-afternoon snack, and felt like I wish the sun would go down so that I could go to bed. But there are hours and hours of the day left. I am spending it trying to hide from the sun.
I didn’t write any more today, and can’t remember how I passed the hours until bedtime. Just being. Oh, yeah…and taking pictures in the ever-changing light.