We had a nice, leisurely morning at Big Arroyo. My cup of tea tastes so good—warm, soothing and it perks one up. We had a major stove mishap this morning, and I think I have pretty-much destroyed my little Soto stove. I had bought it used from a guy in Alaska for $15 some years ago, and it has always worked perfectly. This morning, though, I failed to notice that it had come partly unscrewed from the gas canister. So when I went to light it, it started a fire at the base and mostly melted the trigger that lights it before I could put it out. Now the stove won’t light on its own anymore. Luckily, we carry a couple of Bic lighters (one of which seems to have quit working), and we can still have our hot beverages and meals. Whew.
I found an old Native American storage pit near the old cabin here. It’s basically a depression in the ground lined with rocks, which had originally had a cover of some sort. Out in the woods around here, there is a horrid mess of tiny pieces of old toilet paper and stuff careless humans have left behind. I really don’t understand how one can walk so many miles in beauty to get here, and then trash the place!
I washed off my dusty tent (it’s like a car—runs better when it’s clean) and am waiting for it to dry in the sun before we pack up.
Nine Lakes Basin, later in the day…
We set up camp at 2:00 PM among the foxtail pines. It’s breathtakingly beautiful—and at 10,000′, it’s breathtaking anyway. We met Donald, a fellow from Berkeley today on the trail, who knows this area very well. He said, “Go up into the trees, and you’ll find a great campsite, and you’ll think you can’t do better. But just a little bit further on, and toward the waterfall, there’s an even better one.” It was just as he said, though we shied away from the first campsite anyway because of its position on the ridge. It seemed like it could possibly be in another wind tunnel. This new camp even has a piece of old wood with “WELCOME HOME” carved into it. It is secluded, sheltered, near a great water source, and out of the path of the strongest winds. There are views up to Kaweah Gap and down Big Arroyo, and massive cliffs with a cascade pouring down from the upper basin. I am tired and happy.
On the way up Big Arroyo today, we hiked for awhile alongside the creek. It was absolutely beautiful, and we didn’t see anyone for hours on end. Then, when we stopped so that I could fix my pack (more on that later), B went off to pee. As she squatted, she happened to glance up, and noticed a man some distance away with binoculars trained on her. Pretty funny, in all that emptiness!
Over the past year, I have been walking a lot with someone with serious health issues, and it has been work to slow my pace to his. Now I am feeling like I can’t find my old rhythm. Maybe it’s age-related, maybe I just lost it somewhere. I am hoping that on this trip, I can find that beat of my feet on the trail again. But I am so grateful to be able to get out here. I thank my lucky stars!
B is reading a book on the power of prayer, which includes this great quote from Arthur Eddington (astronomer, physicist, philosopher of science): “Something unknown is doing we don’t know what.” I really feel that out here.
5:45 pm: It’s raining, and we are sheltering in our tents. We timed it perfectly—just got back from a hike into the upper reaches of 9 Lakes Basin. We could see the storm brewing on the other side of Lion Rock, and most likely going strong at Tamarack Lake and over Elizabeth and Colby Passes.
We wandered upward along granite shelves, picking our way from lake to lake and stopping to admire the views and approaching clouds. Stopped for a swim in one of the lakes, which didn’t seem to have an inlet and so was warmer (less cold) than some of the others. I just started to write that it would hav been better if the sun were hotter, but damn! It was perfect! The rocks were warm, for drying off.
Everywhere we walked there were tiny flowers. It was impossible not to occasionally crush them underfoot. The horsemint and pennyroyal scented the air and woke our senses.
Now it’s hailing a little, as we shelter in our tents, just to remind us that Nature will have her say, and throw at us anything she wants at any time.
A little while later, it had stopped raining, and B called me out of my tent to watch the sunset. Glorious!