4:00 PM Matterhorn Canyon supplied me with a great night’s sleep. I slept uninterrupted from 8:00 until 1:00 AM, which for a woman of my age is damn good. Then I was so comfy and snug, I didn’t budge until 6:00 AM. We hit the trail at 8:00, expecting the worse up to Benson Pass, but it was like a stroll in the park. And what a park it is! The trail led up a canyon, with granite walls rising thousands of feet above us on either side. the weather was ideal, full of fresh sweet mountain air, cool in the shade and warm in the sun. The trail was empty of people until we got to Wilson Creek, and we saw all sorts of birds and flowers, and a magnificently unconcerned 12-point buck who studied us from across the swale. Eventually, he got bored and went back to eating.
Today was as easy as yesterday was hard. We topped Benson Pass by 10:30, and took some time out for a snack and to just enjoy being. Then Smedberg Lake by 11:30.
We heard and saw Clark’s Nutcrackers up on Benson Pass. I have certainly heard enough of them on this trip, but they have always been distant, and these were the first close-up sightings. They are such garrulous critters, and their talking is one of the sounds I look forward to. Makes me know I have arrived!
Sorry! I couldn’t stop taking photos today. Bear with me, please.
After descending Benson Pass, we started seeing people, and counted 20 on the trail today, but there hasn’t been a soul since we took the trail less traveled. There were many long-distance hikers, from Bend and Ashland, OR, and Shasta, and who knows where else. One guy had been hiking for six weeks. He said he had hiked the entire PCT a few years ago, and now he’s just going slow, stopping to fish and enjoy the scenery, actually experiencing the places he raced through before, and resupplying every 75 miles. We asked him if he ate the fish he caught, and he said no, most of the time it was catch-and-release. Then he educated us about the difference in flavor between brook and rainbow trout. I had no idea. Apparently, rainbow is much more “fishy” tasting (I guess that means brook trout must taste like chicken).
I prefer a trail like this, where the grass can still grow on it—fewer feet stomping it down. The Pacific Crest Trail was nice, manicured and well-traveled. But I am glad to be turning away from it.
Now we’re at Rodgers Lake, so of course I can’t get the Jimmie Rodgers song, “Away Out On The Mountain” out of my head. It is so, so, so stunning here.
The weather is changing. We could be in for some cold or a storm. We shall see. We met a young woman from Berkeley hiking solo, a gardener named Sequoia. Afterwards, I wondered if that was her “real” name, or a trail name. And what is real, anyway? Met another guy named Megaphone, who really enjoyed talking.
We have set up camp not too far from the lake, in the leeward side, anticipating some weather blowing in with the wind. It is so very pleasant here. Today was Barbara’s hard day, while I was “the Kid,” effortlessly climbing the ridges. Tomorrow starts our two days of downhill to Pate Valley, and then up the Tuolumne.
For some reason, my back is extremely sore today, right in the spot where I fractured two vertebrae in our 1994 car wreck. I am very, very pleased to find out that Barbara gives a great back massage! It helped me so much. Grateful for those strong piano hands!
13 miles, and 63 floors climbed, according to my phone. A beautiful day!