Day 44 (Pete)

The first day out from Kennedy Meadows we have hit snow as expected. It is not, however, as all encompassing or as ominous as we expected. Toward 10,000 ft. it gets patchy. The trail is still quite easy to follow. Even on north facing slopes, which see little sun, the coverage is broken into small and sporadic drifts. Tonight we are higher up, maybe 10,400. There is a bit more snow; yet, we are still able to locate a flat dry spot big enough to set up blue land. Permanent snow cover, we have heard, sets in a 11,000 ft., around the tree line. Looking at maps to come, we will have plenty of time up in it. Hopefully not enough to be overtly dangerous, or tiring, or daunting. Though, that will surely come eventually.

After a week and a half of register tag, we have caught Brad and Betsy. We had unknowingly passed them as they camped at Yellow jacket Springs on that windy night back in the Paiutes. They passed us again as we couch toured. We all talked about the beauty of the mountains and trepidation about snow. Mutual encouragements were offered. They told us about a big ‘ol bear sitting on the trail right by Death Canyon, our breakfast spot this morning. Their yelling at the bear, in order to encourage it to relocate, had bounced off the granite walls to us as a sort of strange wail. “Hey isn’t that crazy screaming coming from the direction of Death Canyon?”

There are a couple of options as to how one may deal with hungry bears coming into the campsite. One, the only one according to the park service, is to “bear bag” your food. This involves hanging the food off a tree branch preferably twenty feet off the ground and ten feet out from the trunk. Dyl described the nightly process as, “A huge pain in the ass.” The alternative, which we practice, is to sleep on or at least right next to your food. Our guide book states, “A bear will rarely attack a human for their food.” On the other hand it makes the disclaimer, “If you aren’t willing to deal with bears in the middle of the night don’t even try it (our method).” Our first line of defense is a rock in the cook pot left between our heads at night. It makes, when shaken, loud metallic scary people noises. This was Mom’s tried and true method. Next is a pile of fist size rocks for chucking. If things began to get really hairy we would have to resort to the two or three big rocks we call “clunkers.” If the bear is still tenacious, and probably angry after getting clunked, we plan on running away. It is impossible to out run a bear. They can crash through dense plant cover at forty miles an hour. Any bear worth its salt, however, would much rather kick back and eat our tasty peanut butter than go crashing through dense plant cover. As a last resort, the ice ax for hand to hand combat. The object of hand to hand combat is not to win, that is a little far fetched. It is to show ’em you mean business and they should just take the food and be happy. Black bears have been described as, “timid.” So, no worries.

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