We treaded softly past Yogi curled up in his sleeping bag at a time that qualified as a late start for us. The river didn’t give up anything less than waist deep roaring torrents. Eventually, up river, Dyl spied a large half submerged log spanning the entire breadth. It was ice slick, of coarse. The trick was getting off the steep drop overhanging snow embankment down to the foot wide ice log. Dyl, once cautiously squatted down, pioneered the all fours tree branch crawl making it safely across. As has been the case for virtually all of this mountainous terrain, I followed his lead.
We trucked up to the upper basin and the foot of Mather Pass. It was very steep. The snow, which had the sun shining on it for a couple of hours was already annoyingly soft. At my suggestion we scrambled up a boulder field half way before slogging a steep line the rest of the way to the top. I am growing comfortable with being out on these steep slopes, sometimes a thousand feet or more above distant blue lakes. Finally, we had to hack up to last ten feet of cornice. Off the back side, we slogged down to Palisades Lakes. Palisades Creek, which drains the two lakes, cascades magnificently down a series of falls through a narrow gorge. The trail section that picks its way down the drop is called, “The Golden Staircase.” It was a godsend to be efficiently lowered out of the snow to a beautiful pine forest and meadows. So many more colors to see than white gray and blue.
We followed the creek down its drainage for many miles. An ice cold slow pool provided a nice break and brief swim. It was too tempting to resist yet too cold to linger in. Amazingly, given the conditions, we put in about twenty miles today. The passes and all the snow have slowed us down considerably. We made the distance today thanks to the descent and respite from the world of white. Dead tired at “Little Pete Meadow” we pushed on. After all, how could I lay my head in such a place when “BIG Pete Meadow” was just another mile up the trail. Now we are camped between them.
Back at the dinner spot Dyl cooked up some curry lentils while I stretched and contemplated a waterfall. We cook our food on the trail and then move on to a camp so as not to attract the bears. Yogi’s statement about still taking the summer off bounced around in my head. Remembering jealously passing him all cozy this morning struck me. We have embarked on something much more than a wilderness experience. This is a feat of human endurance. We don’t have time to do anything but charge from dawn till dusk. Our swim today was fun and spontaneous. It made me realize how little we take those breaks. There has got to be immense amounts of enjoyment we aren’t tapping from these surroundings simply because of our pace. It is a true testament to the serene beauty of the wilderness that we do enjoy it quite a bit. We saw five deer today.