Day 51 (Tape)

Okay! Wednesday, June… 5th, I think. Ah, the first thing that happened to us in the morning was waltzed over and I took a look at that little old river we had to cross. And I believe my eyes did get a little wide when I saw it. It was ah, a big river. Rushing. Noisy. Kinda thunderous actually. And ah, the sign that kindly pointed to the other and said “Mather Pass – 4 miles” pointed right directly across a, what looked like about a hip to nipple-deep rushing torrent, followed by a waste-deep slower, but still dauntingly fast rock.. grass.. uh, I don’t know what you would call it, but I didn’t even consider doing it. Neither did Pete. So, we started walking upstream and kinda found a couple of possibilities. None of them looked very pleasant at all. Most of them involved either doing really treacherous jumps onto wet rocks or going in to the waste. And ah, we kept, just kept going upstream. And I’d say about half a mile later we came across a log that went all the way across. However, it was coated with ice, and very slippery. And ah, so we had to decide whether to go across. I decided that ah, I’d had some icy log technique practice before, and I decided that I could make it across on all fours, using my hands and feet. And I proceeded to do that. Ah, giving up my dignity for function while Pete snapped pictures of me crawling across the icy log to get to the other side. But it worked! And ah, we got to the other side –

we had woken up too late. You’re supposed to hit the pass early in the morning, and we didn’t get up till the sun was already in the sky. Ah, it wasn’t in the sky, but it was already on the mountain tops of the valley, which is really a pretty late start. But then we worried, or I was kind of worried about this creek – getting across it and then still getting up to the pass before it turned into a bog. So ah, we got across it in what I would have to say was fairly quickly, for the size of the problem it posed. And ah, started up towards the pass. Which we could see here and there along the way. It was just kinda straight up north ahead of us. Looked like a big icy wall. And ah, the snow was solid for the, most of the climb up there. It was early enough that it was still frozen. So it wasn’t too bad.

By the time we started getting close to it… well, it was really after we ate breakfast. I started sloggin, and just couldn’t go any further on the energy bar I had had in the morning. So we stopped and had breakfast. And then the snow started getting soft, and it started being work. And really, by the time we got up there it looked like about a thousand-foot climb of just knee-deep soggy wet nasty snow. And so ah, Pete spotted a route up some rocks that got us about halfway up. And so we gave it a try and it worked wonderfully. And then we just worked our butts off getting the other half up in the snow, and a rock jump here and there. I’d have to say that it was the toughest pass since Forester. Would you agree?

Pete: Yeah.

It was ah, it was just nasty. It was steep, it had a cornice at the top. It was all snow. And ah… but once we got to the top it was actually pretty fun being there. And ah, you could down to the Palisade Lakes, where we were going, on one side. And then back in the… across the huge Upper Basin which is just a huge flat area of frozen lakes and snow. Ah, treeless at the top and sparsely treed at the bottom. That eventually turned into the, ah King River that we had forded that morning.

So we get up to the top, take a breather, and start slogging down the back. And the back’s snow conditions are terrible. It’s crusty for about an inch on the top, not enough to hold you up. And then underneath that its soft and nasty and mushy again. And we slogged painfully down to, down the backside of the pass, down to the first Palisade Lake, the first two of em. And ah, make our way slowly, painfully through the snow around the first Palisade Lake. By the time we got there I was just feeling beat. Had to sit down for a while. Ah, I was just getting tired. It seemed like every ten steps you’d sink up to your waist and have to dig yourself out. And it was kind of on a hillside to get around the lake. Just extremely slow going. And hard work. And so we… I got sick of trying to traverse on the hillside, and kinda went down to the shore of the second lake, which we had to go around also. And ah, it had some kinda cliffs that went down to the water. They weren’t really cliffs, just steep rocks. And the trail had went above them and then descended to the shoreline. Ah, but we slogged over to them. And I kind of foolishly wandered out on to the icy lake. And went around the cliffs that way while Pete found a much easier way just right along the shore. But I made it safely back to the shoreline. And we just slogged and slogged and slogged, and got around the lake. And ah, got to the foot of it, where the runoff turned into Palisades Creek. And ah, the descent from that point was supposed to be kind of carved into the Palisade cliffs. Nicknamed the Golden Staircase. We were kind of curious about that, but we’d been working so hard, we had to stop and have lunch. So we did that on a rock there.

And ah, then we slogged through a little more snow, not too bad, and found our way to the top of the Golden Staircase. Which turned out to be just a beautiful, beautiful quick descent and escape from the land of sinking snow. And we didn’t have to deal with miles of sun cups or anything, we just switchbacked down these cliffs. Beautiful views of the Palisades Creek going over waterfalls while we were doing it. And just descended into ah from just complete white territory into plants and greenery. And soon at the bottom we got into ah, meadows and forests. And the colors were so intense, after looking at that white all morning long, that I seriously felt like I was on drugs! It was ah, surreal for the first couple of miles. Everything was just super vivid.

And the trail got easy. We forded a couple small streams. And then switched into, from our sodden, soaking wet boots into a dry pair of socks and our dry tennis shoes which felt absolutely wonderful. And just proceeded to burn up trail. Without even trying, I felt like I was floating through these woods, and grasses. And we kept descending, and, still following Palisades Creek down, which by this time is a roaring river. And ah, aw it was just beautiful. We got down into aspens, and ah just seemed like a paradise. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any more Paradise-like, I see Pete ahead sitting by the trail. He asks me if I’m hot, and I say well yeah, I guess I’m kinda hot. And he points the other way and there’s a beautiful green clear pool of ah, snow melt water where the river is going around a bend. And we just proceed to scream and rip off all our clothes and dive in. Each for only a brief moment as the water is icy and immediately chills you to the bone, but it was well worth it. We clambered back out into the sun and dried off, and it just felt wonderful. Reminded me of the time when I was ah, or the times actually when I was in… Camella and my dad and I went up Vallecito Creek in the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado and found some marvelous places to go swimming there. It was just ah, there’s no feeling like it.

And we quickly, well not quickly, we had a – I ate my afternoon snack and we ah got dressed and slogged the packs on and just proceeded to burn up some more trail. And soak in some more sights. We the ah forks, or the ah junction of the Middle Fork of the Kings River and the Palisades Creek. And started going up the Middle Fork. And ah, just, we made it up several miles. I think we came close to 20 miles today which is just, for the kind of territory we were covering, is kind of incredible. And ah, we’re camped here at Big Pete Meadow. We have views of falls on either side. Ah, towering above us. To my right, or I guess it would more apt to say my west, is a big kind of squarish mountain that looks like it was just chiseled out of a big block of white granite. And the cliffs just kind of slowly arch up towards the top. And ah, hell, it’s a beautiful spot! And it’s amazing, it’s not even dark yet! The stars aren’t even out. We just ah, had a really good day, we pretty much did everything today.

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