Day 52 (Pete)

Oh did I wake up in a foul foul mood this morning. It seemed way too early for Dylan to be rolling up his pad. I languished in my bag. The ascent back up into the snow and up Muir Pass was, although reported to be easy, very daunting. Totally sick of snow, I bemoaned every step. A more positive attitude may have helped things along. Dyl, way ahead of me, was cheery as I struggled up to the rock island he had selected for the morning meal. An ascending maze of gullies lie between us and the top of the pass. It looked far far away and I had to comment. Ever versed with the map, Dylan replied, “Oh, that doesn’t look so far. What looks far to me is the way down the other side.” Sometimes it behooves us to let conversations die.

It was a long way down the other side. We lost very little elevation on the initial descent. We were still way above tree line and even farther above snow line when Wanda Lake flattened the terrain. Four rather large lakes, each named after one of John Muir’s Daughters, prevented us from dropping significantly in elevation. We would trudge for forty minutes along the sharp blue frozen waters only to drop thirty feet to the next lake. The terrain was bleak, not a living thing in sight. Hot sun bounced off the snow from every direction endlessly. The lakes were bordered by huge cliff laden peaks and the silence, save the steady beat of out steps, was almost tangible. We stopped briefly; and, upon surveying out surroundings, I remarked, “If this were a movie one of us would end up eating the other.” Dyl looked at me wryly and retorted, “Oh! At least!”

After a much anticipated lunch we began a descent back to, “the tropics.” Green meadows and forests brightened my day. Evolution Creek, to our left, was swollen to three or four times its apparent banks. It formed raging torrents and peaceful lakes amidst the green grass of evolution valley. I went behind a rock to dig a whole and returned to bad news. Dyl, referencing the map, pointed to the huge expanse of water, the “creek”, and dropped the bomb. “In about two and a half miles we gotta cross that.”

I’d say that it was sixty, maybe sixty five of seventy feet across, naval deep, cold as ice and very swift at the ford. We, voluntarily being I, had to make a test run without the packs to determine if a crossing was even possible. Almost half way across I had to strain to prevent from being knocked over and swept away. “Yep, it’s doable.” Here roles reversed. Up until this point, I was constantly, daily, doing things I had never done before. I was following Dylan’s steps and following his example. With a great deal of previous experience with rivers, I took it as my duty to break trail. There was an eddy of slow back water about twenty five yards up stream from the far shore eddy I planned to end up at. The current was to strong to fight. So, rather than try, I knew to take a descending diagonal and let it push me down stream. As I was extremely cold and nervous from the test run, I set out to do it right away. With my pack on as tight as I could get it, I fought my way up the bank through a thicket of fallen trees and underbrush. Out on to a pile of drift wood in the eddy the water was already waist deep. Without straining against it, the current was manageable. Just past where I had turned back from the test run it shallowed and, consequently, the current got extremely strong. Each step pushed by the water covered at least ten feet. The bottom was slippery and irregular. Once a fell backward but the current caught my pack and righted me. The discovery enabled me to crouch and kind of bob along on the buoyancy of the pack which gave my legs greater steering ability. The amount of pure adrenal survival in me was such that I was almost wholly animal. Dyl laughingly recounted later that I stood over my knees in the eddy for two minutes yelling instructions about the current to him. It was something I could have just as easily done on the dry shore. Irrelevant, however, as I was so pumped up that I was unable to feel the temperature of the water. He crossed and I saw the same look on his face that I know had been on mine. Fifteen minutes later, in warm dry cloths on the far bank, I got extremely cold. The effects of coming down.

Early tomorrow we pass out of Kings Canyon National Park. It is beautiful land that will be etched in my minds eye forever. Tonight we are the only people in a large multi-spot campsite by the confluence of Evolution Creek and the San Joquin River. This place must be so over used in season that it should have a billboard that reads, “Attention Bears. Food Here.”

Muir Pass was our last over 11’000 ft.. The land is opening up a bit. We are, we can sense, gradually leaving behind the “Peaks and snow as far as the eye can see,” observed from Mt. Whitney. Dyl expressed that he would miss the big passes. I guess I will too. I’ll miss ’em the same as someone would miss a domineering spouse after finally packing the suitcase and leaving.

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