|Sunset at Emigrant Meadow*|
We had come up a little short of yesterday's goal of Kennedy Meadow, so we made up for it by getting out a little earlier. The pavement flew beneath my feet and I watched Dave get steadily closer to me. I passed him and shortly thereafter, we saw the road into Kennedy Meadow below. Dave cut down to the road (a very obvious and pleasant cross-country) while I continued on to the road junction. It's a good thing I did because there was a phone right there and I was able to call Lori. Lori's mom didn't have cancer, but rather Barrett's disease (which relatively speaking, is yay). The last mile to the Kennedy Meadow store was much easier now.
We sat at the porch table in the morning shade, ate a welcome breakfast with a bottomless carafe of coffee, made phone calls and processed our final food drop. As usual, it took me an eternity to do all this and when it was time to depart I was frantically putting my pack together while Dave was hanging out waiting for me. Heavier pack then any other leg. Hot day. We crossed Kennedy Creek on a bridge and climbed up the canyon of the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. We were pursued by equestrians and at one point took a break just so we could let them pass. Horse after dusty horse. At one point, a horse stopped nearby and unleashed a torrent of urine as if to tell us what he thought of us. At the same time, a small dog came running up to us, sniffed Dave's boots, walked a few feet and then vomited. We almost died of laughter. C'mon barf boots, let's get going.
Luckily we never caught up to the group and the trail was again ours. The climb from Relief Reservoir was steady and the sun hot, but not overwhelmingly so. After leaving the realm of the day hikers, we trod on recently rebuilt trail through a canyon bearing clear evidence of both granitic and volcanic influences, which helped make an exhausting climb enjoyable. After joining Summit Creek, we spied Brown Bear Pass, our main objective for the day and cheered at the dearth of snow and the likelihood of continued snow-free trail. The final ascent to the pass featured a well-worn path through a steep slope of melting snow and a guy who totally ignored us on his descent from the pass. It's kind of unusual to meet the averted eyes of the city this far from the realm of the day hikers.
Atop the pass, my mouth dropped to the ground as I saw a land locked in snow. I felt like a balloon deflating. Four more days of that? The prospect of making the kind of miles we needed to make going across that much snow given how tired we were from the trip already, made for a depressing, bleak outlook. We caught our breath and let the seriousness of the situation sink in. I caught myself getting very depressed and decided that that approach wasn't going to work, so I chose instead to approach it as a dangerous opponent to be conquered. This mental shift lifted my spirits as we descended toward Emigrant Meadow, yelling at Nature to "bring it on!" (dangerous words).
We lost the trail completely and aimed for a land feature in line with our compass bearing. The sun was sinking and we decided to hike till 8:30 and accept a poor camp site. After some rock climbing, creek leaps, and another plunge into snow up to my crotch (leg dangling in thin air), we made it to a hunter's camp right at 8:30. We hadn't seen a single patch of ground suitable for even the stealthiest of camps and we were rewarded with a protected, flat, inspiring spot to rest our bones. A warm meal eaten before the sun went down and a brilliant sunset cheered our hearts.
The best campsite on the entire trip.
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