Saturday, June 11, 2016

Day 42 : It Was A Dark and Stormy Night

25 miles today
1935 miles to go

Up before the sun. There are more clouds than usual. Some said yesterday that there is a twenty five percent chance of rain here on Sunday night. We won't be here then. But the clouds and the forecast portend an interesting couple of days. I eat a couple of dehydrated apricots and stuff my pockets with snacks. Braveheart is rustling about in her tent so I know it's time to go soon. I change where stuff goes in my pack to accommodate a big bulky bear canister. The bigness of it is not as frustrating and hard to cope with as its unforgiving nature. It's so hard I can't really ‘stuff’ it like I can most other gear. It either fits or it doesn't. Well eventually it does, with everything else. Braveheart gets her’s to fit too. We leave Kennedy Meadows while most people are still sleeping. It's cool, my hands hurt as they grip my trekking poles. I had the thought that using them more might give my right knee additional support as it continues to heal. Now, with frozen hands I'm rethinking that decision, we hike quickly to the campground a couple of miles up the trail. I sign the trail register with my characteristic No Skip logo that I've used ever since Casa de Luna. We do some stretching and eating then we move out into the wilderness. More so than anything so far, we are heading into country far from roads or support. Our exit will be over Kearsarge pass in six days. 

It's good to be hiking with Braveheart again. She's such a strong hiker that when she's in front I am constantly challenged to keep up my pace. It's great to have her expertise on water quantities for each leg. My tendency is to fill up a lot at the beginning of the day and show up at the next water source with a few unnecessary liters. She's showing me how to think through how much the carry so as to maximize the number of miles. The more you carry the fewer the miles, so it's good to not carry more water than you really need.

We arrive at the last bridge over the South Fork Kern River a little before noon. Braveheart is sharing her water filter with me since I am essentially out of Aqua Mira. We collaborate on refilling our water containers. I wade out into the middle of the river where the water is clearest. We get two liters each which should be enough to get us to Cow Creek which we believe will have water. Then we begin our climb over the pass that brings us closer to Mount Whitney. Braveheart in front on the climb really shows me how much slower I've become going up hill. It's only after the first couple of hours, but my knee feels achy and I step gingerly to avoid injuring it. This really has an effect on how fast I can walk. Fortunately downhill no longer seems to be a problem. On the long downhill after the pass my knee feels fine and I am able to keep up.

Our goal for our camp is a small ‘one tent’ site at mile seven twenty eight. We like it because it's not close to the stream so it won't be as buggy and it's only two tenths of a mile from the stream so we can get water. We keep a great pace downhill and arrive at our spot. As we stand contemplating the layout of our camp we notice another thru-hiker dejectedly sitting up the trail we just came down. Apparently he was angling for the same spot and missed it by five minutes. The reality is there are a million great spots to camp. He and his three friends decided to hike on another three miles to the next spot on the app that says ‘campsite.’

We setup our tents then make dinner. I think I finally have the quantities right. At first I was adding a whole ramen brick to my meal but not adding more water. This made an unappetizing goop that I had trouble choking down. I find a half a brick is plenty. After dinner we plan our next day of hiking. This is a fun collaborative effort. I really enjoy having someone as experienced as Braveheart to help plan the next day. Then we go get water. Walking the two tenths of a mile to a stream Braveheart believed was there, it was! We make a great water collection team. I fill the bags in the stream, Braveheart squeezes the water through the filter into the clean bottles. I try to keep her busy, if she's busy then we are getting clean water. 

We then walk back to camp. As we walk I notice the clouds coming from the south. They are a sickly yellow color in the setting sun’s light. They look malevolent and sinister as the pour over the pass. Maybe they mask a contingent of orcs. There is a rumble like a bowling ball rolling down a lane, only much louder. I see a flicker of lightning. Shortly after a loud tearing sound rips the sky. A gust of wind hits the tents and rain spatters on us. It looks like we are in for a storm. We get in our tents just in time. The clouds open up and start dumping large quantities of water on our tents. It's so loud that we can no longer talk to each other over the roar. Then rain continues as the sun sets. Darker comes the night and with it flashes and flickers of lightning become brighter and more vivid. The storm continues as I fall off to sleep, rain pounding intensely on my tent.

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