September 8th, 2017

Fauna seen: 21 Marmots!!!  Mountain Chickadees, Ground Squirrels, Grey Squirrels, Chipmunks, 1 Doe

Alarms sounded in the silence at 5:15am and I felt like I had just really fallen asleep since the wind kept me up a lot last night, oh well it’s Forester Pass day and I am super excited!  I packed up my gear quickly in my tent and when I crawled out the view was STUNNING!  Grey Gardens tent was lite up from the inside by her lantern, the stars were glowing overhead, the moon was lighting up the mountains around us. It was just such an amazing moment and I wished I had a camera to capture the scene. I only carry my iphone for pictures and it does not do night photography so this little snapshot of a beautiful early morning is stored in my memory forever instead.

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The morning moon

We were ready to go at 6:30am and started winding our way up the rocky hillsides to the big mountains above.  Every time I took a moment to look back behind me my breath would catch, dang it is gorgeous here!

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We wove our way through the valley, seeing patches of snow, lakes, and strings of mountains as the sun rose over them.  About half way up we saw our first person, a single older gentleman coming down. I stopped to say hi and catch my breath, he said “I’m surprised, I thought you two would be much older since you are up this early!”  We laughed with him and I replied, “Yeah we are early risers generally, much better views, more animals out, and way less other people.”  He nodded and said we had the right idea.

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As we got closer to the false summit (I did not know that it was the false summit at the time, le sigh.) we saw a few more people coming down and two more heading up.  The sun felt great as we had spent the morning chilly in the shade with wind gusts to keep us company.  We passed several lakes and a beautiful clear tarn on the way up.

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We crossed a small snow patch on a side hill over the switchbacks and then climbed along a ridge to a much longer, sketchier snow patch. I went up first and Grey Gardens headed up behind me, it was quite the slog climbing straight up in other peoples kicked in foot steps.  There was just a small ridge line on our right and a long way down on our left.  Luckily we made it to the top and realized we still had more climbing to go, Sierra false summits are dicks.

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This picture does not do this sketchy shit justice

 

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Looking up from the false summit to more climbing to the pass which is out of the picture

We took a short break since it was still to cold to linger much in one place and started our last bit of climbing.  We made it to the top of Forester Pass at 9am which was pretty awesome for 3 miles of climbing!  We had it all to ourselves and snapped some pictures and ate more snacks.  It was an amazing feeling to be up there, especially after I have been longing for this exact spot for years!  I had lots of random thoughts as we climbed up there, mainly that I wished Sarah was here but also that she would hate a lot of it since she is scared of heights.  My main reflection was that I was so thankful for an able body that brought me to this place and that I hope I can remember this achievement and continue to be thankful for the things my body can do.

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View South from Forester Pass
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Me looking super stoked on Forester Pass 13,200ft YEAH!

The cold is an excellent motivator to not linger long so we soon rounded the tight corner and headed down the passes South flank.

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Tiny Grey Gardens coming down the South side of Forester Pass

The views continued to amaze and we jammed down into the beauty below us.  The wind kept up all day so we did not stop for any long breaks.  It was a bummer since this broad open plain was so stunning and it was FULL of Marmots!  There is tons of green grass and water all around with big boulders set into these areas aka Marmot Paradise.  They lounged on the boulders or scurried around in the lush grass. I was in heaven and since there were so many and it was a fun way to pass the time we started to count how many we saw for the day.  We ended the count at 21, which is a lot of Marmots!

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Marmot party!
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Marmot Paradise with Forester Pass behind it
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View South from one of our break spots

After our jaunt through Marmot Paradise we dropped down to the Tyndall Creek crossing around 12:30pm and decided to call it a day.  We planned before starting this trip to not rush through it, most days would be around 10 miles or less, and to really take the time to stop and enjoy ourselves.  I was super happy with this plan, as I am usually so focused on making miles and getting to camp at a decent time.  For us it was a great way to experience the Sierra’s in there full glory.  I am definitely feeling super thankful for the time off and the privilege to use it this way.

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Tyndall Creek is another great spot and we spent some time soaking our tired feet in the VERY cold water (aka sticking them in for about 5 seconds and then back on the warm rocks)  Doing some laundry and wandering around a bit. There was a little thunder and a tiny spurt of rain in the afternoon but it was over quickly and the sun peeked back out.

I got in my tent for a little afternoon nap and woke up to some weird loud huffing sounds.  I thought that a bear was in our camp getting ready to fuck us up and when I finally got the courage to look out my tent door I saw that it was just a Doe, whew! She wandered right through our campsite after scaring the crap out of me, such a beautiful and graceful asshole!

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Our wonderful campsite on a little rise near Tyndall Creek

We are lucky in a lot of ways that the Sierra’s are full of water this high snow year and it so special to camp by a rushing creek each night.  I love having water so close by and the noise also helps cover up night time scary sounds like those of mean deer!  The day soon passes us by and after a little dinner we are in our tents with the coming dusk.  Only two more trail days are left and I imagine standing on Mt Whitney as I drift off to sleep.

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