September 9th, 2017
Fauna seen: 8 Marmots, Doe and Fawn, chipmunks, squirrels, Mountain Chickadees, Grey Mockingbirds
The morning dawns cool and crisp. I wake up at 5:15am but am feeling pretty beat so I roll back over and pass out again, which is not a normal backpacking occurrence for me! I have very weird dreams and when I wake back up around 7am, I’m more able to drag myself out of my warm sleeping bag. Grey Gardens is already up and about when I emerge, all bleary eyed but feeling better rested. We pack up slowly since today is another no rush day and I enjoy the morning sun warming everything up, including me.
Of course we had to immedieatly wade across Tyndall Creek in our bare feet and dang that water was so F-ing COLD! My feet were in there for about 15 seconds and they felt like they were on fire when I got to the other side. Ouchy! It took several minutes to dry them off and rub some feeling back into our toes before we could hike on. The rest of the morning is spent climbing through lovely rocky hills, which would occasionally open up onto meadows and beautiful views.
Marmots are again hanging out all over the place, in the open rocky meadows, basking in the spots of sunshine on the wide granite boulders. We keep climbing up higher, watching them scurry around. It’s so nice to not feel rushed, to be able to stop and watch them do their marmoty things.
I am super obsessed with the Foxtail and Bristle Cone Pine trees here, the bright orange of the bark is so striking against the deep blue skies, and I take a ton of pictures of them. Each one so different from the rest.
The first climb of the day ends when we hit Bighorn Plateau and damn it is AMAZING! Big open vistas, a few random gnarled trees, a little lake/tarn? (I never know the difference), I mean WTF even is this place? It feels like a completely different planet or dimension that we slipped into on accident. It was hard to even walk through here since I just wanted to sit there all day and soak in the views. However, a strong cold wind is blowing, and when it’s not, it’s scorching hot under these big open skies. As others have said before, backpacking is about being slightly uncomfortable most of the time, true enough. I take tons of pictures but don’t stay very long as my stomach is growling and we want to get out of the wind to feed. One stomach to rule them all.
The trail dips down again into a more sheltered area of trees and hills and we find a nice spot to laze around in an area with some large fallen trees to block the wind. Snacks are consumed and when the hangry monster is satiated, we pack up and start our descent into the next valley. Gorgeous meadows with wild flowers start to pop up in between the clumps of trees as we kept cruising down hill on the well graded switchbacks.
We jump across a handful of rocks at Wright Creek and see two deer below the trail snacking on the lush grass shortly after it. Then down, down some more switchbacks in the trees to Wallace Creek. We chose a nice spot along in a clump of trees for the night. A trail junction from the West crosses through here and we are lucky to find a nice secluded spot bordered by a meadow on one side. We drop our bags and slowly get our tents up, feeling no rush with the clear skies. The sun is out and I lay on a large boulder next to the creek, dosing a little and listening to the birds and water pass by. The air gets chilly whenever a cloud passes over and I drape my puffy over me a few times to stay warm. I feel very relaxed and appreciate this time to rest and enjoy.
At 1pm we are both feeling ravenous, hiker hunger has truly arrived. I waffle between wanting to eat my large dinner now or later. Gray pulls out her dinner and so I opt for dinner too because I’m just too dang hungry. This turn out to be an excellent choice, as by 3:30pm the clouds roll in for real and it starts to rain. This weather pattern had been pretty standard for the last few days. We would get some rain in the afternoon and then it would clear by the early evening…. but this felt a little different. First of all it felt WAY colder then it had so far. So cold that we both climbed into our sleeping bags to wait out the storm. It is also a lot darker and the thunder more rolling and booming, hmmm. Then all of a sudden the rain sounds different on my tent roof, and when I looked out the bottom of my tent flap, there is hail! Well that’s interesting, especially since we are at a lower elevation in a valley.
At first its exciting to experience the hail, we are full of hot food and snuggled in our tents… then it gets less fun as it doesn’t seem to be stopping. It keeps taking turns pouring rain and hailing, booming thunder, and blowing wind. I start to get a little nervous when the water begins to flow under my Tyvex ground sheet, pooling around the tent floor, and I start feeling cold. At this point it’s about 6pm, so if this continues all night I may be in trouble of all my stuff getting wet/frozen. Ruh-Roh.
Luckily a little break in the rain comes and I rush out to dig some trenches around my tent with my trowel and put some rocks around to keep out the freezing wind.
The small trenches around my tent help divert the water away a little and tighten all my guy lines for good measure too. The break is very short lived and I dive back into my tent right as it starts hailing really hard again. I few minutes later I look out of my tent door and the ground is so covered in hail it looks like snow.
Hella pretty but also hella chilly. I am so glad we had already eaten dinner because I was not going to be coming out of my sleeping bag unless forced to. I do start feeling hungry again around 8pm but getting out of my tent while it’s still raining and opening my bear can was a definite no go. So I chug some water to shut my stomach up and hope that I would not have to pee any time soon.
I am wrapped up in my 20 degree down bag, with all my clothes on, and I am still not very warm as the sun leaves completely. I’m worried that my sleeping bag is going to get wet by touching the tent walls or by water sneaking underneath me. It’s hard to settle down and rest peacefully. I hope this will not be a completely sleepless evening because that would really suck. I shiver a little and rub my feet together. A corner of my bag is wet near the top and I just can’t seem to get warm and comfortable. I finally have a stroke of genius and put my poncho over my sleeping bag to help keep it dry and insulate me more. It helps a lot and I finally warm up a little. Fingers crossed I pass out soon and sleep through this thrilling storm.