September 10th, 2017
Fauna sighted: 10 Marmots, Doe with fawn, Golden Eagle, Mountain chickadees, 3 Pika’s
As you might have guessed from yesterday’s hail storm the morning dawned cold and wet. We packed up slowly, willing the sun to hit our campsite to help dry out our tents and sleeping bags before packing up. We moved across the meadow to some large boulders that the sun was warming up and finally got on trail at 8:50am. We jumped across Wallace Creek and started our climb out of it’s gorge. As we gained elevation, the hail was frozen into sheets in any spots of shade or in the trunks of fallen trees.
We cruised through the still morning, enjoying sections of meadows and the tall trees around us. We hit took a nice break next to a meadow with a view to the west and warmed our bodies up in the sun.
Soon we were turning East at a junction and headed toward Crabtree Ranger Station and Mt Whitney. The sun was high and warm now so we could finally take off a few layers before we started the climb along Whitney Creek to our last campsite at Guitar Lake.
The walk along the creek is gorgeous and lots of Marmots were enjoying the sun as well and calling out to each other as we passed.
I got a little ahead of Grey Gardens as we wound out of the alpine beauty below into the rocky granite world above. I passed a few more lakes, one of which I walked right along the edge of, filled with reeds and the glitter of fish in the shallows.
I reached Guitar Lake and started to wander around the edges to look for a shelter campsite. Everything was really open and exposed here so there are not any good options for hiding from the elements. I had dropped my bag to explore and gone along the Western shore and out of site of the trail but figured Grey Gardens would wait for me at the junction. As I turned back to walk back over to the trail I saw a little figure walking along the trail up above the lake… I thought it kinda looked like GG but I couldn’t be sure and we had said that I would look for a site if I got to the lake first so I figured it couldn’t be her. However when I returned to my bag and saw a group of hikers who I knew to be back behind GG and no GG, that it was her headed up to the tarn above Guitar Lake, ruh roh. I dropped my bag again and started jogging up the trail yelling at her until she finally caught sight of me waving my arms and turned back. We had a little laugh about it and found a good site on the North East side of the lake we would not have seen otherwise.
The afternoon was still and warm as we watched other hikers walk along the trail. It is a lot greener here than I thought it would be and we watched 4 Marmots in the meadow behind our site most of the afternoon. We named them Joe, Sally, April, and Alberto. Each one had a little section they were working and we spent a lot of time watching them wander around and making up stories about them.
It was a wonderful last trail afternoon and when the sunset show started I thought it could not get much better. Then it did when a little Pika came out of the rocks near me and stopped about 2 feet away to eat some grass. I just about died from excitement, as I have a strong obsession with anything small and furry, as can be told from the expression on my face in the picture below. Look at it’s cute round body and little ears! DEAD. So cute!
The sunset was amazing as the colors kept changing and we didn’t even get rained on today! I snuggled into my sleeping bag watching the fading light from my tent. I spent some time being thankful for this trip so far, the beauty, challenges, and how lucky I am to see everything around me.
We plan on getting up around 5am and not making any hot breakfast so we can pack up quickly to get on trail. A lot of people start hiking very early, like 12pm or 1am, to watch the sunrise on Mt Whitney. We felt more like sleeping in a little and were not super motivated to see the sunrise up there in the cold so agreed to a reasonable 6am get on the trail time.
Unfortunately for us the wind had other ideas… the area that we choose due to the great rocks surrounding us was also on a granite slab so we had only been able to tie our tent corners down with rocks. Literally as soon as the sun was down at 7:30pm the wind started. And it was fucked up wind. There was only one other time I had been in wind this strong and it was on the beach at Bear Harbor on the Lost Coast. It was gusting hard and blowing the tent walls something fierce. There would be moments when it would completely stop and I would start falling asleep and then BAM it was back and hitting you in the face with the tent wall. It is not looking to be a pleasant evening to say the least. To be continued in the next post…