It appears that I may be putting the blogger on hiatus for a bit. Too much fun, too much work, not enough interest to do much with this here thing. I may be going into Jj mode…
Back on the weekend before last, M made the hard choice to not go on the trip. She had things to do, one of which was to not kill time for 3 days while Woodchuck and I were out on the trail. It was hot in Arizona, and I just wanted to get out of it, now. Loading up for just a hiking and canyons trip was simple, and I rolled north a bit after 1700.
Various plans rolled around in my head, chief among them how to get high by sunrise. Secondly, to make the drive, even at night, a bit interesting. Telescope Peak was answer number one, north through Vegas and into Death Valley in the wee hours answer two.
Gassing up in Vegas late on a Saturday night was a cultural experience. Lots of police out and about. Furnace Creek at 0200 was barely below 100. The Xterra’s driveside window is still permanently in the up position. I was sweating.
I made Thorndike camp by 0300, picked a parking spot with max morning shade, and crashed. I managed to sleep for over five hours, waking to pleasent temps and scenery. A slow morning, reading and eating M’s banana bread, before I was off for the eight mile hike up Telescope.
Nice bench trail, huge, huge views. Very good. The plans only weakness was forgetting tape for my heels. Even though my Hardrocks excell in every other respect, I need a bit of padding their or I’m sunk. In this case, some minor blisters that it occured to me might make the next week’s worth of activities, problematic. But nothing to be done.
I retreated back to camp, more reading, eating, copious water drinking in the shade. I wanted to make the Owens Valley that evening, but also wanted to wait for saner temps before retreating below 8k. 1700 sort of worked for that. I camped in the open south of Big Pine, a nice breeze making the night good.
Monday was true vacation day number one. Nothing to do but some shopping and permit getting, and hanging out. I got breakfast at Schatt’s Bakkery, got groceries and tape, sat in the grass on the Inyo FS visitor centre reading, browsed the Rowell Gallery, etc. Supplies in hand, south to Whitney Portal. More reading, hanging out, beer drinking, fisherman-watching. A little, dog-like bear showed up at dusk, but didn’t make a nuisance of himself. I bought bug spray at the store, it never having occured to me that a wet spring would make mosquitoes plentiful.
Woodchuck showed up right at dusk; we sort of organized, chatted, and went to sleep.
The next morning saw packing (simple when you go light for three days) and breakfast burritos in Lone Pine. The cafe was full of fire crews from far off locals. Two days ago I could see Whitney from Telescope, but the smoke moving in would make the reverse not even a remote possibility. Drive north to Onion Valley, and hit the trail. We made a last minute choice to not use the bear can, and rely on the bear boxes rumored to exist at several camps along the way. We gathered beta from hikers throughout the day, and it worked well. Had we a bear can, we likely would have chosen higher, more exposed camps, and thus suffered fewer bugs.
Hopefully Woody’s pictures will soon surface, and provide further inadequacy to the words I’m not going to try writing. The John Muir Trail is an amazing trail through amazing country, the sum of which is a superlative hiking experience. Each evening from around 1730-dusk the bugs made a nuisance of themselves, but otherwise it was a fantastic hike. I planned my food just right, the days were long enough to be interesting but not enough to provide much suffering, and the company was very good indeed. I’ll be back.
I even managed to stay in vacation mode for almost the whole time. Towards the end of day two I did want to just make camp, and realized my feet hurt. So we stopped in the shade of a big tree with a good meadow view, kicked back with legs on the packs, snacked and chatted for a while before continuing in the appropriatly casual idiom. Bike chat, climbing chat, state-of-the-world chat, etc. I did get fiesty descending Whitney, and put 15 minutes on Woody in the final five miles. I was hungry, and a beer and burger fast seemed preferable to a shade break and my only remaining food: mojo bars and M&Ms.
The Whitney Portal cafe is perfectly positioned for post-hike euphoria.
But the inevitable contrasts of vacation must needs go on, in this case a 7 hour drive from Independence to Cedar City, starting at 1600. I was well fueled, content to sit, rest, and listen to 1776 on CD, and absorb the new scenery of the route through Tonopah, Rachel, and Caliente. I lost the light on the Extra-terrestrial Highway, almost hit a black cow on a black road on a black night, and battled sleep and only one radio station (playing the rather pedestrain State of Nevada). A Mountain Dew got me through the last 90 minutes, and I was asleep on the very comfy couch of Phillip and Ariel by 0100 (AZ time).
Friday, all ambitions were cast aside in favor of more sloth. Pancakes, coffee, and chatting about “stuff” was the order of the morning. In the afternoon I took a map, Phillip cleaned his garage (which still looks like a small REI hit my a violent dirt bomb), and in the evening we made pizza and margaritas, played extreme lawn bocce (don’t hit the sidewalk!), texas hold-em, and got pretty drunk taking shots.
Saturday morning did start a bit slowly for that reason.
We did pack and motivate, starting Boundary Canyon by 0930. Boundary is Kolob’s little bro to the east, and especially scenic on that day with a nice couple of cfs flowing through. XL log jams, moss, arches, etc. Very, very nice. We finished the slot proper, boulder hopped downstream, hunting trout in the larger pools, and ground out the MIA exit back up to the mesa fingers. The MIA (land owned by the Mormon Mutual Improvement Association) in a classic technical bushwack: loose dirt, bad rock, erosion, manzanita, and 1,000′ of absolute vertical gain. Fun and diverting, provided your fitness isn’t crap and you resist the temptation to worry about rolling backwards through the bushes to your grisly demise.
Soon enough, we were back at the car. 6 hours round trip, exactly.
And the vacation continued. My old high school bud Judy (Judith, now that she’s a Yale Law grad) and her SO were set to meet us at camp, but we were rather early. More shade-sitting and chatting about, stuff. We saw a Condor summering north from the Grand Canyon. Eventually we decided to make dinner regardless, in this case cooking 1 lb of pasta in a 750 ml pot. In batches. J and co arrived precisely as dinner was finished, several excellent bottles of red in tow. We ate, drank, and witnessed the sun set from Lava Point, one of the great viewpoints in the United States. We could see headlights descending 89a off the Kaibab, 70 miles away.
All good things must come to an end, but not just yet. Phillip and I retreated to Springdale for classic breakfasts at Oscar’s (spicy omelet!). Ariel met us, and we touristed up the Narrows for a while, bearing witness to the amazing human circus.
I drove home in record time, hot and sand blasted through the rez, but full and content in the complete metaphysical sense.
It was a good week.
The difficulty soon will be maintaining closure with Arizona, packing and playing for the next month, without going crazy or becoming too bored. At least the rains have arrived.