I did end up sleeping in. Relative to the civilized world, not a lot. But I wasn’t out of camp until 7:30, which is late for me. I wish I could say it was amazing, but I think I’m naturally inclined towards early morning hiking. I enjoy feeling the light slowly change as the world wakes. I like the quiet.
The canyon of the White Fork Creek, looking down from whence I came
White Fork canyon, chilled morning shade
Right away I continued climbing, another some 2500 feet up to White Fork Pass. For most of the climb, the ground was tundra and rock, and the grade was determined but reasonable. Except the end. The last 500 feet or so were shading to the unreasonable: a very steep mix of sand, loose rock, crumbling rock, scree, and general rough footing. It took me awhile to climb it, many small pauses to huff and puff, but eventually, as always seems to happen, I was standing on the top of the pass. It had been quite a cold morning, near frigid in the shadowed creek valley approaching the pass, and I put on a jacket as I stood there surveying the land before and behind me. Standing on a thing you labored hard to climb is a savory moment, even if you don’t stay for long because the chill wind drives you off. But those fleeting moments where we kind of see where we’ve been and kind of see where we’re going are unique.
Tarn on the way to the pass
The long ridge of White Fork Pass, last 500 feet or so. I went up the right side under that thin sliver of snow.
Looking east from the pass (the direction I came from)
Looking west from the pass
Granite, tundra, lakes, snow. what a blue sky!
The way down was more steep, more sand, but in this kind of terrain down is easier than up. I slid several hundred feet down to a lake, and began a long descent down to the South Fork of the Kings River. The rhythm of this part of my hike goes like this: from a low point crossing a major drainage, climb many thousands of feet up to cross a series of trailless basins via passes of varying difficulty, and then descend many thousands of vertical feet back down to cross another major river/drainage. Yesterday I crossed Woods Creek, today I crossed South Fork of Kings River, and tomorrow I’ll cross Palisade Creek.
After the crossing of the South Fork of the Kings River (where it separates into multiple channels, almost made dry on log jams until one rolled and my feet and calves plopped in the water), I joined another stretch of decommissioned John Muir Trail, from when it used to go over Cartridge Pass. The tread was clear enough to follow, though I am impressed by how steep they used to make some of those old trails. It climbed steadily over two thousand feet up to the pass at a much steeper pitch than any current section of the JMT (I think). Still, it was nice to be on trail, even if I did have to stop frequently to figure out which way it went, since it’s become quite faint in the intervening years.
Looking south on the climb up to Cartridge Pass
From Cartridge Pass, I followed the trail down a steep talus chute to Lakes Basin, a part of the range that the Sierra High Route also travels but that I missed due to picking up the Southern Sierra High Route after Mather Pass many days ago. I had heard this was a special place, so I’m glad to travel through. I camped near one of the lakes, in a gentle small sand flat. Today is notably the first day of my hike that I haven’t seen another person, even from very away. When the JMT went through here, there would have been many people. I’m camped near the old remains of a fire ring, seemingly from long ago. The trail, while much faded and in some places obliterated by the constantly shifting mountain landscape, is like a ruin, a human remnant lost to time. I feel much more as a transient here, almost transparent as I waft through this place that is being reclaimed in the spirit of the wild.
Looking into Lake Basin from Cartridge Pass
I noticed today a kind of hot eagerness at the thought of home, and all that entails. Once I am back there, this time here will rapidly fade. Nothing can change that, but while I’m still here I wish to continue to be here, even if I’m beginning to feel like a horse that senses the barn. It’s a matter of attention I suppose.