I said the mountain critters were sneaky, and today we had proof. Chug had left some corn nuts in a ziplock on a rock outside the tent but not in the bear canister and had woken to find the bag gnawed through and the quantity of corn nuts within somewhat diminished. I had found chunks missing from the cork handles of my trekking poles. I suspect marmots or ground squirrels in both cases.
The early part of the day was again a forest walk where focus is directed towards the ground in the absence of any views over the mountains. As it became more rocky I could see more marmots, and couldn’t really begrudge them the snacks they’d stolen because they are so appealing in general. They became even more numerous as we neared our first Alpine lake; the rather strangely named Chicken Spring Lake. It seemed like it was a pretty low water level which isn’t surprising after 4 years of drought, but it was pretty good introduction to the kind of thing we’ll see up here.
Today was also the day we officially entered Kings Canyon national park. It’s one of the most beautiful sections of the trail, by almost all accounts, and I’m excited to see how the trail gets even better. We had our first major creek ford, at Rock Creek, where the water was half way to my knees. I had enjoyed sitting with my feet in the creek and getting them (slightly) cleaner before we actually crossed. It might make for slower progress hiking, but really stopping to sit and chill out in rivers and lakes is going to be irresistible.
Unfortunately after immediately after the creek we climbed up Guyot Pass which starts out crazy steep so the trail maintenance crews have put on huge logs which shore up the trail and act as steps. Hauling myself up these giant steps knocked my knee out a bit so I had to baby it the rest of the way up the climb. Rubbish. The climb also led to some crazy acceleration of the hiker hunger. I had to pause a couple of times to snack on just that one climb. Of course it could just be that I hiked some long miles in the Sierra Nevada at 10,000ft above sea level.
We ended the day walking through Crabtree Meadow, one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen so far. There were deer grazing in the meadow, marmots and ground squirrels, flowers, birds and a flowing creek. Talk about idyllic. We camped off the PCT on a side trail along the creek just before the ranger station in the hope of making an attempt on Mount Whitney tomorrow.
Miles: 23 + 1 on Whitney Trail
Camping: Mile 767 + 1