Arrowhead Lake to Tyndall Frog Ponds
That morning I took comfort knowing we'd only have to break down camp one more time. My feet were always stiff and extremely sore for the first mile or so in the morning. Each step I took felt like I was painfully squishing all the blood out of my feet. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn’t develop tiny blisters on my pinky toe – blisters are the worst and take a while to numb up. Surprising I got them considering how hardened our feet were.
Glen Pass was absolutely windless and still. We swiftly moved through the last of the familiar ground. Once we passed Kearsarge Pass we would be on new terrain till Mount Whitney, exploring new terrain was always great for the mind and motivation. At Vidette Meadows we knew it was on – the climb up Forester would begin. We took a breather and each reached for our ipods, perhaps looking for distraction to the inevitable suffering. I often listen to podcasts or audiobooks which keep my attention and require some active thinking, but this morning I put on music so I could just zone out and lean on the beat. At that time Jason was listening to the new Nine Inch Nails album and offered me a listen. We often listen to new music on excursions as a form of new stimulation, and inexorably the music becomes linked to the memories. For the rest of my life whenever I hear Hesitation Marks I will pleasantly be reminded of the JMT.
That day was dominated by Forester Pass. It felt like we spent all day ascending and descending its flanks. We took lunch on a sunny rock by the creek, fueling up for the four thousand foot ascent ahead of us. I did not want to get up, but we were diligent in sticking to our allotted time frames. Despite how tired we felt our bodies delivered what we needed them to. We never felt totally fatigued or wasted, dare I say we were fast charging up Forester. Another engineering marvel, the trail on the south side is almost vertigo inducing, clinging to the sheer walls as the trail zig zags its way to the basin below. At the pass we met some international hikers, Germans, who took in the view with a cigarette. Later they passed us on the plateau as we lay on the ground with our feet sticking straight up to the sky. Anything to drain the blood out of our bloated feet, but how do you explain that to a confused passerby? They gave us a chuckle.
|Bighorn Plateau under golden sunlight|
The jaunt down to the Tyndall Creek Frog Ponds was magical. The sun was still high in the sky, as we pointed out Williamson and Tyndall, and tried in vain to spot Whitney, finally making the connections in our minds and on maps. When we got to the Frog Ponds we had plenty of sunlight to lounge a bit and relax. The setting was beautiful and I felt a contentment seldom rivaled.
In the evening, once we layered up, one of us would set up the tent while the other started pumping water. Soon both of our little stoves would be going, courtesy of my brother Mike who makes stoves for fun – he must have made a hundred before our trip, testing different venting patterns and capacities. After dinner and dessert we'd scour for the perfect tree for hanging the bear bags, but on this night we had the luxury of a bear bin. Then it was contacts out, study the map for tomorrow, alcohol wipe the armpits, re-braid my pigtails fortnight-mode, hats, gloves and vest on, and the lights out. We never had trouble falling asleep. We were out like a light by 9:30 or 10pm at the latest.
Our camping neighbor that night, Tom, was an extremely nice guy who rounded out the perfection of the evening. He was not afraid to waltz right over to our camp in the middle of our dinner and make himself at home. We didn't mind. Tom had lost his hiking partner to sickness in the middle of the trail, and was toughing out the last half in an unexpected solo trip. He was writing a blog that we later found online - it seemed he lost his motivation and joy the last few days of his trip and just wanted to get the hell off the trail! A familiar story of many weary through hikers.
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