And that was that, the desert level was complete and we moved on to the mountains. People have described the Sierra Nevadas as the treat, a gift to reward you for hiking 700 miles through the scorched sands of Southern California. I say it’s just more hills, so long desierto bonito.
We’ve made it to Mammoth, a quiet little mountain ski town 900 miles in to the trail. I’m taking my birthday treat (thanks Mum and Dad) two weeks late and spending two nights in a hotel to enjoy a bounty of World Cup action (luckily timed for an England game)…(post match revision, *unluckily timed).
However, the real treat has been the last 10 days of hiking. Hopefully Elie has talked about the incredible Forrester Pass (highest point on the trail – woo) and the magnetic attraction of Lone Pine and its taco truck, so let me wax lyrical about pass upon pass of deep, snowy fear climbs.
Forrester, Kearsarge, Glen, Pinchot, Mather, Muir, Selden, Silver. Each of these passes have challenged our puny mortal muscles. We’ve post holed and slipped, struggled and sweated our way up and down, leaving us in awe and they still stand, ready to change the minds of the next over confident hiker.
People have their favourites and their nemeses (aka Yogi and others who adopt her opinions before experiencing). Most involve a tough switchback climb, some have tricky snow traverses on the way up (Muir), others on the way down (Glen and Mather), some are just located so that you hit them at the most inopportune times of day (pretty much all of them for us). But they all offer adventure and a challenge, which makes you feel alive.
All of the above has made it tough and the Sierras have definitely slowed us down, especially with Henley hurtling off to attend his hippy music fest.
The man is a golden orb of legendariness and we just had to let the peacock fly. His pace far outstrips our own and we hope, for this small section at least, he will get more of what he wants from the trail.
We just hope that, when he returns to the fold, Grace’s intelligent, academic arguments for the worlds woes, Elie’s liberal ideals and my crotchety old man bitterness towards life in general won’t dismantle his zen.
Fingers crossed he’ll write a blog about his time away from us. An insightful piece about his adventures, but also something Edward Abbey-esque about how it is to hike alone in an area so incredibly rich with mind blowing views.
And that it is. Every turn shows you a bit of the world you thought was reserved for National Geographic photographers and far flung mountaineers.
The aptly named Kings Canyon, makes you feel minute as well as the privileged lord of everything; each snow melt lake invites you to dive in, and subsequently shrivel and shriek at the first point of contact. Exploring (albeit on a mostly manicured trail) areas of such intense natural beauty makes you believe that everything in this world glows with such grandeur.
The section through the Sierras sees a lot of hikers coming Southbound at this time of year. We are the leaner, smellier, hungrier gypsy brethren of these JMTers (John Muir Trail…ers), who, with their clean clothes and shaven faces, are regarded with caution and suspicion.
Not being put off by our feral ways, they are often quick to jump in to conversation about the condition of the passes and our gear. Lovely people. The John Muir Trail is a 300 mile hike through the picturesque Sierra Nevada region of California and I urge you all to do it.
With all this beauty and camaraderie around, it is time for me to shut the curtains, get my complimentary coffee and watch Colombia take on the mighty elephants of the Côte d’Ivoire. Is a bagel real man football food?
Good morning everybody x