I woke up early again but just laid there watching it get lighter out until 7, when I finally got up, packed, and ate quickly before heading up the trail.It was cool as I was climbing up a canyon and in the shade for a while. Once I reached the sun though, it quickly warmed up.
I definitely wasn’t moving as fast as yesterday and once I got above 10,000′ I had to stop and catch my breath all the time. I was also starving and needed to keep stopping to eat more. Usually altitude lessens my appetite so I’m starting to worry I packed a little light on the snacks.
Getting up to Kennebec Pass took me forever. I seemed to be stopping every 30 feet or so to catch my breath. There’s some kind of cabin right before the pass that I was staring at the whole time I was slowly making my way up to the ridge. I finally came to the side trail to it and really wanted to go check it out since I couldn’t believe something had been built at 11’600′, but even though it was less than a quarter mile away, I felt like I couldn’t spare the steps, plus it was slightly uphill.
Mercifully, after the pass the trail leveled out some and I could hike like normal again over to Taylor Lake for lunch. At least the altitude is only making me unable to breathe on the uphills.
I thought the wildflowers were outstanding below treeline, but once above treeline they were even more incredible. If I wasn’t already huffing and puffing from the altitude, I would have been gasping at how amazing they were.
There were a bunch of southbound hikers (I’m northbound) eating lunch at the water source there so I sat down and joined them, happy to have some other folks to talk to for a minute instead of passing quickly by. I’m going the non-standard direction on the trail, which is nice because I can get intel from people on what’s ahead for me, but I also don’t expect to see many folks going my direction.
After a long lunch, I started my climb again. I hadn’t realized just how tough my day would be. This morning I’d had the thought that I’d be at camp way too early again but that definitely wasn’t going to be a problem. I’d only gone halfway by early afternoon.
I rolled my sleeves down and added my sun gloves since I knew I’d be above treeline for several hours and I could already feel my skin warming from the sun. My hat cape has been on since yesterday since I’m particularly mindful of my neck and ears getting burned.
Climbing up above the lake had me looking down on it like a beautiful painting. Then I popped over the summit and realized I’d be doing an open ridge walk for miles. Gorgeous!
I’d done the bulk of the sustained climb at that point, but still had lots of ups and downs as I followed the ridge along, with even more gorgeous views and wildflowers every five minutes. I was happy to eventually get back below the trees though, because my calves were getting sunburned and because that meant I was almost to camp.
First I had to stop at a small seep to fill up water for dry camping and the next 15 dry miles. It looked pretty pitiful when I came to it on the trail. Looking both above and below the trail didn’t yield any faster moving spots so I settled in to scoop from a shallow pool. I was scooping plenty of dirt too, and the mosquitoes were swarming, so I only got one liter instead of my planned four or five, and hoped I could find the other small water source tomorrow morning that some hikers had told me about below the trail. When I walked a little bit farther up the trail, I found a much better flow of water and was able to fill up fairly quickly there despite the mosquitoes.
I moved on a little bit farther to a trail to a scenic overlook with campsites. There was just one sobo hiker there so we chatted for a minute, then I moved on to set up my campsite. The mosquitoes were out but with my rain jacket on and bug spray on my legs they mostly couldn’t get me.
Java came down to talk while I was eating dinner and we spent the evening conversing about all the random deep things you talk about with strangers on the trail. Once dark fell, we wrapped it up, and I quickly cleaned up my campsite before getting in bed.
14.1 miles and about 4500′ of elevation gain today, with a high point of 12,160′. I’m camped at 11,350′.