Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 4, Cold, Hot, and Sharp

I've been a bit behind, though so much better this trip than many recent ones, as I spend a couple hedonistic days in Las Vagas at Thehotel at Mandalay Bay. I've been mediocre for the casinos as I've barely gambled a buck. But the testuraunts are doing well by me as did the spa. But I find I have time to kill so let's do somerthing useful and write about the fourth day of the hike.

 We would leave Moraine Lake around sunrise. That might sound exceedingly early but it gave us the chance to dawdle at Kern Hot Springs and take our time strolling up the river valley later on and not bake too much in the heat. It would be a 14 mile day.

 Matt and I would leave first with the sun dappling the forest and now and then blinding us. Colors shifted from dusky to vibrant as we passed Sky Meadow (sp) which is an enticing spot even though it is a dry lake. The hiking is not bad until you get to the big descent of the day down into the Kern river valley. Over the next couple miles you drop a couple thousand feet into even more verdent forest. Photo 1 gives just a hint of an idea. Around 9:00AM Matt and I had made it to the bottom. We hadn't stopped much. A photo here and there and moments to marvel at how deep the valley was and maybe for me to catch my breath.

 As we walked through the forest amongst some big boulders we were leapfrogged by Adam, Andy, and Konrad. It isn't a race and we would be on their heels when we came out to a more open area with superb views of a long waterfall cascading off the cliffs from whence we had come. The cold Kern flowed off to one side and we strolled though a sandy wash across the bridge and then as I climbed into a new bit of forest I was callesmd by the others who were already settling into the hot and warm pools of Kern Hot Springs (video). We would hang out here for varying amounts if time with Adam and Matt leaving first, then me just before noon, and the rest a little later.

 To the right and just above the rocks at the river's edge amid the grass and oozing warm mud is a reddish wood structure concealing a tub big enough for one that is full of water that is probably 110-114 degrees. Plenty darn hot. A metal bucket, with a hole in it, can be used too fetch cold water and you can plug the hot flow but the tub will always be hot. Relaxing too once you adjust. Peaceful. But if it is too hot shift to the warm pool below and let your cares float awaybon the crystal clear surging water. The occassional burstvof hot water only adds pleassure to the experience. The infrequent sulfurous burst just adds flavor to a rich varied experience. Is anyone really surprised we hung out as long as we did.

Photo 1: gazing down into the Kern River valley.

Photo 2: Forests along the trail as I walked northerly towsrds camp. When not in a forest you were on open hot ground. Always within earshot of the river though often well above the rushing waters.
Ker Hot Springs Video

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IMG_1061.MOV (744 KB)

8 miles of level and gently ascending terrain must be trod to reach the bear lockers at Big Junction Campsite. It is deceptively easy walking because often you have no shade from trees against the sun. But you do have many, likely not year round as they're not on the map, streams to give you relief. I'm told they can all be forded without getting your feet wet. Hah. The first one, just minutes out of the hot springs, was above my knee deep and I saw no obvious safe dry ford.
When I walked by a cateract I thought Andy meant for us to have lunch I dissmissed it since it was in hot sun and lacked water access. I kept going. Working my way north listening to the watervon my left and wading through streams. Lunch at a bug stream whose name I'll determine sometime later. Where are Andy and Kobrad? I'll leave a note. At least then they'll know what is up.
On I went as clouds built up to the north and west. I thought I felt a drop of water on my arm but ignored it. Another cool dropon my arm, surely that cNt be sweat. Another minute went by and the quiet afterrnoon continued with another cool droplet. A sun shower barely worth the term was raking place. I was provably within 1.5 miles of camp. My final creek crossing of the wide shallow creek (Whitney perhaps) took longer than it should have as I pondered where the trail was. I forged across and found the trail where it should be and moments later I found Matt and Adam (he was napping in their tent). A half hour or so later a slightly irked Andy with Konrad came in. He was miffed cause he hadn't found me at the lunch spot he thought we should be at. He had said first water crossing I had heard first waterfall. Miscommunication. He never saw my note (the group we had been following, or were they following us, did find the note). Then the hail and rain came down. Sounded line frying bacon on my shelter whereby honkered down to keep dry.
The evening campfire was small but kept dome of the bugs at bay as we talked about the day. Cheered the fat with a hiker travelling in tshirts and jeans, and learned how Jack's repaired outersole-less shoes were faring. Aong day but a saticefying one.
** Ken **
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