Friday, March 24, 2017

Day 31: Walking in the Valley of Death....

I didn't sleep very well. I woke up at around 3:00 in the morning and tossed and turned on a squeaky bunk bed, trying to not to make too much noise. There wasn't any particular reason I had trouble sleeping, but I didn't sleep very well last time we were at this hostel either. Maybe it was the hostel?

Eventually Karolina and my mom woke up, and we headed out to the Alabama Hills Cafe for breakfast. The place was packed and we had to go on a wait list before we were seated, but eventually we got our breakfast.

Karolina decided to try something other than "American pancakes" for breakfast today.

Our John Muir Trail hike was over.... but we had an "extra credit" assignment we made for ourselves: Death Valley. We had hiked to the highest point in the contiguous United States the day before, and now we were going to hit the lowest at 282 feet below sea level today.

My mom wasn't all that thrilled with the idea. Death Valley was hot. What the heck did we want to go there for? A desolate wasteland! It was now September--not the hottest time of year, but not the coolest either. But there was a good chance Karolina would never be in this area again and she was anxious to visit, and I wanted to visit as well. Somehow, despite growing up and living most of my life in California, I'd never actually made it to Death Valley before. Probably because I had parents that had utterly no interest in it. =)

So it was a first visit for me too! Woo-who! It was a long 2 1/2 hour drive to Badwater Basin.

We stopped briefly to pay the entrance fee where a sign warned that the weather forecasts today expected a high of 113-116 degrees. Yikes! The hottest temperature I ever remember being in was 111. If those weather forecasts hold, it would be a new record high for me. I wasn't sure if I should be thrilled at the idea or horrified.

My mom just said we were crazy.

"Hey, it could be worse!" I reminded her, "At least it's not 134 degrees!"

That was the highest temperature ever recorded. On earth. Ever! Right here in Death Valley back in 1913. "We're a good 20 degrees cooler than that!"

Our plan of attack was to hit Badwater Basin first--the lowest point in the park at 282 feet below sea level. That was the main reason we were heading out here, after all. Then we'd start driving back and make short stops along the way for sightseeing.

There was a crowd of people at Badwater. I'd like to say that we were the absolute lowest people in the country at that moment, but the ground was so utterly flat, at best, we could probably say that we tied for lowest people in the United States with several dozen other people.

The temperatures were soaring. Certainly something north of a hundred degrees.

'Twas a long 2 1/2 hour drive to Badwater Basin from Lone Pine.

And I whipped out my water bottle--the one I filled with fresh Mount Whitney air just yesterday. By now, it looked thoroughly crushed, maybe half its normal size. That's what nearly 15,000 feet of air pressure will do. I knew air expands in warm temperatures, so I was a little disappointed that I filled it with freezing air and now--when I wanted the water bottle crushed as much as possible under the air pressure--it was filled with 100+ degree air.

My mom went back to the car, not wanting to stand or walk around in the brutal sun very long. Karolina and I went around taking photos and videos before returning to the air-conditioned vehicle as well.

On the drive out, we made multiple stops at various trailheads, hiking for a mile or two at a time. Mom would stay in the car. No way was she hiking in this heat! We hiked to a natural arch, and drove to Artists Palette, and hiked a mile up Golden Canyon because... gold! Not really, as it turned out. =)

We stopped at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center where a large, digital sign marked the current temperature: 117°F. Dang, that's hot.... As we walked up to the sign, the temperature dropped to 116 and Karolina and I panicked. The temperature was dropping! We had to get photos before it dropped any further! We needed evidence of us hiking around in these absurdly hot temperatures. The icicles we saw yesterday were a distant memory.

We got photos of ourselves with the sign at 4:15 in the afternoon, but only recording 116°F. I wondered what the high temperature of the day had been seeing as it was already falling by the time we arrived.

It's just a measly 116°F now. It was much warmer earlier in the afternoon. *nodding*

On our way out of the park, Karolina saw some dust devils which thrilled her to no end having never seen them before. These were quite large, and several of them were running over the sand dunes in the distance.

And.... that was that. A bunch of small day hikes. We weren't here for any long-distance hikes or even to spend a few days. Just a quick, one-day visit. It was time to go home. Well, to mom's house. My old home. Karolina's new base of operations. That was a multi-hour drive that got us back to San Luis Obispo by around midnight or so.

Karolina would have another week or so in the country before she had to fly home to Europe, and I used the time to show her around the San Luis area. She flew out from San Francisco, so we drove her up to the airport there and stopped at various locations along Highway 1 and hit some sights in San Francisco.

And after Karolina flew back to Europe, I headed to Europe myself a few days later. My hiking season, after all, had not ended with Karolina's departure. Nope... I had a trail to do: the Portuguese Way from Lisbon (Portugal!) to Santiago (Spain!). It would be my first ever visit to Portugal.

But before I sign off on the JMT, there's one last detail for me to cover. All along the JMT I've been teasing you with hints about a "music video" that Karolina and I were working on. Now that we've reached the end of the JMT portion of this blog... it's time to introduce you to my first music video! =)

So anyhow.... stay tuned.... this blog isn't over yet! Next week, to Portugal!

Badwater Basin -- location 282 feet below sea level. Seems like just yesterday we were at 14,505 above sea level!
Had to pose at the official sign marking the lowest point in the western hemisphere. (See my water bottle?)
Here's a close-up view of the water bottle with fresh Mount Whitney air... nearly 15,000 feet lower than where the air was collected!
A natural arch!

Karolina pretends that she died of thirst in the blistering desert heat. I was a little genuinely concerned that laying down on the ground like this could blister her. The air temperature might have been 117, but that's the temperature in the shade maybe five or six feet off the ground. The ground temperature at Furnace Creek had recorded a temperature as hot as 201°F back in 1972! That's just 11 degrees below the boiling point of water! I don't know what the ground temperature here was, but it's hot. Freakishly hot. She didn't lay on the ground long, though!

Ironically, there's not really any sea, and it's certainly not level! =)
Irony. =)
Karolina, hiking over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco the evening before she'd be flying back to Europe.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Day 30: Conquering Mount Whitney... Part 2

The night was cold--much colder than anything else we had suffered on the trail thus far. Karolina woke up at about 3:00 in the morning and noticed a line of headlamps marching up from Guitar Lake.

"Are they hiking?!" she asked me, astonished. It was very unusual to see people hiking before sunrise, and it was 3:00 in the morning. Sunrise was hours away.

But I knew what was happening. They had Summit Fever. They wanted to reach the top of Mount Whitney to watch the sun rise.

Sunrise was coming....
"Not all of them will make it," I told Karolina. The climb from Guitar Lake to our location was steep and long, and some of them will underestimate the amount of time and effort it would take to get up here. "They'll miss the sunrise. Could you imagine, waking up at 3:00 to get up here in time to watch the sunrise, then not make the sunrise? I bet that's gotta be disappointing!"

I went back to sleep, and Karolina tried to, but she had Summit Fever, anxious and excited to finally be at the end of another journey. She also had trouble sleeping due to the extreme cold. For the first time on the hike, her sleeping bag wasn't quite keeping her warm enough. It looks like we found the limits of her bag. I was approaching the limits of my own sleeping bag as well. I wasn't cold  inside of my bag, but I certainly felt a constant chill.

The hikers from Guitar Lake started passing our campsite by around 4:30 in the morning, and this really set Karolina on edge. Hikers were passing us! She might miss the sunrise at the top! She couldn't sleep anyhow, was cold, and decided to start packing up camp in the darkness. I stayed in my sleeping bag saying that I needed light for photos, but she could go on without me. I'll catch up later.

Karolina hit the trail a little after 5:00. She filled up her bear canister with food, trash and other items she wouldn't need at the summit. It was 1.9 miles to the top, then 1.9 back to where we camped. No reason to carry extra gear or weight that wasn't necessary. Unlike the dumbass from the day before, though, Karolina wasn't going to let marmots raid her pack. The marmots couldn't get into the bear canister, and she hid it in a crevice between two rocks to discourage human troublemakers from getting into her stuff. Her pack and the rest of her gear she would take with her.

After Karolina left, I started getting itchy to go. It seemed wrong to let her summit by herself in the dark and I kind of felt like I had abandoned her. I wondered if she felt the same about me--did she feel like she had abandoned me? And I knew the top at the summit would be brutally cold. It didn't seem fair to make her wait at the top for me, freezing to death the whole time.

The summit of Mount Whitney is that flat area furthest away from the camera. You can kind of see the shelter at the top in this photo, but it's just a tiny blip. You'd never know it was a shelter from looking at this photo. Sunrise hasn't happened yet, but it's obviously close!

It was still quite dark out, but I started packing up camp anyhow. I shouldn't let Karolina get too far ahead of me. I skipped breakfast--it was just too darned cold to eat my usual morning cereal. I ate some snacks out of my bag for energy. I'd eat breakfast on the way back down when the sun was out and it might be a little warmer. I too left behind my bear canister filled with food and heavy items I wouldn't need at the summit, hidden in a crevice under a rock. Then I started hiking. Karolina had about a half hour head start on me, and I wondered if I could still reach the summit before sunrise. Probably not, but it wasn't impossible either.

I started hiking as fast as I could. Not so much to catch up with Karolina, but just to stay warm. It was cold! So cold, in fact, my water bottle was half frozen. I had on a couple of shirts to layer up, wore my fleece jacket and a windbreaker, and wore two buffs on my head, but I was still cold. I needed to hike quickly to stay warm.

By the time I started hiking, there was a hint of dawn approaching. Just barely a hint, but it was coming. Taking photos was difficult. I had to stop and set my camera on a rock to steady it, and the photos still came out slightly blurry. I had to take off a glove with each photo, and my hand would almost immediately turn numb.

As the hike progressed, the sky continued getting lighter and lighter. Sunrise was approaching and eventually it became clear that there was no way I'd make it to the top before sunrise. I wondered if Karolina had made it. She really had her heart on watching the sunrise from the top.

Mount Whitney loomed in the distance. I could see it, and the first morning sun started lighting it up. Sunrise had started. The light at the summit quickly dropped lower and lower down the mountain, reaching my location in just a few minutes.

And sunrise, at least! I didn't quite make it to the top in time for sunrise, but I rather liked the dramatic cliffs in the foreground which wouldn't have happened at the top, so just as well....

I missed the sunrise at the top, but that was okay. I didn't have my heart set on it like everyone else around me seemed to. And, as it turned out, there were quite a few dramatic viewpoints along the way with steep mountain cliffs outlining the sunrise that were absolutely jaw-dropping and beautiful. It suddenly occurred to me that this section of the trail might actually be prettier for sunrises than the actual summit--a thought that had never even crossed my mind before!

I finally arrived at the summit about 20 minutes after sunrise had started. I poked my head into the hut at the top looking for Karolina thinking she might be in there trying to stay warm. She wasn't, but it was definitely crowded with a dozen other people trying to stay warm. They moved over to make room for me, but I waved them off saying that I was just looking for someone, but that they certainly all looked cozy in there!

Then I headed to the actual high point of the mountain--the highest piece of land anywhere in the contiguous United States at 14,505 feet above sea level. Nobody on land in these 48 states was higher than me right now. Nobody.

I found Karolina nearby, tucked into her sleeping bag and leaning against a boulder and watching the sun rise.

I sat down next to her. "Congratulations!" I told her. "You did it! You conquered the John Muir Trail!"

I asked Karolina if she had made it up in time to watch the sunrise. She had, then she showed me photos on her camera to prove it. We watched the sunrise for a bit before Karolina got up and packed her sleeping bag back into her pack and we started walking around the summit for photos and videos. We took a lot of photos and videos.

I had a special task to perform. I brought my water bottles with me. The one-liter bottle I carried was by now empty of water. I had finished that water off the night before while making dinner. I opened up the bottle and captured some fresh, Mount Whitney air. We all know that air pressure can crush containers as it descends in elevation, but I wanted to see what a nearly 15,000 foot drop in elevation would do to the container. I've never tried such an extreme air pressure test before.

I opened this water bottle at the summit of Mount Whitney, 14,510 feet or so above sea level. (The mountain is only 14,505 feet above sea level, but I opened it up near my head about five feet above the ground level. So... 14,510 feet!)

For those who might not realize it, Mount Whitney--the highest point in the contiguous United States at 14,505 feet above sea level--is less than a hundred miles away from Badwater Basin, Death Valley--the lowest point in the United States at 282 feet below sea level. Karolina and I thought it would be fun to go from the highest point today to the lowest point tomorrow--a difference of 14,787 feet. And I was curious what nearly 15,000 feet of air pressure could do to my water bottle.

So we took a lot of photos, as well as a bunch of videos for possible use in our upcoming music video, freezing to death the entire time. The sun was out and quickly warming the air, but it was still cold. It would take awhile to warm up to comfortable temperatures.

And then Karolina brought out a fake mustache which she applied to her upper lip. One of our first days on the hike, I had joked that by the time she reached the end of the trail, she'll have grown some hair on her chest. Figuratively, of course, not literally. She thought this was funny and got the idea to put on a fake mustache when she reached Mount Whitney. This was the last thing she had purchased at a craft store just before we left Bishop. She wanted to show that she "grew hair on her chest," but wanted to "grow" it somewhere she could actually show people--on her face!

So she applied the oversized, ridiculous handlebar mustache to her lip, and then we took a bunch more photos of that.

Karolina grows some hair on her lip!

When we finished with the photos, it was time to head back down. We stopped at our old campsite to retrieve our bear canisters--completely unmolested by marmots and people. We ate breakfast and brushed our teeth. The whole time, Karolina kept the mustache on. She intended to hike all the way back to the trailhead about 10 miles from the summit while wearing it. She certainly got a lot of strange looks from people passing in the other direction! But she'd explain: "I just finished the John Muir Trail and grew some hair on my chest." They all thought it was hilarious and brilliant.

At the Mount Whitney Trail junction was a long line of abandoned backpacks, which sent me into another mini rage about wilderness ethics. What is wrong with these people?! I wanted to throw all their packs over the side of the mountain. I didn't, but it was awfully tempting. Hey, the packs were abandoned. Anything could happen to an abandoned pack.... I hoped a ranger would show up soon and issue every one of them tickets. They'd make a fortune!

A lot of hikers left their packs completely unattended while summiting Mount Whitney. Irresponsible idiots! (That bear canister I'm okay with--animals can't get into that. The rest of the gear--irresponsible!)
And--no surprise--Mr. Marmot was back to poke through all those packs. People--don't leave your packs unattended for hours at a time in the wilderness. Animals will get into them!
We split off from the John Muir Trail, now hiking to Whitney Portal--the nearest trailhead another 8 or so miles away.

The trail soon went down a section of trail called the "99 switchbacks" because it goes down a steep section in 99 continuous switchbacks. It's a dramatic trail, to be sure! Karolina was happy she didn't have to go up it. Karolina seemed amazed that a lot of people were day-hiking Mount Whitney. Round-trip--it was about 20 miles for them, and included this steep series of switchbacks. It's not an easy day-hike!

Along the way, we passed a wall of icicles, where we took a bunch more photos.

A wall of icicles!

As we descended in elevation and the morning progressed, the trail warmed up considerably and our many layers of clothing started coming off.

The rest of the hike down was uneventful. I joked with the hikers coming in the opposite direction, "Don't do it! It's not worth it! Go back while you still can!!!! Save yourself!" The usual antics. =)

After six miles or so, Karolina's mustache started falling off and eventually she gave up trying to keep it on, hiking the last hour or two without it.

As we neared Whitney Portal, I tried pulling out my phone to see if I got cell phone reception. Lone Pine was clearly visible ahead--my cell phone had a straight shot from here to Lone Pine. If I didn't get service, the only reason would be because it was too far away.

I did get service, though, and gave my mom a call. I had arranged to have her pick us up today, but exactly where we planned to meet was left open since we weren't sure who would make it into town first. If she was already in Lone Pine, I'd ask for her to drive up to the Whitney Portal trailhead and pick us up. If not, Karolina and I would try to hitch a ride down into town and meet her there.

Mom was already in the area, though, and I told her we were probably 15 or 20 minutes from the trailhead. Come pick us up! =)

We arrived at the trailhead, but I didn't see my mom. Maybe she hadn't arrived yet, and we started walking up to the small store near the trailhead.

I thought I heard a very faint, "Ryan!" I looked around, sure it was my mom calling me, but I didn't see her anywhere. Karolina hadn't heard anyone calling my name, though. We continued up to the store where I took a couple of photos. Karolina went in to look around, but I told her that I swear I heard my name being called and that I wanted to do a quick walk through the parking lot just in case my mom was around there somewhere.

And I found my mom a couple of minutes later, walking up towards us. That was her I had heard calling us. She also expected me to be with Karolina. "What did you do with Karolina?" she asked--almost like she suspected Karolina was dead and covered with rocks on Mount Whitney.

My mom picks us up at the Whitney Portal trailhead.

"She's just looking around the general store.... You know, girl stuff. *rolling eyes* Can't help but shop." =)

I threw my pack in the truck then walked back up to the store to get Karolina. We loaded up and started driving out of the parking lot when we spotted a hiker trying to hitch a ride down the mountain. It would be a bit crowded, but we could make room for him.

We pulled over and he joined our merry group on the way back to Lone Pine. He too had just finished the John Muir Trail. He had parked his car in Line Pine just before starting his hike so already had a car in town. He just needed to reach his car. No problem! We dropped him off by his car.

Then we headed back to the hostel that Karolina and I had stayed in when we resupplied over Kearsarge Pass. We were already familiar with the layout of the town having been here less than a week before.

The hostel also sold rooms to groups, and with three of us, we decided to get a private room for the night. It was only $15 more than if we got individual beds in the bunk rooms, but we'd all be together and have our own room. It was worth the extra $15.

For dinner, we stopped at a taco truck that other hikers had told us was great. I ordered the nachos, which were absolutely awful including badly burnt chips. The service was extraordinarily slow as well. It took close to a half hour before all of our food was ready. It's a food truck! It's not supposed to take a half hour to get your food! None of us were happy with the service.

We also spent the evening doing laundry and taking showers, but Karolina and I certainly needed those tasks done.

And then we were done. The John Muir Trail was finished. We could see Mount Whitney from Lone Pine. Karolina seemed full of pride, pointing at the top and saying, "Yep, I watched the sun rise from up there this morning."

Our adventure wasn't quite done, though.... Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the contiguous United States, was less than a hundred miles away. Mom volunteered to drive us out there tomorrow.... it would make a nice extra credit assignment after our summit of Mount Whitney today. =)

So stay tuned... next time, we'll be visiting Death Valley!

Sunrise over the hut at the top of Mount Whitney.

Karolina and I, at the top of the world! And trying very hard to stay warm....
Karolina took this photo of me through the window in the shelter.
Karolina signs the Mount Whitney register.

Mount Whitney is the flattish peak on the right side of this photo.
The 99 switchbacks is an infamous section of this trail--but fortunately, Karolina and I would only have to go down it, not up!

Karolina was sad to leave the trail. We would not be coming back when we got off the trail this time... =(
Whitney Portal Store
My water bottle--after descending 6,140 feet from the summit of Mount Whitney. It's definitely a little thinner than it was at the top! But there's still a whole lot of elevation to go down....

Monday, March 20, 2017

Day 29: Conquering Mount Whitney.... Part 1

Karolina and I woke up to a surprisingly cloudy morning, but fortunately the clouds blew away by late morning leaving us with clear skies the rest of the day.

Near Crabtree Meadow, the John Muir Trail split off from the Pacific Crest Trail. Karolina was a little sad to say goodbye to the PCT and wished it well.

Also near Crabtree Meadow, I learned a couple of things. PCT thru-hikers weren't allowed to camp between there and Mount Whitney. I didn't remember that being a rule back when I thru-hike the PCT, and I'm not sure if it's a new rule or an old one I just hadn't been aware of, and I found it interesting even though it didn't apply to us.

The other thing I learned was that the Whitney corridor between Guitar Lake and the trailhead is a no poop zone! I didn't remember that being a rule back during my PCT thru-hike either. A new rule? Although the sign suggested that the rule only applied to people who were hiking out at Whitney Portal and PCT thru-hikers who were going to summit Whitney and return didn't have to worry about it.

For everyone else, however, there was a large, plastic container that looked like it might be some sort of trail magic--although how trail magic would get so far out in the wilderness made the idea seem ridiculous--but it wasn't trail magic. No, they were poop kits. Most everyone hiking into the Whitney Zone, if they had to poop, were expected to poop into these bags then carry out their poop. Oh, boy. =)

I've gotta admit.... I've never had to pack out my own poop before, and I wasn't anxious to start today. In an effort not to have to carry a bag of poop on my back, I decided to do the deed shortly before Guitar Lake--where it was perfectly okay and legal to leave your poop properly buried--and hoped to finish the trail before needing to empty my intestines again.

Karolina and I stopped near a nice creek by Crabtree Meadow, which was a wonderful place to lay around and relax until a train of horses came tromping through. We weren't laying on the trail, but very close to it and I was a bit nervous about these giant beasts walking so close to our gear and myself, but the guy running the horses seemed to have faith that they'd leave us alone.

A train of horses tromping by just a few feet from where Karolina and I stopped to relax.

The horses went by, and when Karolina examined her trekking pole closer, she found that one of the horses had stepped on and dented it. Stupid horses.

We didn't realize it when we initially sat down, but we were on a horse highway! In the course of a half hour, three separate trains of horses went tromping by. After the first time, we moved our stuff further away from the trail and it was less problematic. Where did all these horses come from?!

We took another break by Guitar Lake where we filled up with as much water as we could carry. From here to the top of Mount Whitney, there wouldn't be anymore reliable water sources as far as we knew. We didn't expect to reach the top of Mount Whitney today, but we'd be going most of the way up. We needed enough water to get us to camp tonight, for dinner, for breakfast, then to the top of Mount Whitney and then several miles back down. We needed a lot of water....

From Crabtree Junction, the trail would rise more-or-less non-stop to the top of Mount Whitney up nearly 4,000 feet. Shortly after Guitar Lake, the trail rises steeply along a seemingly endless series of switchbacks. Higher and higher we ascended, passing 12,000 feet, then 13,000 feet and eventually we reached the Mount Whitney Trail where we finally stopped for the day.

The elevation was a breath-taking 13,470 feet above sea level--even higher than Forester Pass and yet another new all-time high for Karolina and a high point for us on the trail. So far....

When we arrived at the trail junction, there was a marmot digging through a backpack somebody had left unattended while they summited Mount Whitney, and the marmot left empty wrappers of trash littering the area. I was absolutely furious about the dumbass that left their pack unattended like that. It's clearly not allowed, and I wouldn't have minded so much if the person's food and trash and such were in a bear canister, but that was clearly not the case given all the trash the marmot had scattered around. I wanted to take the pack and throw it down the mountainside and ruin the hiker's day. Or maybe just search the pack for valuables and steal them. Not because I wanted the valuables, but thinking the person who left their pack unattended was one of those people who needed to learn lessons "the hard way." Mostly, I was just angry about the total disregard for wilderness ethics the person displayed.

Instead, I picked up the trash that was now littering the trail. When we arrived, there were a couple of people camped nearby but Karolina and I were a bit dismayed when another hiker soon arrived who told us that there were about a dozen other hikers behind him planning to camp here as well. The area had very limited camping sites. Large boulders littered the area and steep hillsides limited where it was possible to camp, and neither of us liked the idea of being crowded in with a dozen other people in the tiny space available for camping.

I looked around a bit and found a sandy area where we could set up camp. It wasn't ideal with a slight slope and awkward shape. Karolina and I would be sleeping quite close to each other, but we'd be sleeping quite close to each other if we squeezed in with all those other hikers as well. But at least we wouldn't be crowded with all those other people now arriving.

The sunset was absolutely beautiful from our vantage point, and we cooked dinner then quickly headed into our sleeping bags since the temperature was dropping fast. It was gonna get cold tonight!

We had set up camp a mere 1.9 miles away from the top of Mount Whitney, and Karolina wanted to wake up early enough to watch the sun rise from the top. I was less inclined to do this because I knew it would be cold, but also I needed to take photos for Walking 4 Fun and it would be hard to do that in the darkness. We never really settled on a plan of action for tomorrow, but I told Karolina that she was welcome to leave whenever she wanted. I needed to wait for enough light to take photos, but I'd catch up soon afterwards if she got a head start on me.

And then we headed off to sleep. Tomorrow, we knew, was Summit Day. The end of the trail. So close....

Is that trail magic?! No... inside that container are... poop bags. So hikers can carry out their poop on their backs. Oh, boy! =)
Karolina got this photo of me nearly being trampled by horses! The only injury, however, was a dented trekking pole after one of the horses stepped on it. (That's Karolina's pack and gear on the other side of the trail from me.)

Guitar Lake got its name because it's roughly in the shape of a guitar. Can you see it?

That lake far below is Guitar Lake. We're rising rapidly now!

This guilty marmot tried to run away when we caught it going through an unattended pack. He scattered litter all over the trail!
Sunset from camp--gorgeous!
I'm eating dinner while watching the sunset. You can see Guitar Lake in the background too, right next to my pot. =)