Monday, January 30, 2017

Day 8: Nine days of shopping

Despite being in town, Karolina and I woke up relatively early. We still had a lot to get done before we headed back to the trail! The first task to complete was walking to the nearby post office where I mailed my laptop home. I didn't know if I'd get it fixed or, because it was so old and cheap anyhow, maybe just replace the darned thing. But one thing I know I didn't want to do was carry it on my back for the next nine days. My pack was going to be ridiculously heavy with food, and carrying a broken laptop was beyond stupid. I would mail it home and figure out what to do with it later instead.

I pack up my broken laptop to ship home.
Karolina, who'd never been to a US post office, found the experience interesting, and while I packed the laptop in a box, I let her pay for the cost of shipping it. I had paid for the cost of the hotel, so until her half of the hotel cost had been covered, she'd be picking up my tab for everything. =)

I had to laugh when the lady at the post office asked if the item was packed well so it wouldn't break (we did say there was a laptop in it--they like to know about those things because of the battery). Well, yes... it was packed well, but I wasn't too worried about it breaking. After all, it was already broken! Then she asked if we wanted to insure the contents. In my head, I thought, we can do that?! Awesome! While the thought amused me, it seemed entirely unethical to insure it then blame them for breaking the laptop later and I passed on the insurance.

Then we headed to the local hardware store where we purchased some denatured alcohol. Or rather, Karolina purchased it while I waited in line with her.

And then we headed out for breakfast. Karolina wanted to try some "real American pancakes" so we headed to Rafters, a restaurant on the way to the supermarket. The restaurant looked beautiful with high vaulted ceilings and a cozy central fireplace in the middle. Real Americana stuff that I was sure Karolina would love. The waitress, a young woman, noticed us after several minutes asked us to wait for a few minutes because she was busy, and we said fine and sat down to wait.

But both Karolina and I were baffled about the "busy" part. The restaurant was almost entirely empty. We saw maybe five tables with people in various states of completing their meals, and I saw the waitress shuffle slowly to one of the tables, not in any apparent rush.

Karolina poses with the bear in front of the Rafters restaurant.

We looked at the decorations and after about five minutes without being seated, I began having second doubts about this place. I've been a server before, but any half-decent server ought to be able to handle more than half a dozen tables at once. Maybe she was new and still getting her server legs, but why would she be working by herself if that was the case? Maybe she was also preparing the meals in back, washing dishes, and prepping for the lunch rush later in addition to waiting tables, but we could already see one other person in back doing work there and it seemed an unlikely division of labor anyhow.

And heck, it would have taken her three seconds to tell us, "Hey, pick any table and I'll be there to take your order in a few minutes." It took her longer to ask us if we could wait a few minutes and get a reply!

"I'll say it," I told Karolina. "I think this waitress is incompetent. Wanna go somewhere else?"

And we decided that yes, we'd go somewhere else.

We left and wandered up the block to the Breakfast Cafe, which--with the word 'breakfast' in the name--we figured they at least had to know what they were doing for that part of the day.

The Breakfast Cafe was crowded and hopping with people. The decor was minimal, but it looked like a popular, well-oiled machine. Multiple waiters and waitresses bustled around helping customers and cups and silverware clinked and echoed throughout the building. It was a typical cafe, and they had us sitting at a table in less than 60 seconds flat.

Karolina ended up choosing the blueberry pancakes for breakfast, excited to finally be ordering "real American pancakes--like in the movies!" Which, apparently, she's only seen in the movies because in Europe, pancakes are totally not the same thing. For the life of me, I couldn't remember ever ordering pancakes in Europe and couldn't imagine what they were like if not the standard ones found in the US.

This old fire truck reminded Karolina of the firetrucks in those Donald Duck cartoons. "Just like in the cartoons!"

I ordered the Belgian waffles in honor of Europe because--you know, Belgian is in Europe and Karolina comes from Europe. Well, that was what I told Karolina, at least. It also happens that I like Belgian waffles. =)

We enjoyed our meals, and Karolina paid the bill again, but she wanted help on tipping which is very uncommon in Europe. "How much am I supposed to leave for a tip?"

How much indeed? I told her most people consider 15-20% pretty normal, but it's not always easy to figure out how much 15 or 20% of a check is in one's head and there's a useful rule of thumb that if you double the amount of tax on the check, it comes out roughly in the right neighborhood. Which, or course, works better for some states than others. (Oregon doesn't have sales tax, for instance.) But it works fairly well for California, though, which is the only state she'd be visiting.

Speaking of sales tax, that was another thing that puzzled Karolina. "So the price listed on the menu isn't actually the price you pay?" she asked me.

"Correct," I answered. "You'll always pay about 10% more than the listed price."

"But that makes no sense!" she exclaimed.

"Welcome to America!" I'd retort. =)

We finished breakfast, then continued our journey to the grocery store. We walked over to Vons where we had to buy enough food to carry us for nine days--but only eight days of dinners and breakfasts since we already had breakfast today and would have dinner in town on our last day.

We did most of our shopping together since Karolina wasn't familiar with the layout of grocery stores in America nor the products she could find in them. We probably spent a half hour there gathering our supplies, but we had to rush a bit. We were running low on time!

Karolina packs up her nine days of food while trying to get out of the hotel before checkout time.

We threw all of our supplies in our packs without repacking any of it in a rush to get back to the motel. We arrived at the motel with a mere 40 minutes until checkout time. We'd really have to hustle to repack all our food into ZipLock bags and pack our backpacks. I, having more experience with this sort of packing, finished first then I tried to help Karolina as much as I could. We finished a few minutes after checkout time, but a few minutes wasn't a big deal.

Karolina was anxious to talk to her mom. She had gotten bad news the previous day that her grandfather had been admitted to the hospital and they were unsure if he'd survive. So although Karolina was enjoying her time in Mammoth Lakes, worry about her grandfather haunted her during the visit. If these were his last moments, she wanted to be there nearby, so it was somewhat ironic and frustrating for her that she was currently further away from him (in the physical sense) than she'd ever been in her entire life. But so far, she'd only been able to contact her family through messages and hadn't been able to talk to anyone yet, and she didn't want to leave town until she'd been able to talk to her mom.

It was, understandably, important to Karolina, and once we re-entered the woods, we'd likely have absolutely zero contact with the outside world for nine solid days. Once we left town, we'd be cut off electronically. This was real wilderness. Don't expect cell towers, don't expect reception anywhere.

So I suggested that we sit outside the room for her to use the Internet and they'll be able to clean the motel room whenever without us being in the way (or trying to charge us for a late-checkout).

Karolina had tried to schedule a talk with her mom--the nine hour timezone difference making the task more difficult than it normally would be--but her mom wasn't answering and Karolina was growing increasingly frustrated at her inability to get more information about her grandfather, and I heard her mutter "Kurwa!" in a Polish-laced soliloquy. I didn't understand anything else she said, but I knew that was a very bad word in Polish, and she put a lot of R's in the way she said it.

I checked us out of our room while Karolina was trying to contact her mom, and she was still trying to contact her mom when I returned, but shortly thereafter she finally got to talk her to mom. I can't tell you definitively what they said because it was all in Polish (great for thwarting eavesdroppers like me!), but Karolina calmed down considerably after that.

After hanging up with her mom, she reported that her grandfather was still in the hospital, and they still weren't sure if he would pull out of it or not, but her family understood why she wasn't there at the moment and couldn't get back quickly, and that her grandfather wouldn't have wanted her quit anyway. No, she should take lots of pictures and--hopefully--show them to him on her return and share all the stories that she would collect along the way.

So Karolina was calmer, but she was still concerned about her grandfather and not thrilled that the next update she would get was more than a week away.

Karolina talks to her mom while sitting outside of the room we had already check out of.

After finishing her conversation, we reverse-engineered our arrival into town. We walked to the trolley stop and took the trolley to the bus stop. From there we took the free bus to the Mammoth ski area. Then we took another bus to Reds Meadow--this bus wasn't free, but we used our round-trip tickets that we had purchased earlier so it didn't cost us anything extra. During the ride, I joked to Karolina that I heard her cuss in Polish, and I might have rat her out to her mom later. *nodding* =)

And finally, we were back on the trail with excruciatingly heavy packs.

Well, almost back to the trail. Technically, we were still a quarter-mile or so off on a side trail. We'd be back on the John Muir Trail with just a few minutes of walking, though.

Taking the trolley, our first of three modes of motorized transportation back to the trail.

From Reds Meadow, the trail was a slow but steady climb the whole afternoon climbing from our starting elevation at about 7,500 feet above sea level to about 9,000 feet above sea level. We only did a half-day of hiking covering six miles since we had started so late in the afternoon, but it was a planned half-day in our itinerary since we knew we'd be running chores all morning and still needed time to get back to the trail. Also, we'd be carrying incredibly heavy backpacks. We might not be moving as quickly as we had been now that we had all this extra weight on our backs.

The day's hike went through a huge burn area which seemed to amaze Karolina. It was the first significant burn area she had hiked through. I remembered this burn area from my thru-hike on the PCT six years earlier, but I could see changes in the terrain. Although the burned area was still plainly visible, I noticed a lot more small trees growing in to fill in the burned areas. The forest was growing back. It'll still be many years--decades even--before the last traces of the ferocious fire that swept across these mountains would be fully obscured, but the process was already happening.

We set up camp near Deer Creek and were both surprised at the large numbers of other people we found camped nearby. No big deal, though. Most campers set up in the sites closest to the creek, but Karolina and I looked for a space where the trees left a hole in the canopy so we could see the stars at night. The Perseid meteor shower was gearing up and we wanted to be able to watch for shooting stars. The peak of the meteor shower wouldn't hit until tomorrow night, but there should already be a higher-than-usual number of shooting stars visible.

When Karolina took off her shoes and socks, she found a good-sized blister on the side of her big toe--her first blister of the trail. She named it Mount Whitney because it was the biggest "mountain" on her foot. I guess she had high hopes that any future blisters would be smaller than this one.

We both cowboy camped for the night. I did see a few shooting stars before falling asleep, but I probably missed many more that I wasn't able to see through the trees. We really needed to find a better place to camp tomorrow night--one that was well above tree level with a clear, unobstructed view of the sky. We wanted a real show for tomorrow night!

Karolina tries to pick up her heavy pack... if she can!

Reds Meadow General Store

And back on the John Muir Trail!
Most of the day took us through this giant burn area, but I could see a lot more small, green trees this time around than during my PCT thru-hike six years earlier. The forest is slowly growing back.

I'm walking down the trail. This is my view for most of the day. =)

Karolina gets her first blister of the trail which she named Mount Whitney.

Karolina pops Mount Whitney!

Bridge over Deer Creek.

A typical walk along the trail.... We recorded this by our camp at Deer Creek for possible use in our upcoming music video. =) We had Karolina climb a tree to get this aerial perspective of me walking down the trail.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Day 7: Devils Postpile and Mammoth Lakes

Karolina and I took our time getting up in the morning. We had a mere 3.1 miles to reach Reds Meadow--our goal for the day. It would barely take us an hour. So we lingered in camp until nearly 9:30 in the morning chatting, speaking Polish and just being lazy.

Despite only having to cover a mere 3.1 miles for the day, we still managed to make a wrong turn! We accidentally turned onto the PCT instead of the path to Devils Postpile which is where we wanted to go. It wasn't a critical mistake by any means and, in fact, we got something of a bird's-eye view of Devils Postpile from a distance that we would have missed had we not taken the wrong turn, and it probably didn't even add a half mile of hiking to our walk. It all worked out fine!

Karolina seemed fascinated with the postpile, which is to be expected. It's a fascinating place with columnar basalt towering high and thousands of broken pieces at the base.

But I was anxious to take the short trail to the top. I had been here before when I thru-hiked the PCT, but I was so ready to get off this trail and into town, I skipped the short trail to the top of the postpile. Later, I grew to regret that decision, and I wasn't going to repeat the mistake.

So Karolina and I headed up the side trail to the top where glaciers had scraped across giving it a look of a tiled floor. It was a look completely different than that found at the base, and I was really glad I got to see this part of the postpile for the first time. Karolina and I took some more videos in the area for possible use in our upcoming music video before moving along the trail again.

The trail leading off the PCT the quarter-mile to Reds Meadow wasn't marked especially well, and Karolina and I wound up at bus stop #9--one stop short of Reds Meadow. Reds Meadow wasn't far--obviously just up the hill from our current location. Close enough. *shrug* Neither of us had a bus schedule, and we had no idea how long we'd have to wait to catch a bus out of there. I decided to walk up to Reds Meadow and inquire around. I left my pack behind with Karolina then followed a short trail leading uphill. I could see the general store, lots of people and then I saw it: a large bus pulling out of a parking spot. That must be the bus! And it's starting its run! It'll arrive at bus stop #9 in probably less than a minute!

I turned around and ran down the trail hoping to catch the bus before it passed. I had no idea when the next one would run. Did they run every 10 minutes? If so, not a big deal. Did they run once an hour? I'd rather not sit around for an hour to find out! So I raced down the trail trying to beat it to the bus stop.

When Karolina was back in view, I shouted out, "It's coming! It's coming!"

I made it to the bus stop, winded and tired. The bus stopped seconds later on the other side of the road, and the driver asked if we had wanted a ride. "Yes!" we answered, as we frantically tried to gather all our belongings together. Karolina had taken off her shoes and was making herself comfortable for possibly a long wait and hadn't been prepared for our sudden departure. It probably took us 20 seconds to get all our things together and get on the bus, but it seemed like it took five minutes. The bus driver seemed very patient with us, though.

We got on the bus and paid for a round-trip fair, which carried us to the Mammoth Ski Area a short time later. We had about five or ten minutes to look around the ski area, which we used to take photos of a statue of a giant woolly mammoth trampling Karolina before we caught another bus--this one a free shuttle to the town of Mammoth Lakes.

We then wanted to catch a free trolley that ran through the town to the Motel 6 where we planned to crash for the night. I asked the bus driver the stop for the trolley, and he pointed to a location just in front of where he pulled up, so Karolina and I headed to the stop and waited.

This was our longest wait yet. We must have just missed the previous trolley. While waiting, one of the trolley drivers arrived--a relief driver, apparently, since he arrived on foot and without an actual trolley. I had initially assumed he wanted to ride the trolley as well before he told us he was the driver. But when we told him our plans, he pointed us across the plaza to a parallel street and suggested that was a better stop to catch the trolley. The trolley made a loop and the stop we were at would take us away from the Motel 6 before looping around to the parallel street and start heading towards the Motel 6. It would get us there eventually, but the ride was shorter from the other stop.

I wish our bus driver from the ski area had told us that! *shaking head*

So Karolina and I picked up our bags and walked across the plaza to the other side. Another five or ten minutes later, the trolley pulled up--and the driver was the same person who led us to this stop! "Well, hello again!" he greeted us. =)

A few minutes later, we got off the stop near the motel and tried to check in. They told us that the check-in time was still an hour away, and the rooms weren't clean yet. They were booked solid and they wouldn't be able to accommodate an early check-in.

Oh, well.... I really wanted a shower and to get out of my dirty hiking clothes, but it wasn't meant to be. Not yet, at least. Our Plan B was to go out and eat, which is not at all a bad consolation prize. =)

Across the street was Pizza Works, so we wandered over there for lunch. We ordered pizza and onion rings and the bottomless cup of sodas that so fascinated Karolina. She absolutely loved the place. "It's so American!" she told me. "Just like in the movies!" The place did have character, with a western theme. We took a seat on the outdoor patio--we smelled way too bad to be inside a confined space like that for very long!

By the time we finished, an hour had passed and we returned to the Motel 6 to try checking in again. This time, they were ready for us and we got a room.

I told Karolina that she could use the shower first. I figured it was gentlemanly of me, but more importantly, I wouldn't feel pressured to rush if I knew she wasn't outside waiting her turn. =) In the meantime, I could pull out my laptop and get online.

Karolina went into the bathroom, shut the door, but I could tell immediately that the first thing she was doing was not taking a shower. Oh, no.... She was using the toilet and I was absolutely stunned at how thin the walls seemed to be. I could hear every tiny noise coming out of that bathroom, and the noises weren't tiny at all....

Then the toilet flushed and the shower went on.

In the meantime, I pulled out my laptop and discovered something horrible--it was broken! The screen had cracked while I was carrying it and I couldn't see a thing on it. Argh! I have absolutely no idea where along the trail the screen had cracked, but it was a major inconvenience. I had carried this laptop with me for about 1,500 miles overall. About 1,000 miles on the Camino de Santiago, and several hundred more on shorter backpacking trips elsewhere and never had a problem. Not even a hundred miles into the JMT and my laptop finally bit the bullet.

Unable to use the laptop, I switched on my smartphone and got online with that. It allowed me to catch up on some emails and messages, but I really needed a full-fledged computer at some point. Some things I just can't do on a phone.

It was my turn to use the bathroom. I had to use the toilet as well, and remembering how well every little sound seemed to pierce through the thin walls, I was a little uncomfortable knowing that Karolina could hear everything coming out from me. Which was kind of surprising too. The fan turns on with the light so it's quite loud in the bathroom already with the fan blowing. It kind of muffles other noises in the bathroom. In the room with the beds, however, it was as if the wall muffled the fan but allowed all other noises through unimpeded. Sorry you had to hear that, Karolina! I thought to myself. It wasn't a pretty sound.

I finished up my business and then took my shower, washing everything twice and watching the dirt circling the drain before disappearing from my view forever. Then I shaved. I dried off, put on my camp clothes which, while not clean, weren't anywhere near as filthy as my hiking clothes and stepped out of the bathroom.

The second I stepped out, Karolina looked up, eyes wide with horror and said, "Oh my God! You can hear everything from out here!" I couldn't help but laugh. Karolina wasn't concerned so much about what she heard while I was in the bathroom, but rather it dawned on her what all I heard when she was in the bathroom! "I thought the fan would muffle the noise, but it didn't! Not at all!" Karolina exclaimed in horror.

I laughed again, nodding. Yep. She was clearly embarrassed, remembering all of the uncomfortable noises that she had made earlier. She'd later tell me, "What happens in the Motel 6 stays in the Motel 6."

Ha! Not on your life! =)

With my laptop out of commission and our bellies already full, we decided to head to the local library to get online. We arrived less than an hour before closing, and both of us got our own computers to use. I couldn't get everything done that I wanted to, but I got the important stuff done before the library closed.

Our next task was to resupply, but before we could do that, we needed to know exactly how much we would need to carry to reach our next resupply point. We had to sit down and work out a schedule. There was a Carls Jr next to the grocery store so I suggested we pop in there and work out our hiking schedule. We weren't really hungry yet, but it would give us a place indoors to work out the schedule. We ordered shakes for ourselves so we didn't appear to be complete losers taking up a table without buying anything, and shakes are good anyhow. =)

I figured we'd be there for a half hour, knock out a schedule and go grocery shopping, but we wound up working on it for two hours! There were two relatively easy places to resupply without requiring a lot of off-trail walking: Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR) and Muir Trail Ranch (MTR). We checked out food options and mailing food ahead to either location, but it turns out both of them require you to send food three weeks ahead of time. We would arrive in a few days. There just wasn't enough time to send food to ourselves at this point. Both of the places had small stores where we could buy food, but they were small stores with limited selections and the food would likely cost a heck of a lot of money given the remote settings. We didn't really know what we could expect to find and didn't want to depend on it.

We toyed around with mileages. There was a side trail that could take us to the town of Bishop at MM 113.1. The downside, however, was that it required hiking nearly 20 miles off trail, then hitching another 20 miles into town from the trailhead. And we weren't sure if the trailheads would be busy and easy to hitch a ride from. If we ended up on a forest service road that nobody ever uses, we could be stuck having to walk forty miles into town. Then another 40 miles to get back to the trail!

There was another side trail to South Lake, which would require 12.8 miles (one way) off trail to the trailhead, then a 22 mile hitch into Bishop. When I hiked the PCT, I had carried enough food to get me from Kearsarge Pass to here, which is what I would have liked to do again. Kearsarge Pass was a mere 7.5 miles off trail. Still more than I'd have preferred, but considerably better than 12.8 miles. The problem was... Karolina didn't think she could make it that far with that much food. She was doing 10 miles/day pretty well, but that would have meant carrying 12 days of food. I haven't ever had to carry that much food before much less Karolina, and Karolina didn't think she could do it. With that much food, she might struggle just to get 10 miles/day.

So after two exhausting hours of discussing options and our limitations, we eventually settled on a resupply in Bishop over Bishop Pass. It was about 80 miles--closer to 90 if you include the 12.5 miles we'd have to hike off trail to get to the South Lake Trailhead. Nine days, eight nights of food would be required. I did some research on my phone to learn more about the trailhead and make sure our odds of getting a ride would be good. The trailhead looked like it had a paved road leading all the way to it and on Google Maps, it appeared to have a giant parking lot. It looked like an excellent place for hitchhiking the 22-mile ride into town. I couldn't find any information that would suggest that the road was closed or any other unusual activity that might throw our plans awry.

By the time we finished, we were both mentally exhausted. It was the most difficult session of planning I'd ever faced. Karolina was a bit nervous about the idea as well. She thought she could do it, but this was by far the longest she'll have ever traveled between resupplies. Her previous longest point between resupplying was what we just finished from Tuolumne Meadows to Reds Meadow. This segment would more than double that distance. For nine days, we'd be cut off from civilization and dependent on only what we could carry on our backs.

It was also quite dark by the time we finished and getting late. Karolina wanted to wait and buy the food in the morning, and I was in agreement on that. At this point, though, I was getting hungry again and got a quick burger before we left Carls Jr and headed back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel, our trail chores were not yet done. We had to wash our filthy clothes! The motel had a small laundry room. I offered to take Karolina's clothes to wash and dry while she hung out in the room, but she wanted to see how laundry machines in the United States worked and followed me out to the laundry room.

And I explained the intricacies of washing clothes in the United States. First, we needed quarters, because that's what these laundry machines used. We didn't have quarters, though, we had dollars, but they had a machine to change dollars for quarters, and I let Karolina feed the dollars into the machine. I also told her that not all of these places have such machines, in which case you'd have to go into the lobby of the hotel and ask the desk clerk to provide the change.

Then we needed detergent, which we could get from another machine that used quarters. Karolina fed the quarters into the machine and we got a small box of Tide.

There were two washers. One was already in use. The other one had clothes in it, but had finished washing, and I pulled them out and left them on a nearby shelf.

Then we stuffed all our dirty clothes into the washer with the Tide and started the machine going. They would wash for about a half hour, so we headed back to the hotel room to wait.

A half hour later, Karolina was tired and didn't want to come back to move the clothes into the dryer, so I went back and did that myself. The wet clothes I had set on the shelf nearby were still there. The owner hadn't come back yet. I moved our clothes into the dryer and started it going, then went back to the room to wait again.

More time passed, and I returned to the laundry room to get our dried clothes. The wet clothes I set on the shelf were still there. Did the owner forget he had laundry in here? It had now been over an hour since I took the clothes out of the washer, and they still hadn't been retrieved yet. Well.... Not my problem! =)

I returned to the hotel room and we were officially done for the day. It was quite late at night now, and we both went promptly to sleep.

Karolina wants to eat breakfast, but doesn't want to get out of her sleeping bag. This is how she solves that problem!

Devils Postpile from a distance. We only got this view after accidentally taking a wrong turn!
Bottom of the postpile
The top of the postpile looks like a tiled floor!

Taking more video for possible use in an upcoming music video! =)

Leaning postpiles on the side trail leading back down from the top.
Karolina is charged by a giant woolly mammoth!
Poor thing.... So young, too!
Our food from Pizza Works was delicious! And, according to Karolina, "Very American!"
This is Karolina taking the photo of our food. (That photo just above this one!)
Karolina liked the motif of the outdoor patio. "It's just like the movies!" she'd exclaim.
Don't look, but there's a bear behind you....
Karolina had a lot of fun doing laundry. I don't think she really sees quarters as "money" per se. She knows that's what it is--in theory--but she seemed to think of them more as "tokens" that make machines run. =)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Day 6: Swimming With Snakes

It was another pleasant day of hiking on a beautiful, clear day. The trail rose and fell throughout the day, passing one fabulous viewpoint after another.

We stopped a few times to take more videos for our upcoming music video. One of the lines in the song referred to "I keep falling down. I keep hitting the ground. I always get up now to see what's next." We decided to focus on those lines at one particular viewpoint, filming each other walking along then pretending to fall down and getting up again. I actually managed to hurt myself a bit in one of my fake falls, which begs the question about whether it was really fake or not if you actually hurt yourself while doing it? The problem with the video was that it looked like a fake fall.

Falling down, getting back up again.... Music video gold! =)

Our first lunch break stop was at Shadow Lake. We both dipped our feet in the water, then I got an idea to film a rock being dropped into the water. Splash! If it's cut just right, maybe it'll look like someone "fell down". So I set up my camera on the shoreline then had Karolina throw a rock in front of it. Unfortunately, she threw it a little too close to me and wound up splashing both me and the camera. "Not that close!" Water and cameras just do not mix well....

Dipping our feet in Shadow Lake. Karolina has the pretty toenails. Mine are unadorned. *nodding*

I tried turning my camera off and back on, but the shutter had stopped working. I pulled out the batteries and SD card and placed the camera in the sun hoping it would dry quickly and start working again.

A few minutes later, I looked in the water and noticed a snake slithering through the water. "Snake! Snake!" I cried to Karolina, pointing to the water. "I told you there were snakes out here!" She had asked earlier in the trip if there would be snakes along the trail, and I gave her a definite yes, although qualified it that she wouldn't find the more venomous varieties such as rattlesnakes at these elevations. Usually just smaller, non-venomous snakes around these parts. It was our first (and as it turned out, only) snake sighting on the trail.

Our feet were just in that water! We had been soaking our feet in snake infested waters! It sounds more cool to say the water was "snake infested." =) We needed some photos of it, though. And video! But sadly, my camera was still out of commission, resting in pieces in the sun. Karolina lept up with her camera and started taking photos. Unfortunately, her camera couldn't do videos so we got no videos of the snake slithering through the water.

We're so macho, we soaked our feet in these snake-infested waters.

I was actually a little surprised to see the snake in the water at all. I know that water was ice cold. Snakes are cold-blooded creatures. How can it survive swimming in such cold water?! I'd have thought they would have preferred the warmth of the ground than the ice cold water.

Anyway.... After an hour or so, we continued on our way. I put my camera back together to see if it would work, and much to my happiness, it appeared to be working again. Yes!

An hour later, we took another extended break by Gladys Lake where Karolina waded into the water yet again. "You know these are snake infested waters, right?" I asked her. She didn't care, though. She wasn't going to let snakes or ice cold water slow her down!

Karolina wading around in Gladys Lake
We didn't really need another break, but we were making extremely good time down the trail and were quickly approaching our goal for the day at Trinity Lakes. We needed to slow down! Thus, Karolina waded into the water and then did some stretches while I sat by the shore and secretly recorded her (maybe I could use a clip of it in the music video) and read from my Kindle.

We continued our trek. Karolina was feeling strong and wanted to push beyond Trinity Lakes, so that's what we did. Tomorrow we intended to go into Mammoth Lakes to resupply and the further we made it today, the less we had to do tomorrow, and the earlier we'd get into town and the more time we'd have to get all of our town chores done. I was all for getting into Mammoth Lakes as early in the day as possible, so the further along the trail we were, the better.

Near the end of the day, the trail descended steadily and rapidly as it approached civilization. We weren't in civilization, but the trail was heading towards it. Karolina wanted to go skinny dipping again, but much to my disappointment, we didn't find a campsite near a good pool of water. Karolina was probably disappointed too. Oh, well....

The campsite we selected wasn't a great location. It was deep in a thick forest of trees with lots of other people camped nearby. We did have a nice stream nearby to get water, though. Karolina waded into that water--she couldn't help herself!--and later came out with a blood-covered toe. She must have stubbed it on something in the water, but the water was so cold and her feet so numb, she didn't feel it. She had no idea anything was wrong with her toe until she saw the blood oozing out from it after getting out of the water.

Karolina hurt her toe while wading around in the creek near our campsite.

As sunset approached, the mosquitoes came out in force. They hadn't been a problem on the trip so far, but tonight we were camped at about 8,500 feet above sea level--nearly 2,000 feet lower than the last couple of nights. We decided that we should try camping at higher elevations in the future where the mosquitoes seemed to be less of an issue, although maybe it was this particular spot rather than the low elevation.

In any case, neither of us were happy about the mosquitoes, although they eventually went away later in the evening as temperatures dropped. It was the end of another fine day!

Garnet Lake

Garnet Lake
Garnet Lake
I couldn't stop taking photos of Garnet Lake!
Okay, last Garnet Lake photo! I promise! =)

Karolina points out the sights.

I did twist an ankle in the afternoon which caused me to limp for a bit. Just a small sprain, though! After about 15 minutes, I was back to my normal gait!

Shadow Lake

Rosalie Lake

Karolina didn't know I was filming her when I took this video of her stretching on the shores of Gladys Lake. I thought maybe I could use a segment later in our music video! =)

Trinity Lake
The mosquitoes in camp were awful!