Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Day 15: Looking for vomit in all the wrong places!

In the morning, before leaving camp, Karolina and I met one of the other nearby campers. We hadn't met her the evening before because she was already in her tent for the night when we arrived, but she got up (and out) early and we made introductions. She was traveling with a few other people, also camped nearby, and heading in the opposite direction as us. They had started a couple of days earlier at the South Lake trailhead and over Bishop Pass, which was the direction we were heading to get off the trail to resupply.

And she explained that she suffered a bout of vomiting from altitude sickness while going over Bishop Pass--which tops out at 11,972 feet above sea level. A whopping 17 feet higher than Muir Pass--our previous high point on the trail. Anyhow, she explained that the sudden ascent to nearly 12,000 feet had caused her altitude sickness and that she vomited on the trail, but as soon as the trail descended again to the Le Conte Canyon over 3,000 feet lower, she was fine and had been fine ever since.

After that conversation, Karolina and I joked about finding vomit on the trail somewhere near Bishop Pass. If either of us walked off trail to use the 'restrooms', we'd warm each other to watch out for the vomit! It could be anywhere!

We eventually got on the trail with a fairly late 8:15 start time.

The first 4.4 miles went down a relatively steep hill, more-or-less following alongside the Middle Fork of the Kings River. Karolina and I stopped once at a giant, cracked rock. Someone had placed a bunch of smaller rocks in the giant crack which resembled something like teeth, and the crack resembled something of a mouth, and the entire rock had an uncanny resemblance to a giant landlocked whale, or at least the head portion of a giant whale sticking out of the water.

We took a few photos of each other pretending to be eaten by the giant whale. There was a man there, who had camped at the site the night before and was still packing up, who offered to take photos with both of us in the photo so we did that too. He asked about Karolina's accent and when he found out she was from Poland, he told us that there was another Polish hiker on the trail not far ahead. Karolina was excited to learn about this news, but we'd only be following the trail for a couple of more miles before we turned off on the Bishop Pass Trail to resupply. We wouldn't be seeing him, much to Karolina's disappointment.

Karolina and I, consumed by a giant, landlocked whale!

Further down the trail, we reached the junction with the Bishop Pass Trail and where we would veer off-trail in order to resupply. Also near the junction was a ranger station, which Karolina had never seen before so she wanted to go to the creek and check it out which is what we did. It was a typical, wooden structure with informational information on the board in front. No rangers were around, which isn't a big surprise since they're usually off walking around checking permits, educating hikers, doing trail maintenance or whatever else their job entails.

From the trail junction, we had a long climb up over 3,000 feet to Bishop Pass. The trail was relatively steep, although still built for horses so not that steep--just steeper compared to most parts of the trail. After a couple of hours of heading up, we stopped for a snack break and I made a comment that I was surprised that we hadn't seen anyone on this trail yet. Hours of hiking, and we didn't see a single person. We weren't on the John Muir Trail anymore, but I still figured that this was a major access point for the JMT and where are all the people?!

We got going again, and not more than two minutes later, we ran into three different people: a couple hiking together and a park ranger--probably the same ranger who would be staying at the ranger station.

The ranger stopped to talk for a bit, then asked if we had permits. "Yes," I said, a little disappointed. "Why? Do you need to see them?"

We had permits, but I was in no rush to show them off because they were in my pack and required taking off my pack and rooting around for it, but yes, he wanted to see the permits. So I dropped my pack and rooted around for it, pulling it out a minute later. He looked over it and returned it.

Then we continued on our separate ways. Karolina asked what would have happened if we didn't have permits, but I didn't know. Probably give us a ticket or something. It seems like an inconvenient place to arrest us and carry us back to a prison cell or anything--and a little extreme for that sort of thing in any case. =)

Karolina seemed a little disappointed that he didn't check that we had bear canisters since we had gone through the effort of carrying them all this way.

"Don't worry," I told her. "We aren't done with this trail yet. It could still happen!"

As we climbed higher up to the pass, the dark and ominous clouds started rolling in. It was the first time we had seen any clouds at all during our hike. Rain hadn't been in the forecast, but I started having concerns that it could happen. Afternoon storms aren't unheard of in these high mountain passes, and the weather forecasts we had checked are generally for lower elevations.

Near a lake, unnamed on our maps, we spotted three deer with beautiful antlers roaming around. We watched them for quite awhile taking photos, but I was frustrated with my photos. The dark clouds cast a perpetual shadow on the deer and the poor light was dim making my photos blurry.

We continued our march to Bishop Pass. We'd been making excellent time. Originally, when we first got back on the trail from Mammoth Lakes, our minimum goal for the day was to reach the campsites near the ranger station and we did that relatively early in the morning. If we did a full 10 miles today--the typical distance we liked to shoot for--that would put us almost exactly at the top of Bishop Pass--leaving us a mere 5.3 miles from the trailhead. Perfect for a short day of hiking and getting into town at a reasonable hour!

Except that there was no water or campsites at the top of Bishop Pass. We could camp a couple of miles on either side of it, but not at the top. We were indecisive about which side to camp on when we woke up in the morning and decided just to see how things went. If we had the time, strength and energy, we'd go over the pass today. If we didn't, we wouldn't. Either was fine.

And we decided that we did have the time and energy, so we headed up to the pass--still keeping our eyes open for vomit. =)

As we approached Bishop Pass, the dark and ominous clouds started giving way and eventually cleared up completely. That was a relief!

At the top of the pass, Karolina celebrated her new "highest ever" moment, shattering her previous high point experience by 17 feet. We took a break and recorded more videos for our upcoming music video, but the sun was soon about to set and we needed to reach a campsite quickly. We continued on down the mountain. Just on the other side of the pass, we reached a small patch a snow that covered the trail. Snow! We had to hike through snow again! Maybe for all of about 20 feet, and it would have been easy to go around it if we wanted to, but we charged through.

The trail went down a series of steep switchbacks along what appeared to be very much a near-vertical cliff. There was quite a bit of horse poop on the trail, and I joked with Karolina that that's because this view scared the crap out of them--literally and figuratively.

At the bottom of the switchbacks, the trail crossed a small underground stream. Which was annoying because we wanted to camp at the first place we could, which meant we needed water and if it was underground, we couldn't get at the water. We'd have to keep going. We could hear it, though, rushing under the trail and downhill.

A bit later, we arrived near a small pond of water. The water had a nice stream flowing into it--probably that underground water we had heard earlier--and it was cold water. Colder than cold. My fingers turned painful then numb filling up my water bottle. All the water on the trail has generally been very, very cold, but it wasn't painful to put a hand or foot in. This water was genuinely painful to the touch from the extreme cold, though! I'd live, but I had to imagine that the water must have been coming direct from one of the nearby patches of snow.

It was 7:30 in the evening when we arrived--our latest finishing time so far on the trail--and darkness was quickly enveloping the landscape. We decided to cowboy camp.

Tomorrow, we would be heading back into civilization. Our packs were relatively light and empty now that we had consumed about 90% of our food. This was great. On the downside, however, I had only one dinner left--burritos with rice, broccoli and ground beef that I had previously dehydrated. I really didn't want to eat that, however. Blah. I'd had too much of that already. And, as it turned out, Karolina didn't seem too excited about her lasagna-flavored Hamburger Helper.

"You want to switch?" I asked, hoping and praying she'd say yes.

"Okay." Yes!!!

So we switched dinners for our last night before civilization, I gobbling up a dose of Hamburger Helper and Karolina eating burritos.

By the time we finished dinner and cleaned up, it was already quite late and very dark, so we called it a night. Our day was done!

And we never did find any vomit. Our one disappointment for day.....

Clouds started rolling in later in the afternoon, which would eventually turn a bit ominous....

Look at the antlers on these fellows! (You almost missed the one laying down in the background, didn't you?)
The dark clouds made getting decent photos of these guys very difficult. They'd have been lit up much better without the ominous clouds!
Nearing the top Bishop Pass, the clouds started dissipating again.

Marmot sighting!

Karolina crosses the one, small patch of snow near Bishop Pass.
Over the pass, the trail dropped down this series of steep switchbacks! It's enough to scare the crap out of horses!


Laurel said...

You may have covered this a long while back, but do you guys put on sunscreen everyday, or just cover up as best as possible?


Ryan said...

Karolina would put on sunscreen. (There's a photo of her doing so on her first day on the trail, if I remember correctly.) I preferred to cover up as best I could which is why I'm always wearing the long shirt, long pants and floppy hat. =)