Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Day 9: Trail magic and tattoos!

Karolina and I had scheduled a short day of hiking today--a mere 9.5 miles. We had a couple of reasons for this. First, we wanted to camp at a location above tree level with a clear, unobstructed view of the sky for the Perseid meteor shower would peak tonight and we wanted a front-row seat for the show. While much of the trail would be above tree line for much of the day, the trail was often on steep slopes that had no campsites available. The campsites marked on our maps generally were in deep canyons or in forested areas, and Virginia Lake--our destination--was the one campsite shown that appeared to be around largely flat terrain is few or no trees anywhere in the area.

Karolina needed both her hands to pick up her pack in the morning, so held her apple in her mouth while doing the task.
And second, we were carrying a heck of a lot of weight on our backs in the form of food. It made sense to take it easier when our packs were heavier and build up longer distances shortly before resupplying when our packs would be (relatively) light.

So with a mere 9.5 miles to do, Karolina slept in late. I read my Kindle and relaxed, but we couldn't sleep in all day and eventually I figured it was time to get Karolina up. She was cowboy camping right next to me, readily available, and rather than quietly waking her up, I decided to have fun and shoved her with my legs, basically kicking her awake.

"Arrrghhhh!" she screamed. Quite loudly, I might add. I expected to startle her, but she positively scared me to death with the unexpected enthusiasm that her lungs pierced the air with.

Later, she explained that she thought a bear was attacking her. *rolling eyes*

The trail steadily climbed about a thousand feet in elevation, then for the rest of the day it was like a roller coaster. Down, then up, then down, then up, then down.... Taking us up and down about 500 feet at a time. It wasn't strenuous--just a slow grade up and down, and often times long, flat section between the rises and falls of the trail. An easy, plodding pace.

In the afternoon, we had nearly reached Purple Lake--which, let me tell you, is not at all purple--when we crossed paths with a few people at a trail junction leading around the western side of the lake who said they had some beers if we were interested.

I, of course, passed on it not liking the taste of beer, but Karolina and spent much of the afternoon already saying that when she made it to Bishop, she wanted to get an American beer. And now one just falls out of the proverbial sky and she gets one! Actually, the beer was Modelo which looked more Mexican than American, but a beer was a beer and Karolina was excited at the idea of a beer on the trail. And, in fact, would be her first official case of trail magic. Trail magic! Weee!

We passed this giant 900 on the trail. I knew immediately what it meant: We were 900 miles away from the Mexican border on the PCT. Just 900 miles to Mexico! I have to give the PCT class of 2016 props for an excellent 900-mile marker. Most of the mile markers are much smaller and boring than this one created out of sticks and pine cones.

The group planned to have a taco party for hikers later that night and that we were welcome to join. Now beer might not interest me, but tacos?! Hell yeah! They brought in tons of food (and beer) on horses this afternoon specifically for doing trail magic. I had to admit, I didn't expect any trail magic at all on this trail. The PCT thru-hikers had long since passed through already, and we were deep in the wilderness. Most trail magic usually happens at road crossings and there were absolutely ZERO road crossings between Tuolumne Meadows and Mount Whitney! But this group didn't let that slow them down and used horses to haul in all of the trail magic supplies.

The taco party was great.... except.... it was kind of problematic for a us for a couple of reasons. Purple Lake didn't appear to be well suited for watching meteor showers. We were in a deep canyon with lots of trees around. The biggest, flattest area with the best view of the sky was directly over the lake itself. Our second problem was that we had set minimal daily goals for a reason: To get us to Bishop before we ran out of food. Now if they provided tacos, that's great, that's some food we don't have to worry about, but we'd already made reservations for Bishop (lodging seemed quite limited during these peak summer months and we figured it was best to have a reservation already in place). We needed to get to Bishop on time! So every mile we cut off our already short day would be an extra mile we'd have to make up on another day--and subsequent days wouldn't be quite so short to begin with. And anyhow, our packs were awfully heavy--we wanted to eat the food out of them to lighten our loads. A taco party would have suited us much better later down the trail.

So we decided that no, we wouldn't stick around until evening for the tacos, but we were both a little disappointed to be missing them.

While drinking her beer, the trail angels asked Karolina where she was from. They knew she wasn't local given her Polish accent, and she told the that she was Polish. They made some comment about seeing some other foreigners on the trail who had put a small flag with their nationality on their pack and asked why Karolina hadn't don't that, and in a nutshell, it just hadn't occurred to her. But she liked the idea and wanted to show her Polish pride, so she asked for the Sharpie I carried in my pack.

The Sharpie was another prop I brought for our music video. I figured we might want tattoos in the video, and we could draw fake tats with the Sharpie. Karolina is absolutely amazing at drawing pictures, and we didn't know what we'd do yet, but we were sure we'd think of something.

And that time had arrived! She decided to draw the Polish eagle--a white eagle wearing a crown--the emblem of Poland on her arm. She started drawing, and I quickly whipped out my camera to start recording it. She drew with one hand on the upper part of her other arm, completely freehand, off-the-cuff, unable to see the entire drawing surface very well, and perhaps slightly buzzed. She finished the drawing in about a minute flat. I've seen her do this before, but it never ceases to amaze me. The trail angels were absolutely astounded and later wanted pictures of her and her arm.

Over the next half hour, more hikers arrived, all of them getting beers and admiring Karolina's arm, and we eventually left. Partly to get away from the increasingly growing crowd of hikers (we didn't come out to the wilderness for crowds!), but also because we wanted to enjoy the views  hiking away along the shores of Purple Lake.

Karolina waded into the water again while I took a pass. Then I said I was jealous of Karolina's 'tattoo' and that I wanted one as well, so we discussed options and settled on a bear attacking a turtle. We both thought that would funny. Yes, we share a twisted and morbid sense of humor. =)

Karolina did the drawing because that's what she does, and this time I provided the canvas. But we had a problem--nobody to record the video! So I set up my camera on a tri-pod and tried to aim it at the right location. It wasn't a perfect solution. It couldn't zoom into or out of the tattoo, or move around if Karolina's hand blocked it while she was drawing, but it was the best we could do given the circumstances.

Then she drew the bear attacking a little turtle, who was tucked into its shell trying to hide. As an afterthought, she added a shooting star over it (since the Perseids would peak tonight) and "JMT 2016 Try everything!" below it.

We did some smaller tattoos after that. Karolina drew a sunflower on her leg, and happy faces on the nail of her toes. I drew a happy face on my swollen-looking ankle. We were drawing all over ourselves, and it was a lot of fun! =)

Eventually we had to get going, though, and continued down the trail to Virginia Lake.

The lake seemed like a great location for watching the meteor shower tonight. There were trees in the area, but situated well away from the lake. Quite a few people had already set up camp, and most appeared to prefer the protection of the trees, but Karolina and I split up to scout around the shoreline for the best place for watching meteor showers, and we settled on a spot she found downhill and across a small pond from where most of the hikers were setting up camp.

We definitely intended to cowboy camp again for the best views of the stars and meteor shower later that night!

Karolina pops open a beer in her first experience with trail magic!
Karolina showing off her new tat of the Polish white eagle wearing a crown.

Watch how quickly she draws this freehand!

Purple Lake was not at all purple!
A fish in Purple Lake!
I show off my newest tattoo. =)

Karolina draws in my first JMT tat!

Then Karolina did a "micro tattoo."

And a larger sunflower tattoo! It looks even better when she's wearing her shoes and socks because then the sunflower looks like it's growing out from her sock!

Karolina draws in her sunflower tat.

And the one tat I did myself.... the face on my ankle. =)

Virginia Lake--our destination for the night! Lots of wide-open skies from here!

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